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Here’s another conducting competition rip-off – pay 1,300 Euros to enter, and win 500 max

Some time back we ran a theme about dodgy music competitions that take money from gullible young musicians and give little or nothing in return.

Well, here’s another. It’s called the Black Sea Conducting Festival. You pay 1,300 Euros to enter and, if you win, you have the privilege of conducting a nondescript orchestra for a fee of 500 Euros.

The saddest thing is, there will be no shortage of applicants.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    From their application instructions:

    “Send titles of your simphonyc repertoire.”

    simPHONYic. Well at least they’re being up front.

  2. What exactly qualifies this as “dodgy”?

    The finances seem to stack up, and don’t point to anyone raking in a fortune.
    Many young conductors might be glad to be able to pay a modest amount for ‘podium time’, and why shouldn’t they?

    This “competition” guarantees 40mins of podium time, and possibly a further 60mins if the entrant makes it to the second round.
    In terms of income to the competition, 15 conductors at €1300 is €19,500
    Total podium time guaranteed, (40min * 15) + (60min * 6) = 16hr
    At the cheap end of UK “contract band” rates, an orchestra would cost around £16k, or €19750 for that length of time [and at freelance MU rates more like €30k] so the cost is hardly out of the bounds of the believable.
    Sure, an orchestra in Romania will be cheaper, but we haven’t yet thought about the hire of the hall and the associated administrative costs of the competition, any jury fees, accommodation, travel…
    The cost looks reasonable for what a participant might receive.

    You might disagree with orchestras offering themselves to aspiring conductors in this manner, and that’s a point of view. But it seems unfair to claim that they are somehow ‘dodgy’ when they offer a service, an experience, and are not really overcharging for that, nor making any great pretence about what they are and what they offer.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Anon: any idea who is “they”? Regardless whether the terms look reasonable and the finances make sense, who is behind that competition?

      - The “about us” page is blank.

      - The jury members will be “aanounced” (sic) soon. (see “Festival” page)

      - The only actual name I could find was Remus Monteanu, in the “Tours” and “Festival” page. Couldn’t find about him in the context of classical music. But he has a youtube page with 15 clips of other music. Here is a sample:

      - I found only one classical music institution mentioned in the website, Constanta National Opera. But a google search on it wasn’t very fruitful, aside from a few excerpts of Carmina Burana.

      If this competition is legitimate, they do a lousy job promoting their own image.

  3. I think this is only disgusting, more or less like to write anonimously. I teach conducting in Milano Conservatorio “G.Verdi” since 1997 and I have a lot of former students scattered in the world in Opera Houses or symphonic orchestras, serious ones, as Principal or Guest or Assistant conductors and none of them has ever studied in this kind of competitions that are made just to take money exploiting the desire of young conductors. There is another kind of horrible thing in some masterclasses where there are different levels of payment, if you pay 500 euros you conduct one hour, 1000 euros 2 hours and so on. This means that if you can afford to spend more money you have an unfair advantage and it’s a system that teaches people without any kind of talent how to succeed in the world of music in some countries, simply paying! So if you have a lot of talent but you do not come from a rich family you can stay at home…Besides this a serious teacher works on students not with an alarm clock in his pocket but the with right amount of time that is necessary for an improvement. Why a student that is not talented or just did not study enough should conduct like or more than others? Just for money?
    Vittorio Parisi

    • You say, much as Norman implies, that the purpose of “competitions such as this” is merely to take money from young conductors. You fail to address my point, which is that, by my maths, the money this event will take is more-or-less consistent with the amount they will have to spend to organise and stage the event, which seems fair enough.

    • Every student pays for the tuition they receive. They pay for their instrument, the maintenance thereof, and the teaching. The same applies to conductors as well as instrumentalists.

      As a instrumentalist, the intl. fees at a leading UK Conservatoire will be in the order of £20k for a Masters course. Done in a year, you might receive around twenty hour-long lessons (actually, more like fifteen), plus a bit of chamber music coaching and some orchestral experience.
      Alternatively, you could study privately with the same teachers for around £100 / hr (max double that)

      Would you make the same comments you make above, but about the Royal Academy of Music, or the Royal College of Music, or any other UK Conservatoire? Merely in order to take lessons within their hallowed walls, and gain a piece of paper bearing that institution’s name on gradation, the fees charged are, as a rule, exorbitant compared with the actual first-study tuition time.

      I strongly suspect that the same is true of conducting students. Will a typical conducting student receive twenty hours of orchestral podium time in a similar one-year course? Er, no.
      So the amount you cite – 500EUR for an hour – is quite cheap for the experience by comparison.


      I don’t understand your point about “teaching those with no talent how to succeed”. If any orchestra hires a conductor with no talent then more fool them, but it has nothing to do with this debate. In any case, the type of orchestra who might do this are by-and-large not the same orchestras that any conductor would deem the conducting of as being reflective of his or her “success”, so it’s a moot point.

      Lastly, you mention “alarm clocks”. Sorry, but any teacher working with a real, live, orchestra has to have an “alarm clock in their pocket”. You try getting around the Union labour laws of any Western orchestra without one, and your conducting students won’t be working with that orchestra for much longer!

      • This is the only times I will respond to an anonymous, a person who has not the courage to put his signature. Where I teach the amount of time in orchestra is much more than you think, plus the fee includes dozens of other courses for a good preparation of a musicians, so the comparizon is totally wrong. Also the “alarm clock” remark is totally wrong. The work a professional conductor do with an orchestra is completely a different thing compared with lessons and teaching. By the way I teach also how to organize a good rehearsal-time with professional orchestras so this is not the problem The problem is that you do not understand, or do not want to understand, how much people is exploiting young students, or better, their wallets
        Vittorio Parisi

        • Fair enough.
          I remark only that I do understand how students (and others) can have their wallets exploited – but on the face of it, this example starting this thread does not appear to be one of them..
          I have no affiliation with this event or anyone involved in it – but a bit of simple maths suggests that the charges are not unfair for what is delivered, unless you can demonstrate otherwise?
          Or do you expect orchestras to play for no fee if it’s a student conducting?

      • Wanderer says:

        Anonymous, you had a point if that “rent-an-orchestra” event wouldn’t be called a “competition” or hold your breath, a “conducting festival”. LOL
        The orchestra of Constanta holds auditions for finding junior conductors for three concerts projects it plans to pay no fees and calls it a “competition”. That’s just sneaky.
        Also it is unlikely the orchestra has to be payed for each session additionally as you claim, since the players are usually already covered by a monthly paycheck for their regular duties.
        On top of that the “conducting festival” can not name a single member of the jury upfront, that’s just ridiculous.
        Even the contact form has no name on it. Mafia…

        • It’s doubtful that this orchestra are “holding auditions for junior conductors”. If they are, this is a silly way to do it. Partly because of the negative press through trying to do to ‘on the cheap’, as you suggest, but really because they might end up with a bunch of bad conductors. If they want to fins someone to work with them then clearly they would be better off inviting young conductors from a carefully selected pool of talent.

          I believe my point stands. Whatever you try to suggest about the orchestra’s motivations (and indeed, whatever they may be), any conductors submitting themselves here do so in the knowledge that, in total, they will receive a totally reasonable amount of time working with an orchestra for the amount of money they are paying: I see no reason to assume that they are being ‘ripped off’, unless you have some information or insight to the contrary.

          (It matters not a jot, incidentally, whether the musicians are paid extra for these sessions or it comes within their “monthly paycheck”. Someone, somewhere, pays for their time, and their time in these sessions has a clearly definable value. Whether the money comes from conductors into a central pot and then out to the players via their pay check, or goes direct to the players as extra work, it’s a moot point).

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