I recently took part in a competition. For me, musical competitions are largely about the moon being in the right orbit (waxing crescent might be my moon), the judges being in the right mood and how high the sun is in the sky. The music is also considered. Think about all the different styles of music out there, the hundreds of artists that people love or hate, the difference in taste between you and your parents, or you and your friends. We all have individual taste and in musical competitions after the standard level of competition has been met (Round 1), the outcome is completely unpredictable.
I used to believe that there was some fair way to adjudicate, but my bubble was burst a few years ago when I worked for an international competition. The winner of the competition was a great musician and completely deserving of his prizes and success, but he was a last minute addition to the competition; he was accepted because one of the top 15 dropped out. All the judges were aware of this and before the competition had even started, all but one of them spoke of their doubt in him making it past the first round. At the end of each round the jury would discuss each player’s positives and negatives and no matter how well this guy played, they always counted his last minute entrance as a negative. Then he won it all: the audience prize, the recording, the money, the tour! If that person hadn’t dropped out, it would have been a very different competition.
Competitions do still have some positive aspects: they can be good motivators, they give a deadline (I will always work better with a deadline), they can help you learn new repertoire, you can win money and concerts and you can be heard by a different range of people.
This competition had 3 rounds with different repertoire requirements for each round and I had to master a language I had barely sung in. I also had to learn a good chunk of new music (which is always a little harder to do than we remember), but it got my butt back in gear (I’m working on my self-motivation issues). I made it to the semi-finals, but I had obviously hoped to make it further. I have to learn how to lose better. I’m still not convinced that the hard work you put into learning the music outweighs the bruised ego of not being accepted. I’m really happy with how I sang and I came out of that room proud of what I had presented. I’m trying to stay positive because my singing motivation is on an upswing, but the disappointment is pulling at me. Here are the positives:
– I won’t ever have to perform the wackadoo “required piece” in public (I don’t think I managed to sing it through once without laughing)
– I found and learned new music that I never would have gone looking for without the requirements of this competition
– I learned how to read and translate a whole new language
– I got to wear 2 pretty dresses
– I ran into some people I hadn’t seen in a while, including a girl I’ve known since elementary school whose positive outlook always delights me
– I had my singing epiphany (I’ll talk about this some other time) while working through one of the new pieces
Besides winning it all, I don’t think I can ask for much more from a competition. I’ve found a few more competitions that look interesting, now I just need to find an astrologer to help me read my moon charts.