Philosophy of this Festival
The discussion about competitions is
usually framed in terms of "for" and "against."
Below are some of the opposing arguments.
Ten arguments FOR competitions:
1. Standards are raised. Pianists are motivated to achieve more
than they would ordinarily. The achievements of others are an
inspiration to try, try again and set higher and higher
2. The real world is competitive. The sooner that is faced
courageously, the better.
3. Piano competitions are like the Olympics; they bring prestige,
honor and material rewards to those demonstrating the highest
degree of excellence.
4. The best talents are identified and promoted. Competitions
serve as "springboards" for careers and well-deserved
5. The glamour and publicity bring excitement to an eager public
that revels in discovering the joys of great music. Communities,
states and even countries share a sense of collective pride in
contestants' accomplishments. Competitions have played a big role
in helping to truly make the world a "global village."
6. Competitions have immense educational value. Contestants are
exposed to many interpretations and can learn valuable insights
from the written and/or verbal comments of the judges.
7. Confidence and self-esteem are bolstered when struggling
musicians truly triumph. As un-American as it may sound, we are
not equal. Some students are more innately gifted, some work
harder, some are more determined, and some have better teachers.
We need to recognize those who shine, overcome adversity and give
it their best. "Feel good" festivals with inflated rewards and
contrived egalitarianism do not promote a burning passion for
excellence. The message they send is: "Don't bother to work too
hard, since you get just as much praise by doing little."
8. Competitions are important social events. Solo pianism is a
lonely business involving many hours of practicing, listening,
and studying. Pianists who attend or play for festivals and
competitions get to know each other as real people and bond with
other aspiring musicians.
9. Competitions help convey the important life message that,
above all, persistence is the key to success.
10. Competitions build character by providing tangible, specific
yardsticks for success and rewards for achieving those goals.
Ten arguments AGAINST competitions:
1. The obsession is on "winning" at all costs. "Winners" also
create "losers." The most extreme and distressing example is what
might be termed Second Prize Syndrome: the Second Prize winner
feels like a "loser" -- crushed and devastated -- no matter how
close the call was. The sheer joy of making music is lost amidst
the stresses and pressures to "win." A deathly serious tone can
2. Judges' decisions are, at best, subjective, and at worst,
biased or arbitrary. The integrity and/or competence of the
judges may be questionable.
3. The tendency is to reward one kind of excellence - loud, fast,
awesomely perfect virtuosity along with "politically correct"
musicality. Entertainment overshadows artistic depth and
distinction. Individuality rarely prevails when a "committee"
makes the decisions. The "winner" is often not the most
innovative and eclectic (since this is bound to provoke
controversy), but rather the person who least offends everyone.
The need to impress disparate judges discourages taking
4. Certain pieces and styles are overplayed, because they are
deemed to be "competition winning" repertory.
5. Students who really should not enter (or who play
inappropriate repertory) are, in essence, exploited by
glory-hungry teachers and/or "stage parents."
6. Contestants are not communicating to an audience; they are
merely playing to artificial contrivances we call "judges."
7. The similarities among competitions greatly outweigh their
differences. Teachers and students have no choice but to "play to
the system." Competitions are like standardized tests. When
standardized tests assume too great an importance, we are forced
to "teach to the tests." In like manner we teach to the
competitions -- perhaps at the expense of well-rounded
musicianship, analytical understanding, emotional depth,
8. The concert stage and academic community cannot realistically
absorb every competition-winning pianist into the narrow
classical "market." Winning no longer assures a successful
9. Restrictive rules make it difficult for students to showcase
their individual strengths. Similarly, judges are hemmed in by
legalistic forms, "point" systems and rigid regulations.
10. Contestants are not judged as whole musicians -- only on how
they do during a desperately small amount of time on a particular
We believe that both sides of this debate have merit. It is fair
to say that very few people are really unequivocally "for" or
"against" competitions. The discussion needs to transcend this
somewhat false polemic. The real question is: how can we
structure competitions to bring about the most good while
avoiding as many pitfalls as possible? We do not claim to have
all the answers (and we welcome feedback!), but let's look at
some of the "pro" and "con" arguments, with an eye toward "having
our cake and eating it too!":
• Standards are raised.
Pianists are motivated to achieve more than they would
ordinarily. The achievements of others are an inspiration to try,
try again and set higher and higher goals.
This can be true, but only if students feel that goals are
relevant and achievable. We hope that the sheer number and
variety of prizes in this festival will encourage more students
(even the types that generally would not enter competitions) to
• The real world is
competitive. The sooner that is faced courageously, the
Yes and no. Who can deny that the world is competitive?
Businesses, governments and society as a whole function best,
however, in a climate of cooperation, team spirit and mutually
beneficial shared goals. It may be cliché, but yes, a
rising tide does raise all boats. "Dog eat dog" competition works
best (and usually in the short run, if at all) for the triumphant
individual. For it is predicated on the half-truth (at best) that
in order for me to win, someone else must lose. Those who
cynically believe that the world is a "zero sum game" create the
very "reality" that they decry as "inevitable." It is an example
of circular reasoning, or "self-fulfilling prophecy." Do the
math: if absolutely everybody ties their self-esteem exclusively
to how they measure in relation to others, we guarantee a certain
number of "losers" (and probably a whole lot more losers than
winners, at that).
We believe that teachers, parents, students and adjudicators
should work together to promote a healthy, balanced perspective
on competing. If you must compete against anyone, compete against
your last best self. Let's keep the focus on sharing in a joyous
celebration of creativity, communicating, learning, and
graciously reveling in each others' accomplishments. Fulfill your
potential and you are a winner, regardless of your standing as
compared to others.
• Piano competitions are like
the Olympics; they bring prestige, honor and material rewards to
those demonstrating the highest degree of excellence.
The Olympics do indeed have a long, noble tradition. No one would
seriously suggest doing away with them. (We might as well attack
democracy, motherhood and apple pie!) We might ask, however, why
so many athletes have been disqualified (or at least tainted) by
illegal drug use. When a system is devised wherein there is a
tremendous disparity between the rewards of the first and second
prizes (with respect to commercial endorsements, etc.), the
message becomes: "Win at all costs, because second place is much,
much less than first place." The second prize performance may be
negligibly "inferior" to first place, yet the rewards are
disproportionately less in the extreme. Young pianists who look
at piano competitions like sports events also know that "second
place" counts for little in the Superbowl or World Series.
Let's also examine the extreme acrimony in the 2000 Presidential
race. Why such difficulty for either candidate to graciously
concede? The reasons are certainly many and complex, but one
explanation is the simple fact that coming out second means
"losing" completely -- and, quite possibly, political oblivion
thereafter. In other democracies, "losing" candidates may be
given significant roles in the government. (In Germany, the
losing party is afforded proportional representation in its
parliament.) They can emerge victorious later. Here, the "loser"
stigma makes that more difficult. Don't hold your breath for a
Dukakis, Dole, Ford or Carter comeback. O.K., so Nixon beat the
odds with his 1968 comeback after his 1960 defeat. But did
Americans embrace George McGovern even after Nixon disgraced
himself? McGovern ran again, but could never shake the "loser"
stigma of having carried only Massachusetts in 1972.
Our "winner take all" culture is neither necessary nor healthy.
Let us hope that syndicated political columnist Deborah Mathis is
wrong in her prediction that the 2000 election will result in
"legislative and ideological combat the likes of which we have
not seen in a long, long, time." The reason? "There are too many
players for whom winning is the only thing" (12/13/2000, The
Our primary festival prizes are all "First" prizes, of equal
merit. Honorable Mention prizes are items, not cash awards, so as
to discourage comparisons.
• The best talents are
identified and promoted. Competitions serve as "springboards" for
careers and well-deserved recognition.
Truth is, in many competitions the best talents may or may not be
chosen. If judges are wary of controversy, they may choose the
"safe" contestant, not necessarily the most brilliant, promising
and provocative. We have carefully chosen festival judges who are
themselves provocative and highly appreciative of individuality
It can't hurt to have competitions on your résumé,
but it does not guarantee success. Nor should this consideration
be the only (or even primary) reason for entering them, in our
opinion. Plenty of contestants (perhaps a majority) will not go
on to pursue careers in music. Moreover, you can succeed without
participating in competitions. It is a sad commentary when any
student views the competition circuit as an excruciating but
• Competitions have immense
educational value. Contestants are exposed to many
interpretations and can learn valuable insights from the written
and/or verbal comments of the judges.
For this to be true, everyone must work together to emphasize the
educational aspects. Are comment sheets read and taken seriously?
Do students tune in or tune out other performers? Are parents,
teachers and students availing themselves of the "extra events"
• Confidence and self-esteem
are bolstered when struggling musicians truly triumph. As
un-American as it may sound, we are not equal. Some students are
more innately gifted, some work harder, some are more determined,
and some have better teachers. We need to recognize those who
shine, overcome adversity and give it their best. "Feel good"
festivals with inflated rewards and contrived egalitarianism do
not promote a burning passion for excellence. The message they
send is: "Don't bother to work too hard, since you get just as
much praise by doing little."
Indeed, we will not be instructing the judges to pass out awards
like candy. Also, they will have the flexibility to give more
than one award to a student, or not give out a particular award,
if, in their opinion, nobody qualifies (though this is rather
• Competitions help convey the
important life message that, above all, persistence is the key to
Let's assume for the sake of argument that all competitions are
hopelessly arbitrary. The reality is that no matter how hard we
try, life is never going to be perfectly fair. Sometimes we feel
"cheated," other times undeservedly rewarded. But the law of
averages generally makes the most persistent person the ultimate
"winner." Success usually comes most to those who keep slugging
away. This is why it is important that students do not pin all
their hopes on one competition. It is also why we will strive to
create a climate wherein everyone feels motivated, validated,
energized and good about the whole process.
• Contestants are not
communicating to an audience; they are merely playing to
artificial contrivances we call "judges." The sheer joy of making
music is lost amidst the stresses and pressures to "win." A
deathly serious tone can prevail.
Dean Ornish once commented: "Stress comes not simply from what we
do, but, more importantly, from how we react to what we do."
Nerves cannot undo you without your permission. For the most
part, nerves are actually your friend, not your enemy. A wise
performer realizes that the best performances have a certain
"spark," a heightened acuity, because of nerves. A perfectly calm
performance might be error-free, but may also be boring. It's
like a lame amusement park ride. On the other hand, no one wants
to fall out of the roller coaster and come crashing down. The
only real problem is out of control nervous tension. This degree
of tension is, in a sense, an ego problem. Your brain is focused
too much on "What will everyone think of me?" By their very
nature, competitions are the most difficult venues in which to
have the proper mindset, which is: "Behold this wonderful
creation called music. Let me share my excitement, my passion, my
joy, by communicating its beauty with all of you." Ironically,
the judges will likely respond best when you lose yourself in the
music and play for everyone -- not specifically for the
When you get to know the judges, you will see that they are
anything but deathly serious. Serious as in passionate,
committed, and enthusiastic, yes -- but also possessing a hearty
sense of humor along with what the French would call "joie de
vivre" (joy of life).
• Judges' decisions are, at
best, subjective, and at worst, biased or arbitrary. The
integrity and/or competence of the judges may be
All of our judges are multifaceted, open-minded, highly
appreciative of individuality, and selected for their integrity,
objectivity, fairness and broad range of experiences.
• The tendency is to reward
one kind of excellence - loud, fast, awesomely perfect virtuosity
along with "politically correct" musicality. Entertainment
overshadows artistic depth and distinction.
John Salmon calls Urtexts "necessary but not sufficient." The
same could be said about technique. This festival pays more than
just lip service to recognizing subtlety, articulative finesse,
musical depth and sensitivity (case in point: the award for
lyrical, slow playing). Are we looking for deficient technique
fraught with excessive bloopers? -- of course not. However, we do
encourage risk-taking, spontaneity, variety, and versatility. So
a bold and daring "blemish" may very well be more respected than
overly cautious "correctness."
We do not, on the other hand, wish to discourage solid,
blockbuster "bravura" playing. As in most competitions, there is
a place for that here. (We would be utterly "Liszt-less" without
an occasional "'Trans-perspirational' Étude!") We just
want to ensure that many kinds of repertory and musicianship are
rewarded (particularly those that are generally underrepresented
in other competitions).
• Certain pieces and styles
are overplayed, because they are deemed to be "competition
The very distinct nature of our prize categories will encourage
teachers and students to "think out of the box" and choose more
• Students who really should
not enter (or who play inappropriate repertory) are, in essence,
exploited by glory-hungry teachers and/or "stage parents."
There is, of course, a fine line between "encouraging" and
"exploiting" a fledgling pianist. We hope everyone will think
long and hard about which students are right for competitions.
Whose interests are truly being served? We will do our part to
make our festival a positive experience, but we cannot completely
prevent students from having a negative experience if they are
ill-suited or ill-prepared emotionally and/or musically.
• Restrictive rules make it
difficult for students to showcase their individual strengths.
Similarly, judges are hemmed in by legalistic forms, "point"
systems and rigid regulations.
Our repertory rule is simplicity itself: "Play anything you want,
up to 15 minutes." This flexibility, along with varied and
innovative prize categories, ensures that virtually any student
can show off his or her best qualities. Judges will be given
blank sheets of paper on which to write -- no "point system" or
other restrictions. They are free to discuss and decide for
themselves how to make their choices. They all have extensive
professional experience; excessive guidelines would be an insult
to their ability and contrary to our creativity theme. (Even
adjudicating requires creativity!)
• Contestants are not judged
as whole musicians -- only on how they do during a desperately
small amount of time on a particular day.
We hope to get a more complete picture of students' abilities
than is possible in most other competitions. But ultimately this
drawback is unavoidable (to various degrees) in all
festivals/competitions. (All the more reason to impress upon
students that they should keep each individual competition in
Perhaps in future years students could submit tapes, videos, MIDI
disks, résumés and/or portfolios for the judges to
evaluate along with their live performances? We would certainly
welcome any input on this.
We hope this festival will foster the
kind of musicianship that goes beyond "autonomic
We hope to tear down the artificial barriers between different
styles of quality music.
"Classical improvisation" should not be an oxymoron.
Creativity, personality, exuberance and spontaneity should not be
the exclusive purview of jazz pianists.
For more on this and related topics
(An abbreviated version of this letter
appeared in the May/June 1999 issue of Piano & Keyboard under
the title: "Versatility - Does it Pay?")
March 9, 1998
An open letter to participants of the MTNA College Faculty Forum
Since I will not be able to attend the upcoming meeting, I
thought I could at least share a few thoughts in the hope that
they may contribute to your discussions. The panel discussions
promise to be most worthwhile; I regret that a conflict will keep
me from being there. I read with great interest the CMS report on
the previous similar colloquium at Eastman. On the issue of
decreasing job opportunities for music graduates:
1) We need to instill in graduates more "entrepreneur" spirit.
For example, are we putting a positive spin on the prospect of
being a private piano teacher? Or is the message, "try to succeed
first as a performer, resort secondly to teaching in higher ed,
but if you fail miserably you can always fall back on independent
teaching"? I personally know private teachers who have rich
artistic lives (stay involved in performing, presenting/attending
workshops, etc.) and earn more than many college/university
professors. Yet there are also private teachers who wring their
hands and bemoan how terrible a life it is. The difference is:
the successful ones have a good attitude, do not necessarily go
into it by default, are versatile (can teach all levels, styles -
including jazz and pop, improvisation, theory, composition,
etc.), choose their location well (don't go where there's already
a glut, or at least have a special skill for a competitive
advantage), have the right personality and pedagogy skills, are
open to group teaching (a potential financial edge), have some
business savvy (e.g., can promote themselves in a vigorous yet
dignified way), etc.
All of us decry the dwindling number of performance venues for
classical and jazz artists. We should be encouraging more
students to take courses in arts management in order to create
such venues. Setbacks can be viewed as opportunities. For
example, a while ago I heard of a district in Vermont that had
eliminated a number of music classes in the public schools. An
enterprising out-of-work musician there seized the moment and
created his own "community outreach" music school to fill the
need. Are we giving our students the vision, skills and -- dare I
say it in a world where it's more fashionable to be cynical --
optimism to do such things? (During one of my workshop
presentations one private piano teacher told me that she
vigorously discourages her most talented students, since she
feels there are no prospects in the music world.)
2) Right now the highest paying "prestige" positions are almost
invariably highly specialized (a reflection of the world in
general). This is certainly not all bad; there will always be a
justifiable need for such positions. Logic would equate more
skills with more pay and prestige. Yet positions requiring
versatility generally pay less and are less often to be found in
the most elite schools. Ironically, versatility is what is most
needed (even in the very elite schools, if they really thought
about it). The contradiction between true market need and pay
sends a terribly mixed message to music majors.
3) Programs and courses focused on pedagogy or chamber
music/accompanying should not be perceived as havens for
second-class pianists. Let's encourage students to go into these
areas by choice, not default. Solo pianism should always remain
vital and strong (even in pedagogy and collaborative programs),
but it is neither healthy nor practical to have it dominate music
study to the degree that it currently does.
4) All students, in my opinion, should be required to demonstrate
at least minimal proficiency in (or at least appreciation of)
classical and/or jazz/pop improvisation. Classical improvisation
has had a rich thriving history; just about every great composer
was a dazzling improviser. It was considered as normal and
essential as learning how to read and write. But it is curious
and ironic that teachers who call themselves "traditional" are
sometimes fiercely resistant to it. Keyboardists in Bach's day
would have been encouraged to do embellishments and variants on
the repeats of, say, selections from the Anna Magdalena Notebook
as well as many of the dances. It would also be appropriate to
vary repeats in the easier early Mozart minuets. The line between
classical music and jazz is thinner than we think. Schubert wrote
25 Ländler with no written out accompaniment -- only a right
hand melody. They were clearly intended to be "fleshed out"
improvisationally (fortunately he fully wrote out many other
Ländler, so pianists can compare and get ideas on how to
fill out the "fake chart" ones). Dick Hyman, the noted jazz
pianist, recently observed that Chopin would have been a jazz
pianist if he had lived long enough. I would second that, having
studied exhaustively the embellishments Chopin penciled into
students' music. The tradition of creatively varying repeats
applies even to the sonata form as well (though more selectively,
with greater restraint and discretion). Students have great fun
with such things; the resistance on the part of some teachers is
merely a natural "fear of the unknown." A strong background in
piano literature, musicology, performance practice and
theory/composition is a necessary prerequisite for
embellishing/improvising. But it is more doable and teachable
than we think; we do not all have to be Robert Levin. More
students would be attracted to classical music if we did not
snuff the spontaneity out of it. If we do not address this,
students will naturally seek out jazz and popular music (they
have an innate drive to create as well as re-create.) Of course,
this is not all bad. While much of pop/jazz is arguably trite,
the best of it is certainly artistic. Ravel admired Gershwin.
Horowitz admired Art Tatum. Leonard Bernstein, in his last
interview, called the Beatles the greatest songwriters since
Gershwin. (George Martin, the Beatles' producer and
under-recognized "fifth Beatle", is a very sophisticated
classically-trained musician. I have given lectures on the
influence of classical music on the Beatles' music: e.g., the
string quartet scoring on the almost Schubertian song,
"Yesterday"). Students need direction in discerning the
difference between quality and bubble-gum music.
The trepidation classical teachers sometimes feel about
improvisation is, to some extent, understandable and even
justifiable. In Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 he decided for
the first time not to allow the pianist the option of improvising
a cadenza. Possibly he was not altogether happy with the caliber
of improvisation in his day. Chopin allowed himself great
improvisatory license (particularly in his mazurkas, waltzes, and
nocturnes), yet allowed others the same freedom less often. "Good
taste" is indeed elusive; unfortunately, the fear of not living
up to its ideals has almost eliminated improvisation. I look
forward to the day when we can embrace it once again and create
"Improvisation Festivals/Competitions" to give young pianists
incentive and recognition (as we do with repertoire).
Rampant profit-obsessive commercialism in the popular music
world hasn't helped the image of improvisation in that arena.
Which brings me to my next point:
5) I hope that the ever-increasing use of technology in music
will enhance and enrich - not substitute for - good pedagogy and
traditional artistic pursuits. Technology has great potential; in
my youth I could only dream of practicing my concerto with an
"orchestra" via a MIDI disk. However, it can also result in a lot
of predictable gimmickry, devoid of nuance (e.g., insipidly
monotonous and predictable "drum tracks" for many pop tunes. I
liken this to bad science fiction; dazzling special effects but
no worthwhile story line). Imagine this scenario: a "curriculum
reform" committee waxes enthusiastically about technology, music
"business" as a proposed major, commercial music, etc. They are
asked a simple question: "Where is the artistic underpinning to
all of this?" This committee should have a ready answer for this.
Otherwise, the cure may be seen as worse than the disease. We
will not win the hearts and minds of the staunchly traditional
classical teachers if they perceive that the road to bogus
quick-fixes and artistic decay is paved with technology. Artistic
ideals must stay at the top of our priorities.
While we embrace new ideas I hope we remember that shallow
materialistic values in society are at least one of the major
reasons why the classical arts are dying. I tell my students that
there is nothing wrong with being concerned with money, but it
should be, at most, the second priority, not first. In a record
industry obsessed with instant hits, fame and money, the Beatles
strived first and foremost to make good music (granted, they did
not always succeed) --secondly, they made piles of money. (When
their lucrative touring threatened to bring them down
artistically, they thumbed their noses at their promoters and
focused their creative energies on innovative studio work.) The
moment money becomes absolutely first we can usually kiss any
kind of real standards good-bye. We need not produce yet more
people who know the price of everything but the value of nothing.
On the other hand, commercialism does not have to be corrupting.
In the classical world Aaron Copland is a good example of someone
who could combine commercial astuteness with high artistic
Students should be inspired to cultivate self-motivated standards
within that are even higher than anything imposed from without. I
am always bothered by classical musicians who play less than
their best for what they perceive to be "gigs" (e.g., playing
"background music" for some function, or other less "prestigious"
If the "problem" is narrowly defined as "declining enrollments
and job opportunities for musicians" then the "solution", I fear,
may be a simplistic co-opting of the very
"money-is-the-only-true-measure-of-'success'" values that
contributed to the problem in the first place. Education is
becoming increasingly "corporatized." Fiscally this may be
healthy to a point and even at times necessary. But it has great
dangers as well. We may end up "throwing the baby out with the
bath water" if we are not careful. Higher education, in
particular, should set trends, not merely follow them. We need to
find a balanced alternative to the extremes of, on the one hand,
insulating ourselves with only comfortable rarefied knowledge in
our ivory towers and, on the other hand, transforming our
educational institutions into profit-motivated glorified trade
schools. This alternative must preserve the best of our artistic
traditions despite an increasingly debased culture, but enrich it
with a healthy dose of reality and versatility.
On the issue of "community outreach programs":
All I would have to say here is that, once again, the financial,
social "prestige" incentives need to be in place if we expect
more of this. Such activities are valued to a greater degree in
smaller liberal arts colleges such as the one where I currently
teach. However, in some circles if you happen to mention that you
take pride in frequent community service (e.g., playing for
nursing and retirement homes, visiting elementary and high
schools, etc.) you run the risk of seeing your prestige fall. The
unspoken thought is, "Poor you. I guess if you had a real career
you wouldn't have to do such things." Never mind that these
activities co-exist with "high-profile" ones. And, sadly, the
most elite schools often pay only lip service to such activities
when considering tenure.
A few more closing thoughts:
1) It has struck me that the B.M. degree is often a bit too
narrowly focused; conversely, the B.A. degree often is too
diffused. How about a "B.M.A." degree; something about half way
2) Why are virtually all schools defined as either teaching
institutions or research? Yes, the rhetoric asserts a balance.
But are we really achieving it? Do we always need these either/or
3) Should we reassess the search committee process in academe?
The successful candidate is often not the most innovative and
eclectic (since this is bound to provoke controversy), but rather
the person who least offends everyone. (I have similar qualms
about prestigious competitions with several judges). It is all
too human nature to seek what we want over what the profession
may truly need (of course, it's always nice if the two
Finally, I hope this little manifesto does not get misinterpreted
as an indictment of what we do well in academe. I am deep down
just an old-fashioned conservatory-trained musician (Leonard
Shure was my principal teacher) who feels a deep connection and
commitment to great music. I am not seeking to apply a wrecking
ball to existing programs. They simply need to be enriched. The
notion persists that those who are well-rounded are excellent at
nothing. Leonard Bernstein understood that versatility enriches
(rather than detracts from) every part of the whole.
I wish everyone the best on these important and constructive
discussions. Sorry I can't be there for the fun.
Dr. Arthur Houle
College Faculty Forum Chair for Idaho
Associate Professor of Piano, Albertson College
All prospective judges for this
festival are required to pass the "Adjudication Test" below
TEST OF EFFECTIVE ADJUDICATING
by Arthur Houle ("C" Answers by Scott McBride
For each number please circle the letter ("A", "B", or "C") that
you feel is the most effective adjudication strategy:
A. Show a desire to help by your friendly,
B. The student is an affront to your long years of education and
professionalism. Express your annoyance and frustration with the
C. Let the student know that you are not qualified to judge and
do not know the repertoire by confining your comments exclusively
to student's appearance ("You look so cute in your white dress")
and the general benefits of music study.
A. Focus on how to correct deficiencies in a
B. See if you can assign whose fault it is -- the teacher?
student? a meddling parent? other? The problem will never be
solved until we know who to blame!
C. Include a wordy paragraph on how you imagine a famous concert
artist might play this piece. Be sure to include specifics that
an 11-year old student will find impossible to read or
A. Avoid comparisons with other students or
B. Make your point by relating the student's shortcomings to
other superior performances by better students (preferably by
C. Tell the student how your internationally renowned teacher,
Madame [fill in the blank] at the world famous music school of
[blank] told you how to play this piece. Remember, you are the
world's greatest authority on this and you have an obligation to
share your wisdom at length. Naturally, your ideas are far
superior to anyone else's.
A. Identify specific issues that should be
addressed, along with suggestions on relevant effective practice
B. Don't risk alienating the student with burdensome advice. Keep
it general. Better they don't know why you rated them the way you
did (they could never handle it!). Say things like "needs
improvement" and just leave it at that.
C. Suggest that a multi-year course of study with you is the only
possible recourse for improvement.
A. Compliment the person and the performance,
but critique only the performance.
B. When criticizing, speak to the person playing, rather than the
problem. Say things like, "Why do you go so fast when it's
clearly marked 'Adagio'?"
C. Some people should never study piano. It is your job to let
students know about this.
A. Start and finish your comments by praising
everything that is good about the performance. Address the areas
for improvement with a caring, supportive tone (a little humor
B. These students will NEVER learn if you coddle them. Keep it
deadly serious and let them know they have disappointed EVERYONE!
Zero right in on the mistakes, nail every one of the them (even
the smallest mistakes need correcting!), and, above all, keep it
personal! Bad students lower the whole profession and make their
teachers and parents look bad!
C. Why bother to comment? You are above this sort of mundane
discourse and besides, no one can read your writing.
A. Regardless of your preferences, respect the
way you have been asked to adjudicate.
B. If you don't like the adjudication form, do it YOUR way - it's
C. The competition organizers have some nerve giving you a form
in the first place. Who in the hell do they think they are? Let
them know you feel this way.
A. Be as objective and open-minded about
interpretation as you reasonably can.
B If you have special knowledge based on intensive research, wear
it on you sleeve and let them know that YOU know the one true way
it should be done! They'll respect you more for it.
C. See 3C above.
Judges who seriously believe that "B" or "C" answers are correct
are automatically disqualified.
On the other hand, prospective judges who take the test too
seriously will be declared "Humor Impaired" and will also be
©2009, Arthur Houle; all rights reserved.