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A Complete Guide To the American Fine Arts Festival

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A girl performing on stage

A Complete Guide To the American Fine Arts Festival

The American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) is a renowned organization that supports young musicians by offering them top-notch performance and competition opportunities. AFAF promotes musical education and appreciation through events like competitions, recitals, and concerts held in famous venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

“This annual event is an opportunity of a lifetime for promising young musicians – and an extraordinary incentive for each to strive to achieve their best. – Erica James, AFAF participant

What is the American Fine Arts Festival?

The American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) is an organization dedicated to promoting classical music and the arts by providing performance opportunities and competitions for young musicians. AFAF organizes events in prestigious venues, including competitions, recitals, and concerts. Participants can perform in renowned places such as Carnegie Hall in New York City, and these events aim to encourage and nurture the talents of young musicians.

The American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) was founded in 2003 to advance musical education and encourage the appreciation and study of classical music. It is managed by Art & Music Unlimited, an educational outreach organization established by Mr. Vladimir Agilin in 2001.

AFAF also offers masterclasses and workshops with accomplished artists and educators, helping participants improve their skills and gain valuable insights into their craft. The festival is open to a wide range of musicians, including pianists, string players, wind players, and vocalists, and it serves as a platform for young artists to showcase their abilities, gain performance experience, and receive recognition for their talents.

What does the American Fine Arts Festival do?

Since it began in 2003, the American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) has organized yearly music festivals and performance competitions. These events give hundreds of music students a chance to perform in top concert halls in New York City, such as Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall at Kaufman Center. AFAF holds regular auditions in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Connecticut, and Washington DC. In 2010 and 2011, they also held auditions in Beijing, China.

playing a jazz music

Over its 18-year history, AFAF has welcomed many guest performers from around the world and aims to continue building relationships with educational organizations in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Besides its regular festival program, AFAF offers Summer Courses in Europe, the New York Grand Prix international piano competition (started in 2008), and the Golden Voices of America international competition for young vocalists. In 2010, they introduced a similar competition for string players, called Golden Strings of America.

AFAF strives to create a rich educational environment for young people nationwide, helping them reach their musical and personal potential.

American Fine Arts Festival Competitions

The American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) holds various competitions throughout the year to support and showcase the talents of young musicians. These include:

1. Online Stay at Home International Competition

The Stay at Home International Competition 2024-2025 Season (Fall selection) of the American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) invites musicians to participate online. This competition aims to support musicians who are now at home, revising their curriculum and creative plans during these challenging times. It assists those who have been separated from teachers and friends, helping novice musicians cope with difficulties and feel relevant.

Despite the current circumstances, the festival still plans to feature a series of concerts in New York City, showcasing the talents of musicians from across the country and around the globe. Performance venues for 2023 are set to include Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Bruno Walter Hall at Lincoln Center, and many others.

Eligibility

Auditions are open to instrumentalists (piano, strings, winds) and vocalists of all nationalities, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Participants in the Home Online Competition may perform one or several pieces or songs by any composers. A single movement of a sonata or suite is also acceptable. For questions about the audition/performance repertoire, please contact the organizers.

  • The length of the audition/performance program should not exceed 7 minutes.
  • The winners of the Home Online Competition will perform one piece, selected by the judges from the participant’s audition repertoire.

Application Process

Applicants should submit their audition performance via YouTube, Dropbox, iCloud, or other popular file-sharing systems, along with a completed application form and a non-refundable application fee.

  • The audition program should not exceed 5 minutes.
  • If recording multiple pieces, each piece must be recorded separately.
  • The recording must be free of background noise and distortion.
  • Recommended dress code for the recording is concert attire.
  • Applications and recordings should be sent via email to [email protected].

Application Fees

  • Solo performer: $250
  • Ensemble members: $150/member

Applications and online audition recordings must be submitted by October 5, 2024. Audition results will be announced on the website on October 10, 2024.

2. Golden Voices of America

The Golden Voices of America, which debuted in 2009 under the auspices of the American Fine Arts Festival, is an international vocal competition held in New York City. This competition is designed for vocalists seeking to challenge themselves at a highly selective level. Winners perform at prestigious venues such as Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall and Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center.

Music sheet, headset, a guitar and a pen on a table

Eligibility

Participants may perform one or several pieces from one or both categories of the recommended repertoire, or they may choose their own program as long as it aligns with the provided recommendations. Audition and performance pieces in the voice competition must not exceed 5 minutes. Golden Voices of America 2023 is open to vocalists of all nationalities, including vocal duets, trios, quartets, and other vocal groups, in the following age categories:

  1. 6-8 years of age
  2. 9-10 years of age
  3. 11-12 years of age
  4. 13-15 years of age
  5. 16-18 years of age
  6. Adult

Winners of the competition will perform one piece selected by the judges from the contestants’ audition repertoire.

Repertoire Categories

  • Category 1: Classical/Folk/Traditional
  • Category 2: Musical Theater/Disney/Broadway/Jazz

Application Guidelines

Applicants interested in participating in Golden Voices of America 2024 must submit a recording of their audition performance, along with a completed application form and a non-refundable application fee.

  • The recording (YouTube link) must be of high quality.
  • Audition and performance pieces must not exceed 5 minutes.
  • CD recordings are not acceptable.
  • The recording must be clearly labeled with your name.
  • The recording must be free of background noise, with an appropriate balance between voice(s) and accompaniment.

Participants in the AFAF Golden Voices of America 2024 are encouraged to secure their own accompanists. If you are unable to secure an accompanist, the AFAF can provide one for a fee. Please check the appropriate box on your application form if you would like to request an accompanist.

Application Fees

  • Single repertoire category: $250
  • Vocal duets, trios, and quartets: $150/person
  • Vocal groups with five or more members: $100/person

Please note that a single application fee covers an audition in only one repertoire category. If you plan to audition in both categories, please ensure you include the appropriate application fee for each category.

3. The Golden Era of Romantic Music International Competition 2024

The Golden Era of Romantic Music International Competition 2024 celebrates the rich heritage of Romantic-era music. This event offers talented musicians a chance to perform and compete with pieces from the Romantic period, spanning the early 19th century to the early 20th century. The Romantic era is known for its emphasis on expressive emotion, individuality, and innovation in musical composition.

The final recital or the Winner’s Concert will be held in  Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall

Eligibility

Auditions are open to instrumentalists (piano, strings, winds), vocalists, and chamber ensembles. Participants in the Romantic Music Competition may perform one or several pieces or songs by any Romantic-era composers. A single movement of a sonata, suite, or concerto is also acceptable. If you have questions about the audition/performance repertoire, please contact us. Winners of the Romantic Music Competition will perform one piece selected by the judges from the participant’s audition repertoire.

different musical instruments in a white background

Age Categories

Auditions are open to musicians and vocalists of all nationalities and are divided into the following age categories:

  • Ages 6-10: Performance time limit is 5 minutes
  • Ages 11-14: Performance time limit is 5 minutes
  • Ages 15-18: Performance time limit is 6 minutes
  • College students: Performance time limit is 7 minutes
  • Amateur adults: Performance time limit is 6 minutes

An additional minute of performance time can be purchased for $100.

Application Guidelines

Applicants must submit a YouTube link of their audition performance, along with a completed online application and a non-refundable application fee. Please note that other platforms cannot be used. The recording must be free of background noise and distortion.

Application Fees

  • Application fee: $250
  • Ensemble member fee: $150

4. American Fine Arts Festival Concerto Competition 2025

Anyone interested in auditioning for the International Concerto Competition should ensure they submit their best possible performance. This competition is highly competitive across all areas of the American Fine Arts Festival, attracting top performers from across the country and around the world. Participants will gain valuable exposure and have an exciting experience throughout the competition. Winners will have the opportunity to perform for distinguished guests at two of the most renowned performance halls in the world.

Eligibility

Auditions are open to piano, strings, and winds players of all nationalities in the following age categories:

  • Ages 7-13
  • Ages 14-18
  • College students
  • Amateur adults

Applicants may perform any standard concerto (single movements are acceptable) or any concert piece with available orchestral accompaniment. Vocalists may audition in one of two repertoire categories: Classical and Folk Song. For the concert at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, winners (pianists) will perform a separate solo piece.

Application Guidelines

Applicants must submit a YouTube link of their audition performance, along with a completed online application and a non-refundable application fee.

  • The recording must be clearly labeled with your name.
  • The recording must be free of background noise and distortion.

Please note that due to the large number of submissions, audition recordings will not be reviewed.

Application Fees

  • AFAF Concerto International Competition the application fee: $250

Is the American Fine Arts Festival prestigious?

Yes, the American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) is considered prestigious. It provides numerous opportunities for young musicians to perform in renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York City. AFAF is well-regarded for its high standards, international reach, and the quality of its competitions and festivals. Participating in AFAF events can significantly enhance a musician’s profile, offering valuable performance experience and recognition in the classical music community.

a pile of music sheets

What should I consider before participating in AFAF?

Before participating in the American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF), consider the following factors:

Preparation

  • Repertoire Selection: Choose pieces that showcase your strengths and align with the festival’s requirements.
  • Practice: Dedicate ample time to practice and perfect your performance.

Application Requirements

  • Application Fee: Be aware of the non-refundable application fee and ensure it fits within your budget.
  • Submission Deadlines: Note the application and recording submission deadlines to avoid late entries.
  • Recording Quality: Ensure your audition recording is of high quality, free from background noise and distortion.

Eligibility

  • Age Categories: Verify that you fit within the appropriate age category for your instrument or vocal type.
  • Repertoire Guidelines: Make sure your chosen pieces comply with the festival’s guidelines.
  • Logistics
  • Travel and Accommodation: If selected, consider the logistics of traveling to New York City and arranging accommodation.
  • Accompanists: Secure your own accompanist if required, or be prepared to request one from AFAF for a fee.

Competition Levels

  • Competition Standards: Understand the high level of competition and prepare accordingly.
  • Feedback and Improvement: Be open to constructive feedback and use it to improve your future performances.

Experience and Exposure

  • Performance Experience: Reflect on how participating will contribute to your overall performance experience and career goals.
  • Networking Opportunities: Take advantage of the opportunity to meet other musicians, educators, and professionals in the field.

Commitment

  • Time Commitment: Ensure you can commit the necessary time for preparation, travel, and participation in the event.
  • Financial Commitment: Consider all associated costs, including application fees, travel, accommodation, and accompanist fees.

After carefully studying these factors, you will be well-equipped to make a knowledgeable decision about participating in the American Fine Arts Festival and get the most out of your involvement.

Maximizing Your AFAF Experience and Increasing Your Chances of Winning

Preparation and Practice

Choose the Right Repertoire

  • Select pieces that highlight your strengths and align with the competition’s guidelines. Choose pieces you are comfortable with and that showcase your technical and expressive abilities. Ensure your selection fits the required time limit and stylistic requirements.
  • Resource: IMSLP (International Music Score Library Project) for sheet music and repertoire ideas.

a girl listening to podcast

Develop a Practice Schedule

  • Create a detailed practice plan focusing on technique, interpretation, and performance practice. Divide your practice time between scales, etudes, and your performance pieces. Include mock performances to simulate the audition experience.
  • Resource: Practice Apps like Modacity or Practicia

Record and Review Your Performances

  • Regularly record your practice sessions and review them critically. Use recordings to identify areas for improvement and track your progress over time. Listen for technical issues, musicality, and overall presentation.
  • Resource: Smartphone Recording Tips

Technical and Performance Skills

Focus on Technique

  • Work with a teacher to refine your technical skills. Mastery of your instrument’s techniques is crucial. This includes fingerings, bowings, breath control, and articulation.
  • Resource: YouTube channels like Cellopedia for string players or Josh Wright for pianists.

Enhance Musical Interpretation

  • Study the historical and theoretical background of your pieces. Understanding the context and composer’s intentions can deepen your interpretation. Incorporate dynamics, phrasing, and stylistic nuances into your performance.
  • Resource: Masterclass with renowned musicians

Performance Practice

  • Perform regularly in front of an audience. Gain experience and confidence by performing in various settings, such as school recitals, local competitions, and community events.
  • Resource: Find local performance opportunities on sites like Meetup

Application and Recording Tips

Create a High-Quality Recording

  • Ensure your audition recording is professional. Use good equipment, choose a quiet location, and ensure proper lighting and framing. The audio should be clear, with a good balance between your instrument/voice and accompaniment.
  • Resource: Recording Tips for Musicians

Complete the Application Accurately

  • Double-check your application for completeness and accuracy. Ensure all required documents, recordings, and fees are submitted correctly and on time. An incomplete application could disqualify you.
  • Resource: AFAF Official Website

Mental and Physical Preparation

Manage Performance Anxiety

  • Practice relaxation and visualization techniques. Use deep breathing, meditation, or visualization to manage nerves. Performing under pressure becomes easier with mental preparation.
  • Resource: Performance Psychology Resources

Take Care of Your Health

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Ensure you get adequate sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Staying physically healthy supports optimal performance.
  • Resource: Health Tips for Musicians

A woman smiling for the camera.

Resources to Check and Watch

YouTube Channels

Websites and Online Courses

  • Coursera for courses on music performance and interpretation.
  • Udemy for specific instrument tutorials and performance tips.

Books

  • The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness” by Gerald Klickstein.
  • The Inner Game of Music” by Barry Green and W. Timothy Gallwey.

To get the most out of the American Fine Arts Festival and improve your chances of success, follow these tips and use the provided resources.

Should I Consider the American Fine Arts Festival?

The American Fine Arts Festival (AFAF) is considered prestigious in music competitions and festivals, particularly for young musicians. AFAF provides performance opportunities at renowned venues such as Carnegie Hall in New York City, which is a notable highlight for participants.

Key aspects contributing to its prestige include:

  • Performance Venues: The chance to perform at Carnegie Hall and other esteemed venues elevates the festival’s status.
  • High Standards: AFAF maintains rigorous standards for its participants, ensuring a high level of talent and performance quality.
  • International Participation: The festival attracts participants from around the world, adding to its reputation and competitive nature.
  • Adjudication: Participants are often judged by highly respected musicians and educators, which further adds to the festival’s credibility.

Overall, AFAF is well-regarded in the music community, especially for young musicians looking to gain exposure and experience at a high level.

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