The Competition’s history dates from 1999 when renowned Australian luthier Graham Caldersmith made the generous offer to donate a concert violin each year as a prize. Young violinists (maximum age 23 on 1 January) who are citizens or residents of Australia are invited to compete for this fine instrument which is made from Australian timbers.
Kendall, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, has a history of timber milling as well as many areas of scenic forest preserves and nature reserves. The village is named for Australian poet, Henry Kendall, who was also the first NSW Inspector of Forests. In recognition of this most appropriate use of Australian timber. Forestry Corporation of NSW, a division of the Department of Primary Industry, sponsored the Competition from its inception until the end of 2018.
The Competition is administered by a small committee of volunteers under the Artistic Directorship of Violinist Goetz Richter, Associate Professor of Violin at the Conservatorium of Sydney.
Since 2004, semifinals have been held as public performances in Sydney. The final is always held in Kendall, the home of the Competition.
The Kendall National Violin Competition initially operated briefly under the auspices of the Camden Haven Arts Council but incorporated in 2000. Initially held at the same time as the Camden Haven Music Festival, the Competition moved to a more appropriate time on the national music calendar in 2004. At the same time it became registered with DCITA and has deductible gift recipient status as a not-for-profit cultural organisation. Donations to the organisation are tax deductible.
Kendall, on the mid north coast of New South Wales, is the home of the Competition and, while the Semi-final is held as a public performance at Government House, Sydney, the Final will always be held in the Kendall School of Arts.
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 addition to the prize violin or viola the winner has the opportunity to perform in a fee-paying recital tour and receives the Peter Lee Memorial Award. An award for the finalist chosen by the audience, originally sponsored by Donovan Oates Hannaford Mortgage Corporation Ltd. is now sponsored by Pentimento North Haven. An award for the best performance of an Australian composition written post 1970 has been made from the beginning and is now sponsored annually by the Kendall Services and Citizens Club. The Gillian Appleton Award for the best performance of Bach has been given since 2007. Each of the four special awards is $500.
In 2012 a new prize was created to recognize excellence in the performance of the Sonata – the prize is notated “In Memoriam Richard Pollett”. This generous donation of $600 is in memory of Richard Pollett, a finalist in the 2004 Kendall National Violin Competition who won the prize for the best performance of an Australian composition and who died in tragic circumstances in 2011.