Keeping Contests in Perspective
If you don't win first place, you are still a winner if. . .
KEEPING CONTESTS IN PERSPECTIVE
Keeping Contests in Perspective
Be careful about focusing on outcome goals and expecting perfection
Goals are a good thing, right? Well, not always. Outcome goals can be motivating or distracting. There are many dangers if the only goal is: I want to win! Since none of us rules the universe, we can only be responsible for ourselves and not the actions of others. We have no power over the decision of a judge or how well someone else performs. If someone does better and the only goal was to win, then you will feel like a failure even if you played well.
If you just have to win, you will worry and “psych” yourself out. One mistake will put you into a tailspin. You can see it happen with ice skaters at the Olympics. Some of them make a mistake, dust themselves off, and go on to win. Others are so shaken by that first trip up that they lose all their confidence and fall again and again. Everyone makes mistakes, no one wins all the time. Get over it. Remember what a joy it is to play music. Winning isn’t everything. Let the music reach your heart, not your head. It does no good to fear losing; you can only do your very best.
Put outcome goals in perspective.Although they are important in helping us to focus, goals aren’t everything. Enjoy the ride along the way. Goals can give us tunnel vision.
- Make your goal to play your personal best, not to be the best.
- Appreciate each small success (“Well this year at least I didn’t faint!”)
- Music is fun whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.
The degree of importance the teacher, parents, and students put on competitions can be a treacherous thing. On one hand, the process of learning and enjoying music has got to be more important than the product. But on the other hand, there are so many good musicians in the world that to be competitive requires real focus and dedication. We need to practice our hearts out, but keep in mind what happens on contest day can be out of our control. It is a delicate balancing act to do your best but not care too much about the outcome.
- The adjudicators only hear you for that moment in time. They are not aware of the progress you have made, how long you have studied, how long you have been with your current teacher, or how much effort it took to get where you are.
- Judges don’t know whether that day’s performance represents your best effort.
- Every judge has certain qualities they stress and these may not correspond to those of you and your teacher. Three judges will give entirely opposite comments for the same technique. Music isn’t math. We love it because it is an art, which means that peoples’ reactions will vary, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.
- No audition should define our playing. Sometimes we don’t play our best, sometimes we are not the best, and sometimes the adjudication is just plain crazy. Even Mozart never got a real job! The judges’ evaluation should be combined with your own assessment and that of your teacher. No judge is God (even though we have all seen a few who acted as if they were!)
- Even if the playing was really terrible on that particular day, keep everything in perspective. The event isn’t as important as the preparation leading up to it.
Remember, only CDs are perfect, and that is because they are technically enhanced. In real life, notes squeak and get missed, or we run out of bow or air. I have had students who have bolted out of competitions in despair because they missed two notes! They haven’t just missed two notes; they have missed the whole point! A few missed notes do not make a bad performance
Allow yourself to be human and make mistakes. Perfectionism doesn’t result in better performance; it just makes us feel we have no value except through our accomplishments. You are who you are, not how you play.
But what if you don’t win? Then welcome to the real world. Especially the real world for musicians. There are more and more musicians in the world every day vying for that first prize or spot in the orchestra. Are you a failure because you didn’t win? NO!
You are a winner if you can answer yes to the following questions:
- Did I put in my full effort in preparing?
- Did I improve on the piece and in my playing?
- Did I learn about my instrument and music?
- Did I enjoy the process of learning and my lessons?
- Did I gain valuable experience performing?
- Did I make music?
If the answer if YES, then the audition or competition was a success. If these questions are answered before the big day, then hopefully the results, if they are negative, will be easier to swallow.
Guest Blog by BONNIE BLANCHARD.
A flute instructor for thirty years, Ms. Blanchard’s creative ideas and unbridled enthusiasm for teaching have consistently produced students who win top awards, excel at their instrument, and love what they are doing. Ms. Blanchard is the author of the pedagogy book, Making Music and Enriching Lives: A Guide For All Music Teachers and Making Music and Having a Blast: A Guide For All Music Students published by Indiana University Press. (musicforlifebooks.com)
Ms. Blanchard is the author of the pedagogy book, Making Music and Enriching Lives: A Guide For All Music Teachers and Making Music and Having a Blast: A Guide For All Music Students published by Indiana University Press. (musicforlifebooks.com)
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