Art Song Contest

After a hiatus of a few years, Hawaii Public Radio’s Art Song Contest is back! The rules (such as they are) can be found lower on this page.

I sent Frederica von Stade the link to the Art Song Contest Winners program on Singing and other Sins and below is her reply.

Hi Gary, I listened to all the singers and they are great. Well done that you have put this together.
Love and good wishes to you always,

Here’s the semi-finalist program for 2017:  HPR’s International Art Song Contest Semi-Finalists 2017
HPR’s International Art Song Contest Winners 2015
HPR’s International Art Song Contest Semi-Finalists 2015

HPR’s International Art Song Contest Winners 2013

The mission of the International Art Song Contest is to acknowledge high levels of art song  performance. There is no art song without the pianist; that means that although the contest features the vocalists, without a team performance, the entries will not be considered.

Art Song Contest Rules
Let’s assume that you know what an art song is*. You record your singing (original language of the poem, please), and send the CD to: ASC, Hawaii Public Radio, 738 Kaheka St., Honolulu, HI 96814. Or you can send your selection (with documentation) via WeTransfer to There is no deadline. When the judging panel has chosen 15 semi-finalists, a special Semi-Finalists Program will be broadcast on Singing and other Sins.  From that group at least 3 winners will be chosen and requested to supply 15 – 20 minutes mini-recital to be aired on the Winners Program of Singing and other Sins. Winners will be asked at that time for bio information.

Entry data should include the name of the composer, poet, singer, and pianist as well as contact info. (email etc.). No age or any other information is necessary. Just write/print this neatly on the CD or include it in the WeTransfer information. You will only be contacted if you are a semi-finalist or winner. Please do not contact the station.

A few hints: your recording must be of broadcast quality; no barking dogs or other background noise. No added re-verb. This is an art song (just one, please) and so should have a good balance between the piano and voice. No out-of-tune pianos.While professional recordings aren’t required, it’s recommended that the highest quality recording be submitted. This is the only way the judges can hear you: clarity, balance between piano and voice, and overall presentation should be considered.

Waiver: By submitting a CD you understand that your entry recording may be used by HPR, broadcast or reproduced without further consent or remuneration. Below, one of the judges, Mary Dibbern, offers her advice.

FAQ: What is the deadline? There is no deadline. This will be an ongoing contest; once a good number of CDs have been received we’ll process them, find the semi-finalists etc., broadcast the Semi-Finalists program and then select the winners and run the Winners program. At the same time other CDs will be arriving for the next semi-finalist and winners rounds.

FAQ: Where is the application form? There is no form. Just write the information requested on the CD. That way it won’t get separated from the all-important recording.

FAQ: What are the age limits? There are NONE.

FAQ: Do you need to be a US citizen? No, it is open to everyone.

FAQ: May we use an electric piano? Yes, if it sounds good: as close to the sound of an acoustic piano as possible.

FAQ: Will the semi-finalist and winners programs be streamed? Yes, all Hawaii Public Radio programs are streamed.

FAQ: Can we record ourselves professionally? Yes, just don’t let the sound engineer add obvious ambience or other effects. The recording should have normal recital hall acoustic.

Here are some of the changes from years past (in no particular order):

1. HPR will not be recording the singers.

2. There will be no prizes other than the honor of being selected and having your recording or recordings broadcast.

3. No entry fee.

4. No live Winners Recital.

5. No deadlines.

6. Any singer/pianist team may enter. No Hawaii residency is necessary. Former contestants/winners may enter again.

Singers will be evaluated on:

1. Technique

2. Diction

3. Musicianship: rhythm, style, interpretation

4. Presentation: communication and appropriate presentation of character

5. Collaboration: how the “team” of piano and voice work together to make a successful overall interpretation of the song.

*Art Song is poetry set to music by a classical composer for unamplified voice and piano. Opera and oratorio arias, popular, folk, rap, commercial songs, and musical theatre are not included in the definition. Transpositions are acceptable, but selections must be performed in the original language.

Any one selection of Lieder (such as Schubert, Schumann, etc.), mélodie (Fauré, Debussy, etc.), or art songs in other languages such as English, Spanish, Russian, Italian, Japanese, Swedish, etc. are acceptable. Italian song selections may be taken from the 24/26 Italian anthologies, as well as other more recent Italian songs. This same information applies when the Winners are requested to send in more songs.

Mary Dibbern offers advice:

As somebody who judges frequently, here is my advice in a nutshell. Show what you can sing right now…not what you wish you will be able to sing in five years. Sing in languages that are comfortable. See good coaches and language experts if you want to sing in any language that you do not speak. Pierre Bernac said often “The vowels are the music.” The wrong vowel is just as hard to listen to as the wrong note or wrong rhythm. Sing in tune. Do not change rhythms, notes or words because you “heard it on a recording.” We love our composers…and we would like to hear what they wrote!  Do not sing long songs. Judges usually make up their minds within the first minute (or less).