Competition is a natural part of survival and life. We are involved in it to some degree whether we want to be or not. We see it in the animal kingdom, competition for mating and for food. But it occurs in humans too, but on different levels. Let’s take a social gathering, such as a party, for example. Many vie to be the best dressed, to have the best dish at the potluck, etc.

Music is an area that may have a lot of competition. It can be personal or it can be organized into events. The purpose of this article is to show the beneficial as well as the harmful aspects of musicians.

With organized events in music, there are many different types and levels of competitions. International ones usually have age limits and several rounds (stages). Normally, 150 auditioned performers from around the world get selected in the first round and then this gradually narrows down to approximately 6 finalists in the last round, and then down to third, second and first places. There are also specialized competitions, such as for a particular instrument, for composing, vocational, avocational, student, etc. Each one of these contests has strict rules. For example, for piano four-hands, the piece performed has to be written specifically for that and not transcribed from, say, orchestral.

Participating in these contests can be a healthy and rewarding experience for the musician. However, there are important points to know in order to ensure this. First, competitors should be of comparable ability and skill. You see this in boxing, where the athletes are of the same weight category. Second, it is important to realize that competition should be done for betterment and enrichment only, such as improving self-esteem, giving a feel of accomplishment, etc., and not for boosting ego, displaying jealousy or feeling triumphant over others’ loss. The keynote for any competitor is equality and celebrating differences and each individual’s unique approach. This should be particularly heeded by parents of children who are music students. The child should feel that he/she is as good as others and that his/her practice is being rewarded by simply participating. Being selected to participate in any type or level of musical competition should be considered an already winning matter.

Judges make their decisions simply on their own viewpoints. Therefore, a selection is based off of nothing more than opinion. The real win is to be there in the first place and to showcase one’s ability to others and say they competed. Now, there could be money or prestige involved. This is fine. However, it should never challenge the personal integrity of the musician. One should be competing for the right purpose. It should also be known that in many cases, certain companies sponsor contests (not just in music, but speaking in general) for the main purpose of advertising their products and the winners could be chosen on nothing more than their commercial value to the company and its vested interests.

Also, it is noteworthy to point out that judging is unfortunately usually based on purely mechanical skill rather than on aesthetic expression, thus it can shift a musician’s focus off of what is really important as an artist and into becoming just a technical robot. Of course, technique is important, for without it, one cannot show any musicality. However, it is nothing more than mechanics without actual artistic expression there as its drive.

The musician should simply maintain his/her integrity as one at all times and be there for the right reason and to actually enjoy the experience.

The feeling of rejection is the primary detriment involved with contests of any kind. Nobody likes being rejected; rather, they want to be at the top. I always tell my students that participating means they are already a winner, because to be selected in the first place means that they have to work hard, and that a competition is nothing more than a showcase for their talents where they present something positive and share it with others and see where it leads them. The key point is to have a forum.

The most important thing with competitions, when musicians participate in such, is to keep them focused so that they practice hard with a purpose in order to display their skills and talents. If they maintain that viewpoint that the contest is simply just a forum for their music, regardless of the result, then they will work hard and do better as musicians because they now have a game to showcase their talents and will play it more eagerly and have fun while doing so.

Source by Evelyn Simonian