The Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition

The Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition

Students who are interested in pursuing music in college might feel left out by the sheer number of scholarships, competitions, events, grants, and other related offerings that focus on more classic academic subjects. While most people can name a few popular math or science events, there’s simply not as much advertisement when it comes to music competition. This is partially due to the fact that only a small portion of high school and college students decide to dedicate their entire education to the pursuit of music or a singular instrument. Most of the opportunities advertised to students, as a result, don’t relate to the field of music much at all.

Playing a violin

Given the high level of talent and expertise required to do well in selective music programs or prestigious music schools, it makes sense for music students to participate in competitions and events. These opportunities make it possible for students to practice performing in front of people, further perfect their crafts and drastically improve their likelihood of getting into a music-related school or program. One of the most popular and esteemed events in this category is the Thomas & Evon Cooper International Competition, more commonly known as the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition.

The AdmissionSight team is always looking for ways to help students achieve their academic and professional goals. If music is your passion and you’re set on pursuing a music-related field in college, we highly recommend applying for the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition. This event is designed to give students a platform to display their musical prowess with the opportunity to qualify for impressive awards. Below, we’ve compiled some important information regarding the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition with the hopes that you’ll come away with a better understanding of what the event has to offer, why its worthwhile, and how best to prepare.

What is the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition?

As you might be able to assume from the name, the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition is a violin and piano competition held yearly in Oberlin, Ohio at the respected Oberlin College. Thomas and Evon Cooper are sponsors of the annual event and is presented alongside the Cleveland Orchestra and the Overline Conservatory of Music – two important contributors to the world of music in their own right. The Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition is specifically held for younger musicians ranging in ages from 13 to 18. Over $35,000 is awarded to participants during the competition, making it one of the most rewarding music events in the country. The first-place winner receives $20,000 of the total prize money.

If that weren’t enough to pique your interest already, the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition also gives three of the best performers the rare and highly sought after opportunity to participate in a complete concerto with the famous respected Cleveland Orchestra – a once-in-a-lifetime chance for talented musicians. Not to mention a surefire way to keep your college application at the top of the pile. Although the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition takes place annually, the focus on a violin competition and piano competition alternates each year. The first competition in 2010 featured pianos only and the following competition in 2011 featured violins exclusively. This alternation has been continuing ever since.

What’s the history of the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition?

The Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition was first put together in 1985 by Joseph Schwartz, an Emeritus Professor. Although the competition now operates as its own event, it was originally part of the acclaimed Oberlin International Festival. The event was so popular and attracted so many talented musicians that the organizers decided to turn it into a singular event for people to display their musical abilities. In 1995, the first Oberlin International Piano Competition was officially launched by Professor Robert Shannon who eventually became the director of the event. In 1999, the 1st prize was awarded to Yeol Eum Son. After a few years, the director and sponsors decided it was worthwhile to offer winners with a unique opportunity to perform with some of the best orchestras in China like the Shanghai Philharmonic. It wasn’t until 2010 that the event received its current title as the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition to reflect its new sponsors. Ever since this time, the final rounds of the competition have been held in Severance Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra. As if the earnings and accolades from the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition weren’t attractive enough, the prizes were doubled in 2016 to their current level of $35,000 total and $20,000 for the first prize.

people playing the violins

What are the benefits of participating in the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition?

As college admission specialists, we understand the limited amount of time that high school students struggle to manage. There’s a constant balance between staying on top of all of your current coursework and extracurricular activities while also trying to do enough to pursue your academic goals. It’s a difficult balance to find, but understanding the purpose behind events like the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition is an important place to begin. It’s through this analysis that you can accurately determine whether or not dedicating time to this event is worthwhile given your goals and current circumstances. With that being said, here are the primary benefits of participating in the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition:

  • The event is highly esteemed – Prestige itself is sometimes sufficient reason to participate in an academically-related event. While taking difficult music courses and mastering music theory are critical components to pursuing a successful college degree in the field, getting actual practice in respectable events is an undeniable piece of the puzzle which many students tend to overlook. While performing in a local competition or smaller event might provide you with the same practical experience, it’s not going to mean as much given the lack of prestige carried with many of these smaller events. As one of the oldest and well-recognized music competitions in the states, the respectability surrounding this event is enough of a justification to dedicate time and energy to it.
  • It’s a great opportunity to display your musical prowess – Although the assertion that it takes 10,00 hours to master a skill has been debunked, practice is still the key to mastering an instrument. While most people don’t make it to this level in their lifetimes, it’s certainly a worthwhile benchmark to bear in mind when practicing. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend all of those practicing hours locked up in your room or in front of a music instructor. If you’re even considering this event, there’s an excellent chance that you’re already skilled enough to perform in front of a crowd of people and entertain them. The Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition is a great opportunity for music students to get a little satisfaction out of their constant practicing by performing in front of a large audience of appreciative and music-loving people.
  • You’ll have a better chance of getting into selective music programs – One of the primary differences between music programs and those pertaining to other subjects is their exclusivity. Since there are fewer students overall that decide to pursue music in college, there are fewer schools and programs to accommodate related majors. This general lack of opportunity raises the bar as programs become more selective and requirements more stringent. Performing in the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition is a great way to stand out amongst the crowd of talented applicants and increase your chances of getting into a highly selective and esteemed music college or program.
  • It looks great on a resume (even if you don’t pursue music) – Too many students fall into the trap of assuming that everything on their college application has to tell a similar story or be related to their desired major. While it’s important to have some consistency in your application, you shouldn’t be afraid to explore other areas of interest. In fact, this diversity of talents and interests can actually help you stand out to admission officers who have become accustomed to seeing very uniform applications. As a result, participating in the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition will look great on your resume even if you don’t end up pursuing a music-related major. Sometimes, you have to give yourself permission to explore events and competitions for fun rather than purely academic advancement.
  • You’ll have an opportunity to earn some impressive cash prizes – College tuition isn’t cheap. Although this point is well known among high school and college students, not enough keep an eye out for opportunities to earn scholarships, grants, and even cash prizes. One of the greatest advantages of participating in the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition is the chance to win impressive cash awards. As one of the most generous music competitions in the world, the top performer can come away with $20,000 – enough to cover a year’s tuition at some colleges. Even if you don’t win the competition, there is still another $15,000 split up among other top performers.

How can I successfully prepare for the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition?

While we never want students to let their anxiety overshadow their excitement, it’s still important to recognize what a unique and important opportunity it is to participate in the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition. This world-class competition features some of the most talented student musicians in the country (including you!). As a result, preparing successfully for the event is paramount. Here, we’ve outlined a few tips to help you better prep for the competition to make sure the performance you give is your absolute best.

  • Practice, practice, and practice some more – The old adage ‘practice makes perfect’ might sound cliche, but it couldn’t be more accurate. When you play on stage in front of an audience of esteemed musicians and fellow talented students, you’ll want to hit every note, every pause, every pitch, and every rhythm as precisely as possible. The only way to accomplish this level of proficiency is to practice non-stop. A great way to pull off this feat is to spread out your practicing instead of cramming a lot of practice at the last minute. Make yourself a schedule and practice a little beat each day. You’ll find it easier to keep up this rhythm, and you won’t find yourself falling behind as the competition looms nearer.
  • Get professional feedback – As much as your parents and friends might love your performance and compliment your style, they might not be able to offer constructive criticism – which every musician could benefit from. Since you’ll be judged by professionals during the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition, it’s important to find equally talented and observant musical professionals to provide you with feedback before the competition. Not only will this give you a better idea of what judges will look for come competition day, but you’ll also know which areas to improve upon during your daily practice sessions. You can use a local music instructor or a music teacher in your high school to give you some pointers.
  • Perform your piece in front of people – It’s one thing to practice in your room alone or with a familiar instructor. It’s something completely different to perform the exact same piece in front of a larger group of people, even if you know them. While practicing alone can help you prepare for hitting all of the notes perfectly, you’ll need to practice in front of people to build up the nerves needed for the competition. Even the most talented and well-practiced students can end up succumbing to stage-fright or nerves. For this reason, it’s important to find times to perform in front of a group of people to increase your comfort levels of public performance. You can ask friends, family members, and even some teachers to listen.
  • Watch footage of past performances – A lot of students build up anxiety in anticipation of what the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition will be like. A great way to combat this impending stress is to watch footage of previous performances. You’ll get a better idea of how the event functions overall. For example, you’ll have a more accurate idea of what the competition will be like as well as how long the pieces should last. You’ll also get a more complete picture of how the competition will look like for you as the performer. Fortunately, you can find extensive video footage of past performances for both the violin and piano competitions for many past events.

How can I apply for the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition?

Bearing in mind that the Cooper International Piano & Violin Competition alternative each year between a piano and violin event, you should always consult the official Oberlin College and Conservatory site for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding rules and application requirements. For reference purposes, the 2020 event is a piano competition, meaning next year will be a violin-oriented event. It’s important to keep this alternation in mind when planning to apply.

a female piano teacher helping her student learn how to play the piano

AdmissionSight can help you achieve your academic goals

The AdmissionSight team has spent years and years developing an expert understanding of the college admissions process. Throughout our history, we’ve helped countless students overcome challenging admission processes and daunting acceptance rates, catch the attention of experienced admission officers, and eventually secure a spot in some of the most esteemed universities in the United States – including Ivy League Schools. As college admission specialists, we believe that any student can achieve their academic goals with the right tools and resources. That’s why we’ve compiled some of the best services available to aid students in their academic and personal journeys. Whether you need help editing an essay, choosing a summer program, acing a standardized test, or anything in between, we’ve got your back. Feel free to contact us today for a free consultation to learn what we have to offer.






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