Friday, April 27, 2012

Competition Thoughts

Rep class students review their video recordings
and make final corrections.

   Training my students for competition is such a difficult task. In the end, they are judged on a perfected performance. But what does that really mean? Perfect in the eyes of the judges? Perfect in my eyes? Perfect in the student's eyes? Perfect in their parent's eyes? These are all relative.

   When these definitions are at odds, I get stressed, my students are stressed, and their parents get stressed with me. My students have put in around 350 hours of practice on their pieces. With all that work, why aren't the pieces just great the way they are? Why do I keep making them fix and change things in their performance? Well, any teacher who has experienced competition knows the answer to that. We are tweaking performances right up to the day of the event. We know what they will be up against, even if they don't.

I train my students to play to the best of their ability, and then I push them some more.
They must walk into this event with a piece equal to their peers.
They must play the piece with artistry and perfect accuracy.
They must have stage presence.
They are trained to deserve first place, even if they don't get it.
They must endure weekly critiques of their performance.
All this is no easy task, even for the most thick-skinned professional.

   Just because they put in hundreds of hours of practice, attend rep classes, record their pieces , and review video recordings of their performance still doesn't mean they will win anything at the event. As a teacher, I know that anything can happen in competition. Melt downs, memory slips, strange piano, bad shoes, bad judges. Or more likely, despite my student's difficult pieces, hard work, and perfected fabulous performance, and stage presence, another teacher's student waltzes in and mops the floor with my student's measly little songs.

   So why do it? Because, first of all, maybe they will win something. Be honest --what teacher doesn't want winning or recognized students? Even if its honorable mention. The need to be recognized is human and feels great. But if they aren't recognized, I know they have represented themselves (and me) to the best of their ability and so do they.  They don't need to win a thing to prove to me what they've achieved. They prove their worth every week in their lessons. They recognize their hard work. They know they are really at the top of their game. They are proud. I am proud. They are great pianists. They know how highly I regard them as hard working, dedicated piano students. They have worked toward a goal and achieved it. The excitement of preparing the pieces and then playing them in front of an audience full of trained ears is fulfilling for any pianist. We all want to feel recognized and good enough...

...but I'll be glad when its over and so will they. I love them all! I think they are awesome! They've earned a vacation!

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