One of the highlights of the 2018 Finals Concert was the moving speech made by Dene Olding, Artistic Advisor and Chair of the YPA Adjudication Panel, immediately before the announcement of the prize winners. Dene kindly granted us permission to reproduce his speech here below. You can also watch the full concert and Dene’s speech on our YouTube Channel.

“Thank you Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has indeed been my honour to act as Artistic Adviser and Chair of the Jury for the 2018 YPA.

The Great Hungarian composer Bela Bartok once said:- Competitions are for horses-not for artists. Bartok was right about many things but on this subject he did not foresee the great proliferation and popularity of musical contests during the 20th Century.

So, why did this happen and what brings us all here tonight? We are here because this event continues a great Australian tradition. This is our most prestigious and valuable National Instrumental Competition. The young musicians that you have heard in the semi-finals and Finals these last two weeks will be those that shape the future of the Australian musical landscape and carry our artistic reputation around the world.

The real value of this competition for every participant is in the countless hours of practice that they must undertake in preparation, the endless study, the quest for perfection and in solving the mysteries of great music. Each of these performers will walk away from this experience a more complete musician, a more seasoned performer and better equipped to handle the rigors of a musical career.

The real value of this competition to Australia is to provide a platform to showcase our best young talent and to encourage the subsequent generations of young performers to follow in their footsteps.

Finally, the real value of this competition is to help preserve and cultivate this great art form called music which gives so much pleasure to so many. By achieving all these things, perhaps Bartok would grudgingly change his mind.

To get to this point, we started with 109 applicants at the close of entries. It took various panels of more than 30 specialist judges to reduce this number down to 31, then to 12 semi-finalists and finally the three finalists you heard tonight.

I must take this opportunity to thank all my fellow judges for being so generous and giving their valuable time to make this competition such a success. Many of them are past winners of the YPA and we have no fewer than 4 past winners on tonight’s panel. The YPA honour roll from the last 70 years reads like a virtual Who’s Who of celebrated Australian musical personalities.

In the early days of this event, the honour and prestige of winning the YPA was the reward. There was no cash prize but there were performance opportunities which at the formative stage of a young artist’s career were worth more than gold.

Nowadays, this competition ranks in monetary value at the highest level and outranks most international competitions in this regard.

We are often asked how we can judge such diverse repertoire and instruments. There is no easy answer but each judge must choose based on their own criteria.

A sophisticated sense of artistry, musical intelligence and a flair for performance are often cited as traits that we seek. The performers must display a passion and intensity which creates something magical for the listener in some way, above all they must have something indefinable which makes you want to hear more of their playing.

There are many people to acknowledge who have contributed to the success of this year’s YPA. The team at MOST for coordinating and organising everything so well, the SSO and Dr Nicholas Milton for supporting these young artists so beautifully tonight, all the generous parties who have contributed valuable prizes and last but not least the comperes and all the ABC Classic FM team for promoting and broadcasting this competition across this vast country and making it a truly national occasion.

We have witnessed something special tonight – technical mastery, artistic maturity and wonderful performances. The standard of the YPA throughout all of the rounds has been consistently high and augurs well for the future of Australian music.”