The Swiss Music Prize offers a snapshot of the Swiss music scene today, honouring excellence in music across all the genres and in all regions of Switzerland.
First, the team of ten experts appointed by the Federal Office of Culture goes on a hunt for suitable candidates in all branches of the music scene and in all the linguistic regions of the country. Because these experts are only engaged for a single year, the spectrum of music that they have to cover changes each time. The experts submit the names of 60 to 70 candidates to the jury of the Swiss Music Prize.
The jury’s task is first to whittle down the list to the 15 winners of the Swiss Music Prizes, and then, finally, to decide on the winner of the Swiss Grand Award for Music, which is worth CHF 100,000. This large sum is intended to give creative musicians the financial freedom to devote themselves to their art. The winners of the Swiss Music Prizes are also each given a cash prize of CHF 25,000. The 2017 jury for the Swiss Music Prize comprises the following members: Annelis Berger, Thomas Burkhalter, Zeno Gabaglio, Michael Kinzer (Präsident), Florian Walser, Carine Zuber and Sylwia Zytynska.
For the fourth time now, the Swiss Music Prize jury has made its choice: Pascal Auberson, Andres Bosshard, Albin Brun, Christophe Calpini, Elina Duni, Vera Kappeler, Jürg Kienberger, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Grégoire Maret, Jojo Mayer, Peter Scherer, Endo Anaconda, Töbi Tobler, Helena Winkelman and Jürg Wyttenbach are the nominees for the 2017 Swiss Grand Award for Music. Although only one of them will be given the Grand Award this September in Basel, these 15 musicians are not just nominees – they’re winners too. For Michael Kinzer, the Chairman of the jury, this is really significant:
“Our goal with these 15 prizewinners is to shine a light on the immense variety of the Swiss music scene. We want to put 15 extraordinarily talented people in the spotlight, not just to focus on one single person. In the past four years, the Swiss Music Prize has already brought 60 prizewinners into the public eye. In future, this will provide an instructive view of the recent history of Swiss music-making”.
The selection procedure remains unaltered: there is a team of ten experts comprising representatives of the media and the music world along with specialists from the most varied fields of music. They submit their initial choice of candidates to the jury, who then choose the 15 finalists from among them. The expert team is reconstituted afresh every year. The music genres honoured thus also change, depending on the special fields of the experts themselves. This year, for example, composers for film and theatre and singer-songwriters are represented on the list of prizewinners for the first-ever time.
The Swiss Music Prize also aims to put a cultural sector under the spotlight that has until now been inadequately appreciated in a country where “keeping your light under a bushel” is regarded as one of the highest virtues. Receiving a truly national Swiss award makes a lasting impression, especially when it is given by the highest state authorities at a major, official event.
The prize ceremonies are organised alternately in Basel and in Lausanne. They provide an ideal platform for musicians, offering them an opportunity to make contact with the representatives of the production business, the media, CD labels, concert promoters and charitable foundations. All this can serve to promote the Swiss music scene and advance its development.
Indeed, the Swiss Music Prize has no interest in our legendary “Swiss modesty”. On the contrary: we are proud to honour our country’s highly diverse, rich musical landscape and the artists who recreate it anew every single day.
There will always be critical voices, of course. Why should we honour musicians who have already enjoyed success? Why not give financial support to several young musicians and their projects instead of awarding a prestigious prize to a single individual? Why try to give equal treatment to such different music styles as jazz, classical music and rock?
“When choosing 14 nominees and a single Grand Award winner from across a music scene that has such a broad spectrum, it’s impossible to win general approval. It will always be like that”, says Michael Kinzer. “But we accept this fact. Promoting new talent is the responsibility of the cantons and the municipal authorities; the federal government is awarding the Swiss Music Prize to honour innovative ability, creative openness, national and international legitimacy, exceptional achievements and enriching contributions to our Swiss musical heritage”.
Article written by Elisabeth Stoudmann, published in the Swiss Music Prize newspaper 2017.