Butler School of Music to host international violin competition

Natalie Sullivan

The Yehudi Menuhin Young Violinists International Competition will take place for the first time in the U.S. at the University’s Butler School of Music on Friday.

Held every two years, the competition is a 10-day event, featuring concerts, master classes, public speakers and 42 young violinists, ranging in age from nine to 21, who will compete for $10,000 in prize money in the senior division and $7,000 in the junior division and a shot at international musical recognition.

Anton Nel, professor of piano and chamber music and one of the jurors for the competition, said it was an honor for the University to be chosen to host the competition.

“The competition has never been held in the United States before — the last one was in Beijing — so it’s a huge coup for Austin to be chosen,” Nel said in an email. “It’s a bit like the Olympics; it will be a thrilling event for our city.”

Nel said the competition showcases some of the best young violinists in the world.

“The Menuhin competition is probably the greatest competition of its kind, exposing and nurturing extraordinary young talent,” Nel said. “Many of [its] past winners are now reckoned among the greatest living violinists.”

The music school has been preparing for the competition for more than a year, according to composition professor Dan Welcher.

“The Butler School has gone into virtual overdrive on this event,” Welcher said. “The preparations include housing the contestants and their parents, as well as renovating Bates Recital Hall and reserving time and space for a period of a week and a half.”

In addition to the violin competition, the event will also feature a variety of concerts, contests and social events, including a performance by the Cleveland Orchestra and premiers of newly-commissioned works by Welcher and composition professor Donald Grantham.

Welcher said his piece, “The Cowboy and the Rattlesnake,” was designed to put a Texas spin on the event. 

“It’s a six-and-a-half minute piece for unaccompanied violin, based on two Texas cowboy songs,” Welcher said. “The Menuhin folks asked me to include ‘something of Texas’ in the piece, since this is normally a European competition and they all see us as rather exotic.” 

Charles Villarrubia, associate professor of tuba and euphonium, said although the event is open to the public, it will also benefit students at the University.

“We encourage everyone to buy tickets and come support the competition,” Villarrubia said. “The Cleveland Orchestra has even agreed to teach master classes to our students. It’s a great opportunity.”