At this time of year as I prepare my students for performances and judging at music festivals, I find myself wondering about the need for competitions. It adds stress to what should be a relaxing enjoyment of music. In addition to my own students, I accompany band and choir students so it is a very busy time for me and the students. I find that it takes a great deal of time away from their lesson materials and gets us “off track” with theory and other concepts relating to music instruction.
Our society is full of competition and I see the advantages for some students. The truth is that I give my students the option of competing or not. Most of them choose to participate in the judging. It is very certainly an opportunity for me to push them to achieve the most possible out of their pieces and if it weren't for the "Specter of the judge”, I doubt whether they would work as hard. It also is the only time of the year that they perform for someone who really knows music, unlike the warm and fuzzy audiences at concerts and recitals.
Truthfully, many of my students make larger strides during this time as opposed to the rest of the year. They are striving for an immediate goal and it appears to drive them to work harder and care more. Without a deadline, songs seem to take longer to learn and are often not learned as musically. I tend to not hold them to such high standards of performance for their regular lesson assignments.
I also find that having performances and competitions keep the students working toward something instead of getting bored with lessons and practice. The students gain confidence as well as advancing skills after having a successful performance for competitions. It likely prepares them well for future challenges.
Having said all of that, I still am very ready for the competitions to be finished. I write this as I am sitting in my home office during yet another day of school being canceled due to extreme cold. Our wind chill is around -30 degrees and it is supposed to be colder tomorrow. Since my studio is in a public school, my lessons are canceled automatically! Today I would have had 22 students and another 15 tomorrow. Now I have another week before they will be judged so the stress continues! I’m sure they are all at home practicing……………………….and will be even more prepared next week? There is no way that I could make up that many lessons. It takes a toll on my income but since I teach during the day at school, lessons are subject to the school schedule.
Our high school competition is in February and once that is finished, we move on to planning recitals! It never gets boring!