The Violin Society of America (VSA) has sponsored 23 violinmaking competitions between 1975 and 2018 and has become known as one of the premier international violin and bow making competitions in the world. There are 9 categories of entries at the competition: Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass, Quartet, Violin Bow, Viola Bow, Cello Bow, and Bass Bow. Awards at the VSA competition are a mark of prestige that sets many makers apart. But what do those awards actually mean? The answer requires a general understanding of how the instruments are judged at the competition.
Instrument Judging at the VSA Competition
The instruments entered in the VSA Competition are judged and scored separately by three workmanship judges and three tone judges. Judging in both workmanship and tone is divided into three rounds: Preliminary, Evaluation and Medal, with some instruments being eliminated in each round. In the Preliminary round, each instrument is evaluated independently by the judges who select those instruments that will be given further consideration in the Evaluation round. In the Evaluation round, each instrument is evaluated again by each judge independently. Based on the results of the Evaluation round, the judges select those instruments to proceed to the Medal round, where they are reviewed by the judges working together. Judging for the quartet category is a bit different and only has two rounds: Evaluation and Medal. Full details of the instrument judging rules are available on the VSA Website.
Bow Judging at the VSA Competition
The bows entered in the VSA competition are judged and scored on workmanship by three judges and divided into two rounds, Evaluation and Medal. In the Evaluation round, each bow will be evaluated by each judge independently and without consultation with the other judges. During the Medal round, the Certificate of Merit bows from the Evaluation round will be reviewed by all judges working together. Full details of the bow judging rules are available on the VSA Website.
Awards at the VSA Competition
Awards in each category are double-gold medal, gold medal, silver medal for tone, silver medal for workmanship, certificate of merit for tone, and certificate of merit for workmanship. The awards are not compulsory or exclusive, so the judges may award no awards in certain categories or several of the same award in the same category. To date, the VSA has given 1578 total awards in 23 competitions. You can search all of the VSA awards and competitions by maker, year, award, category and more in the StringBridge Competition Awards Database.
Certificate of Merit for Tone or Workmanship
An instrument receives a Certificate of Merit for either tone or workmanship if it reaches the Medal round in that category but does not receive recommendation for Gold Medal in either category. It is possible to receive a double certificate for tone and workmanship if an instrument reaches the Medal round for both workmanship and tone but is not recommended for a Gold Medal in either category. Bows that proceed to the Medal round but do not receive a Gold Medal also receive a Certificate of Merit in Workmanship. To date, the VSA has awarded 1015 certificates of merit. You can see all of the VSA certificates of merit by maker, year, award, category and more in the StringBridge Competition Awards Database.
Silver Medal for Tone or Workmanship
An instrument receives a Silver Medal in Workmanship or in Tone if the judges recommend a Gold Medal in one category and award neither recommendation for Gold Medal nor Certificate in the other category. As Bows are judged on Workmanship only, there are no Silver Medals awarded in the bow making competition. To date, the VSA has awarded 247 silver medals. You can see all of the VSA silver medals by maker, year, award, category and more in the StringBridge Competition Awards Database.
An instrument receives a Gold Medal if it is recommended by all judges for such a Medal in one category and has at least a Certificate of Merit in the other category. Instruments considered of Certificate quality in both categories, but not selected to receive a Gold Medal, will receive a Certificate of Merit in each category. As bows are only judged for workmanship, bows that receive a unanimous vote of the judges for superior workmanship will be recommended for Gold Medals. To date, the VSA has awarded 303 gold medals. You can see all of the VSA gold medals by maker, year, award, category and more in the StringBridge Competition Awards Database.
Double Gold Medal
In rare instances, an instrument is recommended by both the tone and workmanship judges for a Gold Medal. In such cases, the instrument is awarded a double gold medal for tone and workmanship. As bows are only judged for workmanship, bows are not eligible to receive a double gold medal. To date, the VSA has awarded 6 double gold medals for tone and workmanship. You can see all of the VSA double gold medals by maker, year, award, category and more in the StringBridge Competition Awards Database.