The Kendall National Violin Competition was established in 1998 in response to the generous offer of luthier Graham Caldersmith to make an annual donation of a concert violin of Australian tonewoods. The Competition committee was established by Goetz Richter, Associate Professor of Violin and then Chair of the String Unit at Sydney Conservatorium of Music and Keri Levy, founding artistic director and founding secretary respectively, of the Camden Haven Music Festival which then operated under the auspices of the Camden Haven Arts Council. The founding president of the Competition, Elaine van Kempen, successfully sought sponsorship from Forestry Corporation of NSW and Australian Solar Timbers who remain enthusiastic in their commitment to essential annual funding for administration. A dedicated committee of nine administers the Competition.
The Caldersmith violin or viola is central to the Competition and it was with great pleasure that Artistic Director Goetz Richter was able to display and demonstrate it for Yehudi Menuhin during his last visit to Australia. Lord Menuhin was most impressed, commenting ‘a great opportunity to own a real Australian violin…a wonderful instrument with a beautiful sound’. He readily agreed to be Patron of the Competition. Committee members were saddened by his sudden death in 1999 just prior to the first Competition Final but were delighted when the first winner, Gu Chen, later gained fourth place at the Yehudi Menuhin International Violin Competition playing that very same Caldersmith violin.
Lord Menuhin remains Perpetual Patron. The late Mrs Hazel Hawke AO was a dedicated Patron from the inception of the Competition, becoming Patron Emeritus when ill health prevented her active participation. Ms Mary Vallentine AO became Patron in 2001 and was joined by Mr Donald Hazelwood AO OBE in 2011.
In 2012 a new prize was created to recognize excellence in the performance of the Sonata – the prize will be notated “In Memoriam Richard Pollett”. This generous donation will be for the amount of $600 for the next three years. Richard Pollett was a finalist in the 2004 Kendall National Violin Competition winning the prize for the best performance of an Australian composition. He died in tragic circumstances in 2011.
Elaine van Kempen
Profits from the Kendall PhiloMusica project support the Kendall National Violin Competition.