January 29, 2023

Faculty Focus: MSM violin faculty member Lucie Robert talks about her work as an international jury member

MSM faculty member Lucie Robert has a busy teaching schedule at MSM and is a sought-after judge for high-profile international competitions. She speaks with us about the judging process and the particular challenges of being on a competition jury.

Lucie Robert’s students have gone on to win major prizes, be placed in important orchestras around the world, and take part in critically acclaimed recordings. She is a frequent adjudicator of high-profile international violin competitions.

Lucie Robert (third from left, seated) took part in the 2021 Isang Yun International Violin Competition in South Korea

What recent and upcoming juries have you been taking part in?

Lucie Robert: During the past year I’ve been quite busy, having had the honor of adjudicating three international violin competitions: the 2021 Isang Yun International Violin Competition in Tongyeong City, South Korea; the 2022  XII International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition in Helsinki, Finland, and the 10th International Louis Spohr Competition for Young Violinists in Weimar, Germany. I will also be returning this coming April to my hometown of Montreal to be a jury member of the Concours musical international de Montréal Violin 2023. I had the pleasure of serving on that jury previously in 2006.


Photo: Lucie Robert (fourth from left) with other jury members at the 10th International Louis Spohr Competition for Young Violinists in Weimar, Germany. 

What is your role on these juries? What are you looking for in a participating artist?

Lucie Robert: Being a juror in an international competition is a huge responsibility, and it is one that I never take lightly.  Of course, we always hope to find the next greatest violinist, someone who will survive the test of time and have a huge career. As these are international competitions, we naturally expect an extremely high level of technical command, but that is only the start. For me, I want to hear an artist – one who has a clear musical voice, who keeps my interest, and moves me.  Basically, someone I would want to spend money to hear perform in any great hall in the world. This is always my wish.

Can you give us a behind-the-scenes understanding of the process during the deliberations?

Lucie Robert: Every competition is unique since each one has slightly different rules and different judges. Generally there are three rounds – preliminary, semi-finals, and finals. Each jury member writes down their impressions of the competitors’ performances for their own reference and then grades them according to the numeric scale established by that competition. This is very important because when you have more than 60 participants in the first round and you need to narrow the field to 12 competitors or fewer for the semi-final, you had better remember who you liked! The same thing happens in the second and final rounds. Usually, there are no deliberations except in the rare case of a tie in the final round.

What is the greatest challenge about being on a jury?

Lucie Robert: When you’ve been teaching for many years and are so familiar with most of the violin repertoire that’s being performed, it can sometimes be difficult to hear an interpretation of one of those pieces that is different from what you are accustomed to. I try to keep an open mind, and if the performance is musically intelligent, makes sense stylistically, and is sincere in its musical conviction, it will win me over. Of course, this is all very subjective.

“Being a juror in an international competition is a huge responsibility, and it is one that I never take lightly.”

MSM violin faculty member

Several of your students have had major successes recently; can you tell us about this?

Lucie Robert: It has of course been a very difficult and challenging time for our students because of the pandemic. I am very happy that two of my students just won major orchestra positions: Lumeng Yang with the National Center Orchestra of the Performing Arts in Beijing, and  Guolong Wang with the China National Symphony Orchestra. Current PPD student Maïthéna Girault performed for the second year in a row with the Sphinx Virtuosi in three different tours, including an appearance at Carnegie Hall as assistant principal second violin. Next semester, current third-year undergraduate student Risa Hokamura, who is also a student of Koichiro Harada, will be giving both her New York and Washington debuts as winner of the Young Concert Artists auditions. And my former student and winner of several prizes in international violin competitions, Mr. Xiao Wang, has been appointed to the MSM college violin faculty.

Why would you recommend MSM to an aspiring professional violinist? What makes MSM special in your opinion?

Lucie Robert: MSM is a special place – incredibly vibrant, diverse, and at the same time a very caring school. This is not an easy balance to find when the performance and talent level is so high, and the School is located in one of the most intense cities in the world! The faculty is superb and extremely caring and passionate about their teaching and helping their students. I think it’s the ideal environment for students to study and grow and get a real taste of professional artistic life in the heart of this great city.  A life in music and art is what we all aspire to, but it is also very competitive which can be difficult for some. For me, MSM is the great music school with a heart, and that’s what makes the difference.

Lucie Robert (second from right, back row) with other jury members and competition award winners at the 2022 International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition

“For me, MSM is the great music school with a heart, and that’s what makes the difference.”

MSM violin faculty member

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