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#2051423 - 03/20/13 03:21 PM Verifying amateur status for competition  
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fuzzy8balls Offline
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Hey all,

Things are going well and we have secured a venue for the San Diego International Piano Competition in Feb 2014 (official announcement to follow later). We will be having masterclasses, extra recitals (performance opportunities at the venue for people who do not advance), streaming, and best of all -- it will be 5 minutes from the beach which you can even enjoy in Feb (SD weather).

One of the discussions and what we want to do different from other competitions is that we want to put effort in to verify that an applicant is indeed an amateur (one who does not derive a majority of their income from teaching/performing piano, must not be pursuing a degree or career in music, etc.)

I know we can't be absolutely sure of the applicants' status and it will mostly come down to their integrity, but I think we should have a more thorough screening process than taking one at their word.

Some ideas that have been suggested so far:

1) verify work/employment email/website (like bob@microsoft.com)
2) verification by third party (calling references)
3) verify W-2 (unlikely, but very intrusive and only works in US)

I'd like to ask the forum if you guys have any suggestions.

Thanks,

-Gorden

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#2051443 - 03/20/13 04:03 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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BruceD Offline
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I am not sure how your organization could take the initiative to "verify work/employment" without (possibly) entering into privacy issues. Would the same not apply to verifying W-2 forms? Further, verifying W-2 forms would mean you would become privy to a candidate's wages/salary, and I think that would be overstepping your limits.

Rather than you trying to verify the employment, why not ask candidates to submit letters of reference, one of which should be from the current employer? If this were part of the application process, it would save you both the time and the means of trying to verify the employment of the candidate.

Regards,


BruceD
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#2051448 - 03/20/13 04:17 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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landorrano Offline
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Good evening. In your place I wouldn't be so eager to express distrust of people who show interest in the San Diego International Piano Competition. I would take pains to express your criteria in all documents, and then thoughtfully study the case of each applicant. You can always contact an applicant to discuss his situation, and you have the right to gracefully decline someone if you feel that he doesn't have his place in the SDIPC.

A very exciting prospect, setting up an event like this. I wish you great success.

#2051461 - 03/20/13 04:43 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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wr Offline
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Originally Posted by fuzzy8balls


Some ideas that have been suggested so far:

1) verify work/employment email/website (like bob@microsoft.com)
2) verification by third party (calling references)
3) verify W-2 (unlikely, but very intrusive and only works in US)




An obvious problem - some people are not employed by others, or, for that matter, at all.


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#2051465 - 03/20/13 04:48 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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fuzzy8balls Offline
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@Bruce: emails can be easily done by receiving a response from it. It's just like when you sign up for netflix or some other service, you put in your email address as a contact and then to verify your account, you have to respond to an automated email sent to it. Also according to the domain part (after the @), you can visit the website associated with it. For example one of my old work emails was gcheng@qualcomm.com and obvious you can go to www.qualcomm.com and know it is a valid employer and if there was a response received from the email then it would be legitimate.

@landorrano: We do have the criteria expressed in the application and in our announcement letter. I think it would be for the benefit of the entire competition if there were a more rigorous screening process, like ones used for sports. I have been a participant of many amateur competitions and people always complain that this competitor or that competitor used to be professional or teaches on the side or anything else that may question their amateur status -- which invites controversy. This is one way that we can mitigate this risk. It's not expressing distrust in potential applicants any more than the Olympic Committee distrusts athletes by having them submit to drug tests. It is to do as much as we can to guarantee that everyone in the competition is given a fair chance.

There's things that we can do (intrusive) and there are non-intrusive options too (like letters of recommendation). We have to weigh these options all in carefully. Thank you for your responses.

-Gorden

#2051514 - 03/20/13 06:54 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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boo1234 Offline
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IN this day and age, can't you just type in their name in google and find out reasonably well if they are professional pianists or not? Presumably if one is a professional, they'd have their name out there somewhere on the internet in either advertising or concert programs or the whatnot...

#2051558 - 03/20/13 08:13 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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gooddog Offline
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The Seattle International Piano Festival has two amateur competition categories which, I think, makes it more fair:

Category A: "must be studying or working in a vocation other than music. The participant must hold an earned degree in music with an emphasis in piano performance, but must not have been studying or earning a living in music at any point during 2013. There is no upper age limit for this category. (Note that ‘studying’ is defined as enrollment in a degree program in the piano-related field of music. Taking weekly lessons or coaching with an instructor privately does not constitute ‘studying’.)"

Catagory B "must be studying or working in a vocation other than music. The participant may not hold a degree in music, and must not have been studying or earning a living in music at any point during 2013 (although enrollment and incomplete degree status in a music program at some point in the past is acceptable). There is no upper age limit for this category. (Note that ‘studying’ is defined as enrollment in a degree program in the field of music. Taking weekly lessons or coaching with an instructor privately does not constitute ‘studying’.)"

I realize this means financing 2 separate competitions but it does solve a lot of problems. There are also collegiate and professional divisions plus various levels of youth divisions.


Best regards,

Deborah
#2051566 - 03/20/13 08:28 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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Sand Tiger Offline
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Google search and the honor system go a long way. It also depends on just how big the prizes are. Modest prizes aren't going to attract that much attention. I suggest adding a detail page to the application where the person must initial (or online check box) verifying certain details.

Questions might include:
employer:
profession/job title:

do you have or are you pursuing a degree in music?
have you ever received compensation for performing (if yes, please detail)?

have you ever been a certified piano teacher?
have you ever taught piano for pay (if yes, please describe)?

have you competed in other piano competitions where monetary prizes are awarded? Is so, please detail:

Now certain levels of teaching and performing might be low enough to still qualify for amateur status, but that is up to the committee. If one wants those that never got any money from playing or teaching and that are not pursuing a degree, the unexpected effect might be to attract mostly very young kids. The committee has to think about this a bit, about what they want.

Make the contract very clear that if a person wins or places high enough to claim a cash prize, a more thorough background check will occur before the prize is awarded. I believe that having a nominal application fee, and a strict looking contract, will discourage most professionals from entering. What is the point, if they know they will be scrutinized closely and will almost certainly be disqualified.

Having a one week or even two week delay before mailing any prize checks might be another mechanism to discourage professionals from entering. If a decent level foreign professional comes in, they will likely be spotted by someone, especially if the video is posted on the Internet. Explain that the videos will be posted, and the prize checks will go out slowly, so the pros will not want to try to enter.

Not everyone has a work email. Not every work email can be used for personal business such as entering piano competitions. Anyone with a friend in a corporate IT department can likely spoof or create an email for someone to use for their application. So an email address is not a good screening method.

#2051631 - 03/20/13 10:53 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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Mark_C Offline
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Gorden: I think you're seeing a clear reaction against being too much of a watchdog, and I'm with that. I think doing anything like what you said would be a big turnoff and would make you lose much more than what you could possibly gain. Please don't think of going around verifying anything. More important than absolute correctness of eligibility is setting an atmosphere, and that would be totally the wrong kind.

I don't think you need to do anything more than what the existing competitions have done, plus maybe use a little more common sense than a couple of them. grin

As people have said, internet searches can tell you just about whatever you need to know -- and you wouldn't need to look into stuff for very many people. I don't think you need to check up on everybody, just the ones that smell a little. smile

#2051674 - 03/21/13 12:30 AM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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Nikolas Offline
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I think that invading the privacy of the applicants is a step too far in this case (W-2). Perhaps ask them for their degree, or if they don't have one yet a letter from their university?

#2051724 - 03/21/13 03:08 AM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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Trust is a funny thing.
If you don't give it, you won't get it.

Or, as Hemingway said:
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

Candidates should self-certify based on signing an affidavit that they meet the qualifications.

American uber-hero and cultural role model Lance Armstrong is living proof that despite some of the most onerous and personally invasive control instruments in the world, if someone wants to lie, cheat, extort and steal while baldfacedly & pscyopathically deceiving millions of fans and bringing an entire nation to shame just to win a stupid bicycle race, then they are going to cheat.

Better to focus one's attention on creating the best amateur piano competition rather than the best Gestapo apparatus.

#2051746 - 03/21/13 05:01 AM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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All right, thanks for the feedback. We will make an official announcement soon.

#2051880 - 03/21/13 11:35 AM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: gooddog]  
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Tim Adrianson Offline
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gooddog -- in theory, I think the Seattle proposition is a good one, but I also think it presupposes a sufficient number of entrants in both divisions; and, in my experience, there haven't been a sufficient number of applicants in past regional competitions to justify this type of segregation. But, even if there were enough entrants in both categories, I just can't warm up to this type of "segregation" idea, PERIOD -- for me, it imposes, in the interests of fairness, a heirarchy that, for me, conflicts with the very spirit and purpose of having an Amateur competition in the first place -- it "professionalizes" the event, and IMO in its worst aspects. Far better, I think, to have a single pool of entrants, and find ways to provide discretionary awards to those who provided special value-added musical experiences, in addition to the more typical virtuosity + musical merit awards. To divide a competition into two tiers based on ONLY on level of musical education just doesn't sit well with me.

#2051956 - 03/21/13 01:26 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: Tim Adrianson]  
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gooddog Offline
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Originally Posted by Tim Adrianson
gooddog -- in theory, I think the Seattle proposition is a good one, but I also think it presupposes a sufficient number of entrants in both divisions; and, in my experience, there haven't been a sufficient number of applicants in past regional competitions to justify this type of segregation. But, even if there were enough entrants in both categories, I just can't warm up to this type of "segregation" idea, PERIOD -- for me, it imposes, in the interests of fairness, a heirarchy that, for me, conflicts with the very spirit and purpose of having an Amateur competition in the first place -- it "professionalizes" the event, and IMO in its worst aspects. Far better, I think, to have a single pool of entrants, and find ways to provide discretionary awards to those who provided special value-added musical experiences, in addition to the more typical virtuosity + musical merit awards. To divide a competition into two tiers based on ONLY on level of musical education just doesn't sit well with me.
The additional tier separates those who call themselves amateurs but hold masters degrees or PhD's in music and are conservatory trained, from others who do not have this level of training. It disturbed me to have heard that so called "amateur musicians" at the Van Cliburn were professionally trained and were selling their CD's. I think the second catagory is a good idea.


Best regards,

Deborah
#2051965 - 03/21/13 01:46 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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Hi Gorden, I'm with those who cautioned against too much verification. If an amateur event has the appropriate atmosphere (Mark also mentioned this) -- i.e. uniting those who just love piano music and want to meet like-minded people while comparing each other in friendly spirit without any expectations beyond that -- it will also attract the right kind of participants. Well, easier said than done, I guess. smile

But mainly I wanted to say thanks (and good luck!) for creating another event for piano amateurs world-wide! I've never been to SD so far....

#2052042 - 03/21/13 04:24 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: theJourney]  
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Originally Posted by theJourney
a stupid bicycle race


OBJECTION YOUR HONOR !!!!!!!!! Where do you get off uber-dissing le Tour de France! Take that back or I'll ... I'll, I'll ...

.. well, I'll sing the Marseillaise !

A la défense de la patrie !!!!!

By the way, who is Lance Armstrong?


#2052091 - 03/21/13 06:22 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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Lance Armstrong is a seven-time winner of the Tour de France. Well, now an ex-winner, as, due to massive doping, he has now been stripped of all sept of his maillots jaunes (all seven of his yellow jerseys).


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#2053053 - 03/23/13 05:27 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: fuzzy8balls]  
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So someone who teaches piano would be considered a professional?Does someone who plays piano at a church or does some accompanying be considered a professional (if they had no other source of income)?

What exactly is a "professional"? (obviously, one who is not an amateur) wow

Many piano teachers are not particularly good.

#2053113 - 03/23/13 07:20 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: landorrano]  
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Originally Posted by landorrano
A la défense de la patrie !!!!!

Maybe I'm the one who remembers it wrong, but isn't that "Allons enfants" (Let's go, kids smile ) rather than "A la défense"?

#2053340 - 03/24/13 08:35 AM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: BethH]  
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Originally Posted by BethH
So someone who teaches piano would be considered a professional?Does someone who plays piano at a church or does some accompanying be considered a professional (if they had no other source of income)?

What exactly is a "professional"? (obviously, one who is not an amateur) wow

Many piano teachers are not particularly good.


That was the understatement of the day.

#2053455 - 03/24/13 12:29 PM Re: Verifying amateur status for competition [Re: MathGuy]  
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Originally Posted by MathGuy
Originally Posted by landorrano
A la défense de la patrie !!!!!

Maybe I'm the one who remembers it wrong, but isn't that "Allons enfants" (Let's go, kids smile ) rather than "A la défense"?


Perhaps he wasn't quoting the opening of "La Marseillaise" but, rather, just making a statement about the defense of the homeland. It is, indeed : "Allons, enfants de la patrie ..."

Regards,


BruceD
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