October's themed month explores the world of international competitions through the eyes of some finalists of top competitions around the world. We continue our tips series with Elim Chan, winner of the Donatella Flick Competition in 2014.

Elim Chan © Lau Kwok Kei
Elim Chan
© Lau Kwok Kei

Did taking part in competitions boost your career? How?

Definitely. There is always this challenge musicians face on how to transition from a student to a professional and this was my case two years ago. So when I won the reputable Donatella Flick Conducting Competition, my professional career was launched and I was suddenly on everyone's radar in the music world. Many local and global news media were present during and after the competition and I did so many interviews, which helped put my name out there. Agencies also got interested in me and I met my artist manager, who opened doors and slowly built my career from there. 

What is the key to capitalising on competition success?

It is a matter of how you utilize your competition prize. I moved to London straight out of graduate school and I have taken every opportunity the London Symphony Orchestra has given me to learn and develop myself professionally. From assisting in daily rehearsals to conducting the LSO in concerts, from premiering works by young composers to teaching hundreds of children in education concerts, I give my best every time. Through all these opportunities, I have established a rapport with the orchestra's musicians and conductors and, with the support of this network, further opportunities and potential projects arise. 

What are your top three competition tips?

My philosophy is sleep well, dine well, prepare well. 

Have you had any competition nightmares? 

During the course of the competition, I maintained a pretty good sleeping schedule without any nightmares, but I did have a nightmarish experience. After the competition, I was too thrilled and busy to sleep. I stayed up the whole night answering phone calls, emails and texts from all over the world. At one point I fell asleep from exhaustion though, but only to wake up to a few missed alarms and a missed flight. Nightmare? Yes. 

Are competitions an essential rung on the performing ladder, or are there other ways for young artists to get noticed?

It depends. Competitions are good ways to improve yourself and see where you are at comparing with others. The high-profile ones, especially, offer a platform for young artists to be seen under the spotlight, so they are definitely a plus to get attention. However, winning the competition does not guarantee a successful career. You still need to put in a lot of hard work, be always ready for any challenges and have a strong support network around you. Having said that, competitions are not the only path to set foot in this industry. Social media is a powerful platform for young artists to showcase their talents and this medium transcends borders. As long as you have an innovative idea to offer, you will find a unique place where you can shine and people will listen.