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  • Writer's pictureZach Finkelstein

Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition Cancels, Sends $47,000 Split Equally to 235 Applicants.

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

On Friday April 10th, the Jensen Foundation Vocal Competition, due to the social distancing measures of the COVID-19 crisis, cancelled its flagship competition.

In an email from Board Chair Oliver Worthington that afternoon, the Jensen Foundation committed to sending $47,000 in prize fees to the 235 singers who applied, equally split into $200 for each applicant:

"Mrs. Lavinia Jensen established the Jensen Foundation to support singers, and in her honor, the Jensen Foundation trustees are awarding you – and all our 2020 Competition applicants – an honorarium of $200. This will reimburse your application expenses and, we hope, convey our support for your musical endeavors. The world needs your music now more than ever, and we are eager to hear your voice again as soon as possible."

According to the 2020 competition application on YAPtracker, the competition charged a $25 fee to apply, less than a sixth of what the foundation will pay out to each singer.

With airlines offering full refunds on flights during the epidemic, after the application fee ($25) refund applicants will take home a net stimulus of $175.

When asked what led to the decision from the board, Oliver Worthington stated,

"Those of us who have been involved since the founding of the competition, we've come up the music ranks ourselves. We're all performers and we know what its like. Ms. Jensen was instrumental in our lives, a very generous woman who wasn't interested in being recognized for her gifts. She just wanted to support young artists and musicians, and gave equally from small community colleges to major graduate programs.

When we realized we were not going to be able to have the competition this year, we started to think about what we could do that would honor Ms. Jensen and the spirit of her giving. We decided it would be best to share it with the people who need it and to share it equally with all involved."

The letter elicited an overwhelmingly positive response from the singer community.

For one applicant, the move was "unexpected, classy", and "means a great deal not only to those who applied and received the honorarium, but to everyone in the art form who is looking to leaders and organizations that we can be proud of. Right now, $200 goes a long way. I already know exactly how it will bring me some financial relief, and I am very grateful."

Another was "floored" by the email.

One applicant, when they heard the news, wept.

When asked what they would say to the Jensen Foundation in response to its generosity, one singer said,

"Right now everyone is afraid. Right now everyone has to make difficult choices. We are seeing leaders grapple with decisions that will directly impact individual artists as well as entire companies, and eventually maybe even the art form as a whole.

Decisions like this one from the Jensen Foundation are showing us who is leading from fear and who is leading from the heart. Their courage can give us courage."


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1 Comment

Apr 11, 2020

Awesome! Should have applied. But also, this is great, but not surprising as they need to give out that money each year. I will be surprised if other competitions with the same donation and prize rules do not follow suit. Still a bummer for the very talented artists who could have likely used the prize money to get their budding careers afloat.

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