Menuhin Competition (Junior Division): When Children Don’t Just Fiddle Around

Menuhin Competition (Junior Division): When Children Don’t Just Fiddle Around

The Menuhin Competition started in 1983 and was held in Britain. / Photo by: vitec via Shutterstock


Kids really do know how to play, and it’s serious playtime for the participants in the Junior Division of the Menuhin Competition, which is also known as the “Olympics of Violin.” This year’s contest held last April was hosted by Geneva, Switzerland. In this event, people get to watch children pour their hearts into their musical performance using violins. These young competitors aren’t merely fiddling around—

they’re striving, learning, and even mentoring one another, all the while enjoying the universal language that is music.  

Even the youngest of children can exhibit pure talent, and this was exactly what was proven by the first-placers who tied in this year’s Junior Division. Both of them were the youngest participants to win the first prize.

What Is the Menuhin Competition?

The Menuhin Competition was started by Yehudi Menuhin, a violinist who had a successful career because of his exceptional background in music and the opportunity to interact and work together with other musicians, according to the website Desiring to provide young and aspiring violinists the same opportunity, Menuhin founded two schools. In 1963, he established the Yehudi Menuhin School in England, and in 1977, he founded the Menuhin Music Academy in Switzerland.

It was in 1983 when the first Menuhin Competition was held in Britain. According to the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, the event’s purpose is to discover, encourage, and nurture young and talented violinists from all parts of the world. It is split into the Junior and Senior Divisions.

Bachtrack states that the young violinists who join the competition attend master classes. They are trained either through peer-to-peer learning or being coached by other competitors. The contestants also collaborate with the organizer’s partners and participate in outreach projects. They are required to stay in the host city for the duration of the competition, residing with host families. The prizes include cash and instrumental loans. Winners are then assisted by the Menuhin Competition to boost their career by helping them plan in which international sites they can perform.

Hundreds of hopefuls from more than 40 countries apply, but only 44 of the most qualified violinists under the age of 22 get chosen. Every two years, a country or organization hosts the contest. For the past few years, the Menuhin Competition has been held in England, Wales, China, Austin, and the USA.

String of Winners

Two contestants were both awarded first place in the Junior Division this year: 11-year-old Chloe Chua from Singapore and 10-year-old Christian Li from Australia. This makes them the youngest participants ever to claim first prize in the competition. Both Chua and Li were awarded 10,000 Swiss francs and a one-year loan of an Italian violin, which was sponsored by Florian Leonhard Fine Violins.

Ruibling Liu from China landed in third place. Fourth place was awarded to German Clara Shen while fifth place went to Hina Khuong-Huu who represented Japan, France, and the US. Finally, Guido Sant’Anna from Brazil snagged the sixth place, The Violin Channel reported.

The audience prize for the Junior Division was handed over to Li while 12-year-old Sant’Anna was given the junior division Arte Concert online voting prize. Other esteemed competitors below the age of 16 were Yesong Sophie Lee, Chad Hoopes, Rennosuke Fukuda, Kevin Zhu, and Kerson Leong.

The board of judges for this year’s Menuhin Competition was composed of the Jury Chair Pamela Frank, Vice Chair Joji Hattori, VC artist Joseph Spacek, Henning Kraggerud, Itamar Golan, Lu Siqing, Ilya Gringolts, Maxim Vengerov, and Soyoung Yoon.

Tuning In to Christian Li’s Life

The Guardian says that Li hails from Melbourne, Australia and began honing his violin-playing skills at five years old. During the competition, he performed “Summer” from The Four Seasons of Vivaldi and “Self in Mind” by Jaehyuck Choi.

In an interview with Limelight Magazine done before the competition, Li said, “I would like to treat this as a fun, learning experience more than a competition. What I look most forward to is the chance to meet my heroes and my favorite violin masters in person and play in front of them.”

Chloe Chua’s Way of the Violin

Chua also started playing the violin at a young age. At four years old, she began studying the violin at NAFA’s School of Young Talents. When she was two-and-a-half years old, she already knew how to play the piano. In the Menuhin Competition, she performed “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and also “Self in Mind.”

When Will They Play Next?

The next Menuhin Competition will be held in Richmond, Vancouver in Canada from May 14 to 24, 2020. As a new batch of fresh, young, ambitious and talented competitors take the stage, everyone will keep their eyes and ears peeled to the very end. It will be interesting to see whose fiddle will reach the final round and emerge victorious.


The next Menuhin competition will be on May 14 to 24, 2020 at Richmond, Vancouver in Canada. / Photo by: KRIACHKO OLEKSII via Shutterstock