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#942556 - 08/06/08 07:00 PM Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
I just returned from two weekends of local piano competition for students, and I have done some reflection.

1) A 7-year-old girl, whose hands can't reach an octave, played Balakirev's "The Lark" beautifully (without the octaves).

2) In the 11-year-old category, four students played works by Liszt, including "La Campanella" and "Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6."

3) Several 8-year-old students played Copland's "The Cat and the Mouse." In fact, this piece was played by numerous students at different age levels (including three students in a row!).

4) A 14-year-old boy played Barber's Sonata, 1st movement. It was fantastic.

5) In terms of the adjudication, I found some evidence of racism. But, to my surprise, I also found one example of reverse-racism.

6) The overall playing level (in the competitive categories) has become insane. I'm thinking about switching all of my students to the lower, less-competitive categories.

7) What drugs do teachers/parents give these little geniuses??? The bar is set higher every single year.
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#942557 - 08/06/08 08:38 PM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7410
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
It smarts, doesn't it?

I don't think students are smarter than before, rather there is an influx of students with a higher work ethic, and parents who are dedicated to developing talent. Over the years, I've had hundreds of students who could have achieved this level, but the NUMBER ONE obstacle were the parents. I have several right now whose parents are hindering their children's development, not enhancing it. "We just want them to have fun." What kind of society will we have if everyone just wants to have fun?
_________________________
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#942558 - 08/06/08 08:40 PM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
currawong Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 5966
Loc: Down Under
I'm in the middle of my annual stint of accompanying for competitions, and you see it with other instruments too. Some of the tiny violinists I've accompanied playing Sarasate and Wieniawski would blow your socks off. The trouble is that then local teachers will not enter their more average students because they don't want them to play after one of these amazing players and be humiliated. Not that I think they should feel humiliated, but it's how the teachers I've spoken to feel. As these competitions I'm talking about are primarily designed to be performance and adjudication opportunities for students (rather than finding out "who is The Best"), this is a shame. Occasionally you find one of these startling performers whose parents are simply out collecting trophies, and apparently encouraging this mindset in their offspring. This is also rather sad.

Of course, I enjoy the stunning performances, and these kids need their performance opportunities also - but ... it just seems to put the whole experience out of the reach of all but the most brilliant.
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#942559 - 08/07/08 02:40 AM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
This is interesting, I have seen the opposite. I entered a few competition in my history and still do here and there ... some sections I have not entered I would watch. Some singers/players are absolute RUBBISH! ... Ok ... that was a bit harsh but some children, honestly it wasn't a result of nerves I'm sure they appeared confident banging the poor wooden pianos and in singing sections sounding completely out of tune. Sometimes I wonder: Who in their right mind would put their child under such humiliation?

And John, honestly I have seen the opposite side of parents. Some parents appear to be pushing their kids too hard that everything was cheographied months before, every facial expression and mannerism looked planned ... as a result everything is so disgustingly artificial.

Its funny the attitude of competition sometimes is taken too seriously. Yes, sometimes parents could say "just to have fun"... there seems to be two groups ... the overly pushy and the ones that want to 'have fun'. I think competitions should never mean spending one year on a certain piece, it should be seen as another opportunity to perform, to share music with listeners. It should be seen as a moment to 'shine' and show what you can do ... it should not be a time to win or lose, it should not be about beating someone or being better then someone else!
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#942560 - 08/07/08 02:58 AM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rebekah.L:
every facial expression and mannerism looked planned ... as a result everything is so disgustingly artificial. [/b]
And the sad thing is...some judges totally dig that! In one category, it was as if the judges gave the prizes to whoever moved the most on the bench!!! There was this one boy who played beautifully, but since he didn't move or "show expression" via bodily movements, he was snubbed. I don't move around on the bench, either, (maybe except for some arm and neck/head movements), and most of my students play like me. Then they'd get comments like, "Try to enjoy the music more." Huh???

Speaking of pushy parents, as I was walking out of an awards ceremony, one mother remarked, "That is ridiculous! That girl who played such BABY pieces got first place!" Then her dejected daughter said, "I can't believe I got second." \:\(

I was laughing for ten minutes. Their expression was priceless. :p
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#942561 - 08/07/08 04:55 AM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by currawong:
I'm in the middle of my annual stint of accompanying for competitions, and you see it with other instruments too. Some of the tiny violinists I've accompanied playing Sarasate and Wieniawski would blow your socks off. [/b]
I totally agree! Two years ago, it was the Khatchaturian Violin Concerto, Carmen Fantasy, and Sarasate's Gypsy Airs (the violinist's mom was crying in the audience--moved me to tears, too). Last year, it was Tzigane. And this year, it was Paganini's Violin Concerto. I don't know how these kids do it, either.

I go to these competitions hoping to hear some inspirational performances--and I do, every single year. It's too bad that some parents are making it so cut-throat. \:\(
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#942562 - 08/07/08 07:30 AM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10408
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
And of course, just before reading this I happened to watch the National Geographic video on the brain that features the seven/eight year old Mark Yu. \:D
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Grotrian 192 #156455

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#942563 - 08/07/08 08:08 AM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
 Quote:
Originally posted by Rebekah.L:
I think competitions should never mean spending one year on a certain piece, [/b]
I've been wondering how common this is and whether teachers generally think this is a good approach to study music. I don't mean an advanced student spending a few months working on Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody. I have heard 7, 8 year-olds who have studied piano for only a year or two but half that time was spent on an early-intermediate or (at best) intermediate piece for the sake of entering competitions.

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#942564 - 08/07/08 08:40 AM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10408
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
There is a big difference between spending a significant amount of time on a piece and concentrating on that piece to the exclusion other literature that would broaden a youngster's musical experience. The term my son's teacher uses is 'living with a piece,' and she doesn't say this because she's pushing competitions. In fact, she's not much interested in competitions.

Nonetheless, she argues that there is a benefit from living with a piece for a while that can make it a better competition work. You get past the roughness and can develop a deeper appreciation for what makes the piece tick. Living with a piece, however, does not mean specializing in it. The range of works on the student's menu needs to be varied and rich.

When my son plays in competitions (that mostly run from February to May) he is usually using pieces that he initially saw in the late spring and summer, and which he really starts to work on seriously in the late summer and fall. Thus the competition pieces often do rattle around and undergo development and tweaking for somewhere between six months to a year.

I doubt he would have developed much of an interest in the polishing and perfecting stage if he had absolutely no chance of holding his own in these area auditions and competitions. Of course, it helps to define success down, especially for a late starter.

Early success, however you define it, can create a virtuous circle of effort. Doing well is a motivator to work hard, which makes further success more likely. This is why one often sees "the usual suspects" at most of the regional competitions. I don't see much remedy for that.
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Grotrian 192 #156455

https://www.youtube.com/user/dhfeld/videos

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#942565 - 08/07/08 10:08 AM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
childofparadise2002 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/13/04
Posts: 542
 Quote:
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
There is a big difference between spending a significant amount of time on a piece and concentrating on that piece to the exclusion other literature that would broaden a youngster's musical experience. [/b]
I understand the need for the former though I still wonder how many beginning students can live with a piece for half a year. It's the latter that made me wonder about its long-term benefits.

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#942566 - 08/07/08 11:01 PM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
Nannerl Mozart Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/19/08
Posts: 732
Loc: Australia, Melbourne
You knows its funny ... I have seen two sides of an adjudicator. One adjudicator NEVER looked up, some people have a brilliant technique but are really boring performers. Others even though he bump a few wrong notes and make small mistakes can really communicate their message well. One adjudicator would never look up and see the involvement in a performer ... he mainly gave it to the one that had the best technique.

Then, there is that other adjudicator that yes loves the choreography... I think facial expressions and movements are never really 'wrong' ... but I think its when they are so fake where there is no appealing factor.

As for spending time on certain pieces that exclude other literature yes I wonder too of the long term benefits. See the thing is I think when that happens there is no substance. The student doesn't know about style, genre, period, how to treat the dynamics, structure, ornamentation etc. But yes agree there is a difference between spending a significant amount of time on a piece to excluding a piece.
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#942567 - 08/08/08 12:13 AM Re: Some Thoughts on Piano Competitions for KIDS
gooddog Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/08
Posts: 4824
Loc: Seattle area, WA
I read that professional orchestras audition new members behind a screen to avoid any kind of discrimination. In this way, only the music is being judged. Makes sense to me.
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Deborah

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