Thursday, February 28, 2013

Going Solo

Music competitions haven't changed much over the years. If you're performing in a single event, you get there an hour or so before your scheduled performance time, find the rehearsal room and loosen up. You run through your solo a few times, not because you're going to get any better, but to get into the rhythm of the piece. You watch the clock and look out for people you know. Then you head up to the performance room. Compared to the chaos in the hallways and the practice room, the performance room is nearly deserted and quiet. It's running a little bit behind schedule. Your performance lasts only a few minutes. The judge doesn't interact with you beyond a few statements and gives no immediate feedback. You say your "thank yous" and you nervously wait for the results to be posted (always twice longer than expected).

The written feedback is more verbose these days, and there are more volunteers providing logistical support to get the right kids in the right rooms at the right time, as there seem to be a lot more children playing solos than before. But otherwise, it's the same as it always was. And the important stuff hasn't changed: a good accompanist follows the soloist, a good judge recognizes technique even through the nervousness of the performer.

Once you get your result, you go home, with the rest of the weekend to bask in the glory of a few minutes good work, or stew in the disappointment of a few minutes bad work. Assuming you're not eligible for a state-wide competition, you're left only to speculate on the music you might play the following year: the disdain at having to play the same class of difficulty if you didn't score a top mark this time round, or the excitement of moving to a higher class if you did.

The award you get for your performance is only a small medal indicating the class of difficulty and the score achieved (I, II or III). It is small, but it is meaningful. Unlike all those participation awards, this one is truly earned, and reflective of how you did on the day. No matter how you scored, that "few minutes of work" is a reflection of you, your skill, and how well prepared you were on the day.

It's common practice to pin your music awards inside your instrument case. The more performances you give, the more hardware you'll have to pinned in the case. After a few years, it can look pretty impressive. While there's something to be said for pride in achievement, it's best if those sit on a shelf somewhere. In music, as in a lot of life, you're only as good as your next performance, not your last.

She did well on the day, earning a I in her first solo competition. Hopefully, not her last.