2021 IAC Conclusion

Was the 2021 IAC what we envisioned?

When we wrapped up our first ever International Artist Competition in 2019, we were exhausted but already excited for the next one. We thought, “We’ll be able to improve everything next time,” and “Things will definitely be less stressful since we know what to expect.”

Less than a year later, we were in a pandemic.

In 2020, we had to decide whether or not to continue with the 2021 IAC. An online competition made the most sense, but that meant starting from scratch yet again.

Like everyone else during the pandemic, we decided to face forward and tackle the unknown. The 2021 IAC was a go!

What goes into planning an online competition?

We won’t bore you with ALL the details, but here are some considerations that went into the planning of our first ever online IAC:

1. A whole new set of rules

Since everyone had to record on their own, we were concerned that students without access to a recording space or professional equipment would be disadvantaged by their audio and video quality. The SCM Team held several meetings to discuss the rules of the competition, trying to find the most equitable option for our participants.

2. Lots of deadlines

Recordings had to be submitted months ahead of the competition. To streamline the process, Joanna Chen (head of Operations at SCM) built out amazing web portals for our staff, judges, and participants to use throughout the months of the competition.

Several audience members told us that the livestreams flowed really well. Shout out to our audio and video engineers, Tyler Deans and Justin Wright, for their amazing work!

3. SO MUCH emailing

If you know the stress of a personal inbox, imagine how much time and brainpower is required to manage an organization’s inbox! Our directors, Christina Cheon and Eric Whitmer, were constantly communicating with the judges, participants, sponsors, board, and staff to make sure deadlines were met, questions were answered, and thanks was given!

Overview of the 2021 IAC!

We hosted 4 livestreamed events (Semi-Finals, Judges’ Concert + Interview, and Finals)!

Semi-Finals took place over two days, similar to our in-person format. Day 1 was the Scholastic Solo and Open Duo semi-finals. Day 2 was the Collegiate Solo semi-finals. We had an extremely talented group this year, including all the applicants from the initial round. The age range was impressive too, with our youngest player being only ten years old!

Check out these trailers featuring our semi-finalists!



The Judges’s Concert + Interview featured our 2021 IAC judges, Naoko Takada, Joe W. Moore III, and Lynn Vartan! The concert featured the judges’ own compositions (two by Naoko and several by Joe) and several other pieces that represented their individual styles.

Finals took place on the last day of the competition, featuring the finalists from all three categories. We were glad we weren’t the judges since everyone’s playing was so unique and enjoyable to watch!

Congratulations again to the 2021 IAC winners and everyone who participated in the 2021 IAC! You are the reason why the marimba community continues to grow and flourish. 🙂

Click here to see the programs and replays!


We were also fortunate to have masterclasses with all three of our judges! We listened to eight participants play (either live or recorded). Our judges imparted so much wisdom! Here are a few favorites:


On the pursuit of perfection: “We start to lose the performance side of things, and the expressive sides of things, just aiming to make sure that the recording is perfect. I would argue for us to all do the opposite of that… remember why we decided to do music in the first place and remember to have fun and let the music move us.


Use your eyes, ears, and hands” to troubleshoot what’s happening in your playing. This is especially helpful when playing fast runs. Another gem from Lynn: masterclasses are an “opportunity to collect secrets.” Even as an audience member, you can collect secrets to “tuck away and apply” to your own playing!


Add gestures to your playing so that the audience can “understand the music ideas better.” Naoko showed us how to work backwards from the climax of the piece and introduce gestures several times in advance in order to subconsciously persuade the audience and “appeal to the eye.”

E-meeting everyone!

We also held several Google Meets to get to know our participants! We heard about what it’s like balancing marimba studies while in high school, starting lessons from a young age or even in college, and even got to meet a few furry family members! Our Education Director, Lana Lam, put together games and other activities to help break the ice. We met participants who were in different time zones across the United States as well as in South Korea and Japan.

From our Welcome Meeting!

But we couldn’t have done it without your help.

From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank everyone who inspired us and made the 2021 IAC possible:

Our participants for their hearts and their music;

Our judges for paving the way for younger generations of marimba players;

Our sponsors for their dedication to percussion;

Our donors for keeping SCM going;

Our staff who volunteered countless of hours;

Our board of directors for their vision and guidance;

Our marimba community for making marimba what it is;

And you, for powering through the weight of the pandemic and the hard times. We hope music will continue being a light in your life.

From all of us at SCM:


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