We are nearing the end of the competition season. The final state contest is next weekend and the pressure is mounting. Even though you may play every note and rhythm, every dynamic and phrase “correctly” (whatever that means in a subjective art), you need one more thing. You need to be a performer, you need to be memorable. How can I teach that? As Simon Cowell says on American Idol, (insert British accent here) “although it was a solid performance, it was forgettable. I won’t remember you tomorrow.”
Here is such a dilemma. Few students will be remembered at the end of a long day of judging. There will be some amazing playing and those will be fun to hear. There will be some performances that leave you wondering how they got this far. But what about that middle group? As judges we’re looking for the spark. Do they have something to say? Was it musical?
There are winners and non-winners at the contest. The ultimate quandary of the competition is being called an “alternate”. In each room there are alternates chosen. This is the ultimate bridesmaid-never-a-bride spot for the student and the teacher. Winners won. Non winners lost and they will get over it. Alternates must wait. If a winner is unable to take the “win”, the alternates are called, in some mysterious order known only at HQ. You don't even find out which alternate you are. Are you first alternate or seventh? It’s piano purgatory. Well, you didn’t win and you didn’t lose either. Some played better than you, but yours may be good enough if they’re busy.
I told my students this year that I don’t want any alternates. Last year I had 6. It was horrible for them and me. Win or lose this year, "leave it all on the field", for some of the sports kids. For one young man it was a Yoda Star Wars voice, "Do or do not, there is no try." I know it is not up to them entirely, but this is the first year I gave the speech anyway.
How do you stir a student’s soul? How do you ask them to show themselves? Some of them are merely eight or nine years old. Do they even know themselves enough to perform true to self?