Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Lovely Judging Day in St. Peter

Our family roadtrip over, I turned quickly back to my piano teacher chapeau. I was asked to be a critical listener (judge) for 21 ninth graders in St. Peter today. What a musical morning! I know the ninth grade mind; many of my students are in this 14-16 year old pubescent gene pool, and hormones make the waters murky!

St. Peter is a lovely town in Southwestern Minnesota, which was at one time considered for the state capitol. (St. Paul was eventually chosen, being more centrally located and on the Mississippi River). The roads are very wide, the buildings charming. If I were a photographer, I could have stayed a week capturing the verdant Minnesota river valley, the ancient trees, and mid-nineteenth century building facades. The Gustavus Adolphus campus is perched atop a hill that overlooks the town. On March 29, 1998, a tornado devastated St. Peter, but the loss of life was small due to the college being on spring break at the time. This is a view from the hill toward the town's catholic church.

An interesting side note-Around 5:00 p.m. that awful night, the storm passed over the south metro area. We had a Twister game wrap around our grill leg, and we had mail in our yard addressed to someone in St. Peter. Of all the games....

I love to greet the students who play for me. I think they forget that I'm just another human being; I especially want them to remember that I'm on THEIR side. I smile, look them in the eye, and say Good Morning. They drop their shoulders, turn to look at me, and are disarmed when I'm smiling and talking. TO THEM. Imagine their faces that I care about what they're about to do, and know the peril they are feeling! I also love to clap with the audience after they are finished. Again they look astonished. I make sure to get eye contact and smile again. They did it! Oh sweet victory!

The judging today was in two elements. Each student performed two pieces for a small audience of family, friends, and me. They received a written critique of highlights of their performance, and a rating of each of their pieces. Much of the playing today was of a superior caliber. The rest was excellent, no one achieved a mere satisfactory rating. The twist to this festival was that at the end of the day, I also selected a first, second, and two honorable mentions. They received a cash award and the opportunity to play in the grand concert tomorrow. This is the part that posed the most thought for me.

One young man played the Maple Leaf Rag with such enthusiasm and joy that the whole room was tapping and smiling with him. He nailed it-and he knew it. His grin and energy were infectious. It was so much fun. Another young lady performed flawlessly and made 2nd place easier.

There is a large range of ability in a ninth grade pianist. Some began a few years ago and play around a level 3. Some others are learning early college level repertoire! It's fun to hear the wide range when you don't have to compare them against each other.

The Maple Leaf Rag below is actual Scott Joplin, recorded onto a piano roll during his lifetime, and remastered for our listening pleasure. Aaah, the wonders of technology.

A special request to visit this local meat market in Nicollet, Minnesota, 20 minutes west of St. Peter, turned out to be a hidden treasure trove of amazing summer sausage. I think the locals are keeping it a secret because it was really busy. Their website is: I highly recommend the garlic summer sausage! Look at this authentic this German exterior!


  1. My nephew used to play trumpet in the music programs. I just loved going to the performances and watching young talent bloom. It always moved me to wipe a little tear from the corner of my eye.

  2. Really enjoyable post about your take on being a critical listener-- the Scott Joplin clip was amazing! Thanks so much for posting that.


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