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Past Leeds winner Anna Tsybuleva (PC: Olympia Orlova)

Leeds Piano Competition Introduces Blind Pre-Selection to Address Gender Imbalance

"The more we get into actual statistics, it’s clear that something’s broken," says Fiona Sinclair, the competition's chief executive


Fiona Sinclair, who is the chief executive of the Leeds International Piano Competition, has called attention to gender bias in the world of concert pianists — and is introducing a new measure to the competition in an attempt to address this issue.

In past iterations of the competition, applicants would send a video recording for the pre-selection round — but now they will audition in a "blind" manner, with an audio-only recording. A randomly generated name will be assigned to each file so that the panel can distinguish one recording from another, but no further information about the identity of the competitor will be given.

Sinclair noted that over the competition's sixty-year history, only two women — Sofya Gulyak and Anna Tsybuleva — have won it. The same goes for comparable competitions: only 18% of the most recent top 40 international piano competitions have been won by women.

"Fewer than 23% of career pianists are women, yet in the conservatoires, it’s roughly 50:50," Sinclair told The Observer. "As they leave college, the men soar while the women are not getting opportunities. The more we get into actual statistics, it’s clear that something’s broken. The problem persists at the top piano level — festivals, recordings, venues — with men generally dominating everything."

The first round of the 2024 edition will take place from April 2 - 7, 2024 around the globe in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, New York, Beijing, and Seoul. The second round through to the final concerto round will commence in September 2024 at The Great Hall at the University of Leeds, in the UK.

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