SOTY 2017: be positive, and do something unexpected, say Performing Artist judges

It takes more than knowing how to dance, sing, act, or play an instrument well, to qualify as a finalist for the Student of the Year’s (SOTY) Performing Artist category

Nicola Chan |

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Adrian Walter (left) says that the judges will be looking for students who can communicate, present themselves and engage with the judging panel.

It takes more than knowing how to dance, sing, act, or play an instrument well, to qualify as a finalist for the Student of the Year’s (SOTY) Performing Artist category. Students have to prove they have made significant personal achievements in the past year, have contributed to their local community in some way using their talent, and have excelled academically as well.

This is because winning the Performing Artist category is a very special opportunity for a young and emerging performer, said Professor Adrian Walter, a judge and the director of The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA).

“It gives young people an opportunity to showcase their talent across a diverse range of disciplines, and gain useful career-building recognition with the professions and general public.”

Karly Cox, the deputy editor of Young Post, agreed. “Getting through to the final round of the Performing Arts category is proof of a student’s excellence in the field, and of industry professionals’ opinion that the individual could go far in their discipline.”

Cox, who is also a Performing Artist judge, went on describe SOTY as being an event after which participants and winners go on to study, and live, in countries around the world, where they get to contribute to the global community.

Fellow judge and local pianist Colleen Lee Ka-ling said that being a finalist in the category is more than being recognised for your talent. “It gives you the courage and confidence to pursue your dreams,” she said. Lee, who was a SOTY participant in 1996, told Young Post that a Performing Artist winner should demonstrate “skills that reflect a solid foundation from training and practice”, as well as an ability to communicate with the audience through their performance.

This is something that Walter, too, is also looking for. “[I want to see students who can] communicate, present themselves and engage with the judging panel.” That is not all though, he said, adding that students will also be judged on how well they understand their own art form, and how well they can articulate their ideas.

So what can the SOTY finalists do to stand out from an already outstanding crowd?

“Doing something unexpected is almost guaranteed to put a smile on our faces,” Cox said. “Many talented young pianists can play, say Chopin, beautifully, but not many will try a lesser known [piece] … or something they’ve composed themselves.”

Regardless of what you’ll be performing, though, nothing will beat thorough preparation, said Walter. Then you’ll start off feeling confident, and be less likely to fall prey to performance anxiety.

“[Being prepared] shows respect for your audience, and demonstrates your depth of commitment,” he said, adding that it’s also vitally important you are able to relax and talk to the judges normally. “[We’re] always excited to learn more about the aspirations and experiences of the talented young people of Hong Kong.”

Another thing guaranteed to keep you from feeling unduly stressed is befriending the other nominees.

“There will only be one champion, but the arts world – especially in Hong Kong – is close-knit,” Cox said. “Learning what inspires other young artists, where fellow students learn, practise and perform, can lead to new experiences and collaborations – and great friendships!”

Most important, Lee said, is to keep a positive mindset, no matter if you win or lose. “The path to becoming an artist can be rough, and full of challenges,” she said. Perseverance, and never giving up is what makes a Performing Artist winner truly exceptional.

The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by South China Morning Post and Young Post, and sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Edited by Ginny Wong

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