Reflections from 2019 winner Anna Im

Anna Im, the current reigning Michael Hill winner took some time out between recording and performing engagements to share some fond memories from her time in New Zealand during the last Michael Hill International Violin Competition in 2019. 

Are there any special memories that stand out for you when you recall from your time attending the Michael Hill International Violin Competition?

Attending the Michael Hill International Violin Competition was truly a memorable experience. One particular memory that stands out is the warm and festive atmosphere during the opening ceremony. The excitement was palpable as we gathered at Michael’s house, and the drawing for the first round added an extra thrill. It didn’t feel like a typical competition; instead, it felt like a vibrant festival celebrating young violinists. Additionally, I was captivated by a group of boys and girls dressed in traditional Kiwi costumes, showcasing their native performances. It was a unique and astonishing sight that left a lasting impression.

Musical Highlights? Travel Highlights? Perhaps some tips for the new competitors to help them get the most out of this experience…

One of the delightful memories for me during the competition was the opportunity to explore a Korean restaurant and supermarket in Queenstown. After a long flight, I had a strong craving for Korean food, and the Kimchi Stew at this Korean restaurant in Queenstown was amazing upon my arrival. I discovered that many previous Korean competitors had also visited the restaurant, making it a comforting reminder of home. For competitors craving Asian cuisine, Queenstown offers a nice range of eateries and even a supermarket where you can find snacks and noodles to satisfy your taste buds.

Additionally, if your schedule permits, I highly recommend planning a trip to explore the beautiful places in New Zealand after the competition. As one of the most scenic countries in the world, New Zealand offers breathtaking landscapes and unique experiences that are not to be missed. Given the long journey it takes to reach New Zealand, it is important to make the most of your time there and embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in its natural wonders. The country’s beauty and charm will undoubtedly leave a lasting impression and create memories that will stay with you for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, I had to cancel my own travel plans due to personal circumstances, but I encourage all future competitors to make the most out of their trip to New Zealand. I had hoped to come back for my winners tour, but I didn’t get to be in NZ again since the competition, due to covid. You never know what will happen in life, and I think traveling around in New Zealand is a must when you can.

Were you staying with a host family during the competition? What was it like living with a ‘Kiwi family’?

Yes, I had the privilege of staying with a host family during the competition, and it was an incredible experience. I was exceptionally fortunate to be placed in a house right by the beautiful lake, offering the most breath-taking scenery I have ever encountered during my practice sessions. The tranquil environment and majestic views helped alleviate my stress during the competition, contributing to a more positive mindset.

Both my host families, Jan and Tony in Queenstown and my Korean host family Mrs Park and Mr Lee in Auckland, were incredibly kind and supportive. They made me feel at home and provided unwavering support throughout the competition. Tony, from my Queenstown host family, even expressed his belief in my potential to win the competition before the first round began, which brought a smile to my face.

My Korean host mum in Auckland took special care of me, preparing my favourite Korean dishes during the semi-finals and the final round while ensuring a meal plan that would help my digestion. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met such caring and considerate host families during my time in New Zealand.

Has participating (and winning) the competition helped you in furthering your career since? Do you feel more confident in your abilities and your plans?

Winning the Michael Hill International Violin Competition has enhanced my ability to express my music with greater confidence and freedom. It has been a transformative experience that has allowed me to delve deeper into the realms of artistic sincerity and originality. Like how a composer infuses their true emotions into their musical compositions, I strive to imbue each note and phrase with a fresh and sincere interpretation.

This commitment to authenticity enables me to connect with the timeless compositions of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, and many others, who themselves poured their most personal experiences into their music. Capturing and conveying one’s true self through music requires immense courage, as it involves exposing the depths of our emotions and vulnerabilities.

The opportunities that have brought me recognition as a musician, such as winning the competition, have not only yielded positive results and feedback but have also inspired me to continue growing as an artist. Knowing that my music has resonated with other musicians serves as a testament to the power of heartfelt expression and encourages me to further explore the limitless possibilities of music making.

Did you make new friendships when you visited?

During my time at the Michael Hill International Violin Competition, I had the pleasure of meeting and establishing new friendships with fellow participants. Prior to the competition, I already knew Eric, who won the second prize, and Angela, who won the fourth prize. We had been studying together at the Curtis Institute of Music, so it was wonderful to support each other throughout the preparation and duration of the competition. Competitions like these provide a unique opportunity to meet fellow musicians from around the world as well, creating lasting connections and fostering a sense of community within the music industry. The friendships formed during this experience are invaluable and contribute to a supportive network that extends beyond the competition itself.

Looking back on your time in Queenstown and Auckland – what advice would you share with the 2023 competitors about to take part?

Reflecting on my time in Queenstown and Auckland, I would like to share some advice with the competitors who are about to embark on their journey in the 2023 Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

First and foremost, I encourage you to approach the competition as an opportunity for performance rather than a competition. Remember that you are sharing your music with a supportive audience that is eager to hear your genuine and inspiring music making. By letting go of the pressure to play perfectly and instead focusing on delivering heartfelt and meaningful performances, you may find yourself enjoying the experience more and feeling a greater sense of freedom on stage.

The audience simply wants to hear genuine and inspiring music, so trust in your preparation and allow yourself to have fun on stage.

All your New Zealand supporters would love to stay in touch, can you tell us a bit about what are you up to now?

I am honored to have been awarded one of Royal Academy of Music’s prestigious Bicentenary Scholarships during my master’s and Advanced Diploma courses. This scholarship includes the opportunity to record a solo album with Linn Records, which will be my second album.

The release date is yet to be confirmed but will likely be towards the end of 2023. This project will be a significant milestone in my career, allowing me to share my music with a wider audience once again. Additionally, I am thrilled to announce that I will be performing across the UK over the next two seasons as a Tillett Trust Debut Artist of the year.


Keep in touch with Anna –


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And follow her on Instagram @anna_im and Facebook @annaimviolinist