Netherland’s Violin Competition

What happens when a musical competition requires all participants to perform contemporary music as well as do a performance involving artists from other fields? Read about the experiences from the Netherland's violin competition.


In progress

Outcome Share one's love for music

Winner of the 2018 edition of the Oskar Back competition Niek Baar says:

I am, in my heart, an old-fashioned musician. Music is everything for me. Playing the violin is my world. I like to look good, as a young man, modern! Who am I, as a musician?

I participated in the Oskar Back competition because Schumann was the final piece, and I really wanted to play this concert, which I love so much, with an orchestra. I actually wasn’t looking forward to the performance part, in the 2nd round – honestly, I didn’t agree that we had to get into this fuss, I just wanted to play. But when I passed the 1st round I had to come up with something. I remembered that I had always made drawings and that I liked to make up stories when I was younger, before the violin took over all my time. Then, it started to flow, and I found myself drawing 8 hours a day instead of studying for the competition! I wrote a story, fictional, which illustrated something that I sense in the Schumann concerto. I made drawings which were projected in a video, I invited someone to recite the story and a dancer.

It was wonderful, to make all this and to perform it. I felt complete, the old-fashioned part of me and my contemporary self were united. And there were no obstacles between my source, this enormous love for music and violin playing, and what I did on stage.

Now, when I prepare for a concert, and I feel that perfectionism threatens to takes over, I remind myself of what happened when I created the performance: This is my mission, this is who I am, I want to share my immense love for music with the world.”

Watch the video of Niek’s drawings, with recorded voice and music:

Niek Baar Performance 2018
Photo: Foppe Schut

Description Contemporary music and interdisciplinarity

The Netherlands Violin Competition has four categories, from ages 10-26. Participants in all four categories play a specially composed new piece in the first round of the competition. As a result, every two years, four new compositions for violin are studied and performed by many young players.

In the Oskar Back competition (ages 18-26), the competitors need to present in the secound round a 10 minutes performance of a musical piece of their choice in combination with artists belonging to other performing arts disciplines . There is a small creative team which coaches the candidates in this, and there is a special jury for specifically this part of the competition, which is compiled of both academic and arts students.

A focus on making

The competition thus supports and actively promotes a broader musicianship with a strong focus on ‘making’ (new compositions, own repertoire and creative product) and with an awareness of a varied audience (the non-subject-specific jury). These are the building blocks for opening up classical music practice from the inside, where the hierarchical images and traditional demands hide which are usually strongly maintained by competitions. Seemingly small steps, but probably the most definite, giving way to young musicians to reach out, to other repertoire, other music practices, new audiences.

About the competition

Netherlands Violin Competition was founded in 2011 as a junction of three different violin competitions. The organisation also hosts the Dutch Violin Day, a festival for professionals, students, teachers, amateurs, with workshops on improvisation and masterclasses. In 2022 a new prize will be launched: The Young Makers Prize, for violinists, solo or with their ensembles, playing other than classical music repertoire, which must be their own original work.

“Successful musicians possess many qualities. They are not just technically and artistically excellent, but they also show a broader artistic interest, and are creative and communicative artists. They work with other arts disciplines, they reach out to new contexts and are involved in innovative educational projects. They are entrepreneurial, create new concepts and start their own productions. Young musicians like that need a competition which provides the opportunity to expose all these qualities. They need a platform which helps them develop themselves artistically and professionally, a fruitful cultural climate where the versatility of the violin and the violinist can flourish.” (from the Netherland’s violin competition’s webpage, our translation)


Susanne van Els

Get in touch

Do you have a question or a comment?

Please contact van Els, who is chairman of the Oskar Back competition jury 2022 for further information at