By Dale King
Elmar Oliveira says he feels “incredibly fortunate to have had a really terrific career” as a master of the violin, performing with talented individuals and orchestras and capturing awards around the globe.
To this day, he remains the only American to win the Gold Medal at Moscow’s Tchaikovsky International Competition, which he did in 1978.
“As part of my legacy, I wanted to give back to the community what I had the opportunity to do,” he said.
The 69-year-old native of Naugatuck, Conn., and son of immigrants from Portugal, created the first Elmar Oliveira International Violin Competition in 2017 at Boca Raton’s Lynn University, where he teaches. The second iteration of the triennial competition, one that features 20 quarter-finalists culled from nearly 70 applicants from 19 countries, is set to begin Tuesday evening and run through Jan. 26, again at Lynn.
“The quarter-final and semi-final rounds are open to the public without charge,” he said. Tickets for the finals rounds, to be held Jan. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Jan. 26 at 4 p.m., range in price from $35 to $50. An awards ceremony that follows the final concert Jan. 26 will be held to announce the winners.
Semi-final rounds of the EOIVC determine the top four who will perform with orchestra in the Wold Center for the Performing Arts on the Lynn University campus. Conservatory dean Jon Robertson will lead the Lynn Philharmonia and the competitors in these performances.
The mission of the EOIVC is to provide talented young violinists just starting out with networking, management, public relations, community engagement and concert opportunities in addition to a monetary prize.
“It is difficult to create a career in the violin field now,” he said. “A lot of things depend on media attention and social media, which were not around when I was a student.”
The 2017 EOIVC “got 1.5 million hits from across all social media. It was the first time it happened. It was the first time it was streamed live.” He said the contest he created “is more than a competition. It extends beyond the modest money paid.”
Among the pillars of support available to finalists are “opportunities to play with 30 orchestras all over the world” and a chance “to engage with the communities they serve.”
A new community engagement segment has been added to the competition this year. The four finalists will participate in a special Community Engagement Round during the competition.
Participants will perform a 45-minute interactive presentation to children, ages 8-11, from the Plumosa School of the Arts in Delray Beach. These presentations will be judged by a panel of local community partners and a special Community Engagement Award, in addition to the overall placement prizes and outside the scope of the final scores, will be given to the EOIVC finalist ranked the highest in the Community Engagement round.
“The results of the community engagement round will have no bearing on the prizes,” said Oliveira. A separate panel of judges will oversee those who take part in the Community Engagement Round.
Oliveira was just 9 when he and his brother, John, began the task of mastering the violin. At age 16, he appeared in a nationally televised concert of child prodigy performers at Lincoln Center, hosted by Leonard Bernstein, as part of Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts series. He later studied with Ariana Bronne and Raphael Bronstein at the Hartt College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music.
Oliveira is also the founder of the John Oliveira String Competition, an internal competition at the Lynn Conservatory of Music in memory of his late violinist brother, John. The annual competition is open to all string instrument students at the school.
The winner of the 2017 inaugural EOIVC was Sirena Huang of South Windsor, Conn. She received a cash prize of $30,000, a new violin and case and other prizes, along with performance engagements.
The 20 quarter-finalists scheduled to perform are: Jacqueline Audas (24, USA); Zachary Brandon (21, USA); Jung Min Choi (25, South Korea); Brian Kwan Yeung Choi (25, Hong Kong); Cristian Grajner de Sa (25, United Kingdom); Agasha Grigoreva (20, Russia); Igor Khukhua (27, Russia); Jeein Kim (24, South Korea); Minchae Kim (25, South Korea); Haerim Oh (20, South Korea); Ashley Jeehyun Park (23, USA); Julian Rhee (19, USA); Vikram Francesco Sedona (19, Italy); Alexandra Alvarado Switala (26, USA); Daniel Temnik (25, Israel/Canada); Boyang Wang (29, China); Angela Wee (22, USA); Katherine Woo (21, USA); Christine Wu (24, USA) and Thompson Wang (20, USA/Taiwan). Ria Honda (19, Japan) was chosen as an alternate.
The EOIVC public schedule is:
• Thursday and Friday, 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m., quarter-finals at Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton.
• Saturday, 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., quarter-finals at Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton.
• Tuesday, Jan. 21 from 9:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., semi-finals at Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton.
• Wednesday, Jan. 22 from 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., semi-finals at Amarnick-Goldstein Concert Hall, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton.
• Saturday, Jan. 25, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., first day of finals at Wold Performing Arts Center, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton.
• Sunday, Jan. 26, 4 to 6:30 p.m., second day of finals at Wold Performing Arts Center, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton
Judges this year are: David Cerone (chairman), Andrés Cárdenes, Ilya Kaler, Sung-Ju Lee, Silvia Marcovici, Mihaela Martin, Gerardo Ribeiro, Barry Shiffman and Kathleen Winkler. Winners are chosen through an intensive four-step process, beginning with an online submission and culminating in two final performances.