You need to have more than just a good voice, perfect dance moves, or the ability to play an instrument flawlessly to qualify as a finalist for the Student of the Year (SOTY) Performing Artist category. Students must prove that they have exhibited personal growth, the ability to demonstrate interpersonal skills, and a devotion to contributing to society through their art.
“Winning the title of Performing Artist of the Year is recognition of supreme talent,” says Karly Cox, Deputy Editor of Young Post, who is judging the category for the fifth time this year.
“The award vindicates that the decision to devote time and energy to the arts is worthwhile, especially in a time when society can frown upon the idea of a life spent performing,” she says.
Student of the Year is currently in its 38th year, and has been consistently honouring students who have achieved excellence in their particular field.
The competition is a platform for students to showcase their talent, learn important skills, and network with peers and professionals across multiple disciplines.
“We are looking for enthusiasm, and devotion to their art, of course,” says Cox. “But we also want to see more than a dash of originality. There are so many incredibly talented performing artists in Hong Kong, especially when it comes to musicians, that these candidates need to bring something unique or even surprising that makes them stand out from the crowd.”
Fellow judge and local pianist Colleen Lee Ka-ling believes that powerful communication skills will help an individual to be clearly better than others. She is no stranger to the competition, as she herself was a participant in 1996.
“Using my past experience, I will judge according to the finalists’ artistic skills and enthusiasm in pursuing a career in the performing arts,” she says.
“I am really looking for creativity, a distinctive personality, and a sense of artistry among the finalists.”
She quotes American novelist Ernest Hemingway, saying, “When you stop doing this for fun, you may as well be dead”. She explains: “You must enjoy each and every moment doing things that you love, and never stop dreaming.”
The Director of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and judge, Professor Adrian Walter, told Young Post that he is looking for someone who exhibits a special creative talent, embraces life, and demonstrates a passion for contributing to their community.
To him, the award exemplifies the “creative spirit and positive attitude of young people in Hong Kong”.
“They must have the capacity to act as a Hong Kong creative ambassador wherever their journey takes them and have a keen generosity of spirit,” he says.
He believes that past winners have stood out from their competitors as they “have the innate ability to look to the future, be independent and take control of their lives”. “[They have shown] a deep desire to help others, and create and embrace opportunities to serve their communities.”
Cox agrees, saying: “Past winners have exhibited a fierce desire to share their craft with other people.”
“Their hopes of taking their skills around Hong Kong, or the world, and of sharing their expertise is mind-blowingly inspirational, and their enthusiasm is infectious.”
Walter believes that being well prepared before the audition is key.
“Relax, enjoy yourselves, and communicate that joy. Understand that your audience wants to share that joy with you,” he says.
Cox follows the same ethos, adding: “Enjoy your time on stage, safe in the knowledge that you’re up there for a reason.”
The Student of the Year Awards competition is organised by the South China Morning Post and Young Post, and sponsored by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.