I have always believed in the benefits of enrolling students in formal assessment/competitive events, both for the students involved and for myself as a teacher. I would like to share some key points:
Benefits for students:
- Meeting deadlines: Having a specific date means certain pieces must be learned, memorized, and polished in a given time frame. This teaches the students about time management and the importance of meeting deadlines – immensely useful skills to have in all aspects of life.
- Handling pressure: Coping with nerves, anxiety, racing heartbeats, and learning to perform one’s best under pressure is one of the most important life skills students can learn.
- Accepting criticism: To some extent, students can learn the above two skills by participating in informal recitals, where they play in front of an appreciative audience such as friends and family. Playing in front of a judge in formal auditions/competitions/festivals/exams where they are evaluated teaches them to accept comments and criticism and learn from different opinions. Again, this is such an invaluable life skill, whether the student becomes a professional musician or not later in their life.
- Learning the value of hard work: Hard work will ultimately be recognized, and when students are rewarded with success in an audition/competition, they learn that it was all worth it – all the time and effort they spent practicing and polishing their performance. The sweet taste of success motivates them to continue working hard and do well again next time.
- Coping with unfavorable results: Should the student be unsuccessful in a particular competition, they learn even more from the experience. The nature of competitions is that no one will always be the winner. Sometimes the best is selected, sometimes not. There is an element of luck in all competitive events; sometimes it is just not your day. Who has not had a memory slip ever? Who has given complete perfect performances every time? Learning to deal with less than desired results teaches students to be mentally and psychologically healthy musicians and human beings.
Benefits for teachers:
- Understanding different syllabi: Different auditions/exams have different requirements. Some are performance based, and some have heavy Technical, Theory, Aural, Sight Reading, and Musicianship requirements. Enrolling students in many different events means the teacher has to fully understand and study the different requirements when preparing the students. This is beneficial for the teacher’s own growth as well.
- Learning new repertoire: Some auditions have set repertoire lists where pieces need to be chosen from. Enrolling students in such auditions can expose the teacher to new repertoire that they are otherwise unfamiliar with. This is especially true with the many newly published literature that is available for young students these days – they did not exist when the teacher was a student themselves!
- Discovering forgotten works: Every time I attend a student audition/competition/festival event, I am inspired by the different repertoire that I hear. We all have our favorite pieces that we love to teach to all our students, and it is refreshing to hear other teacher’s favorites. Sometimes you rediscover repertoire that you have overlooked and forgotten about; sometimes you discover a great work that you did not know existed.
- Promoting your studio: Sending your students to auditions/competitions is also a great way to promote your studio, especially when different instruments are involved and especially when your students do well (for example, a flute student may decide to study piano after hearing your fantastic students!)
- Networking with other teachers: Sending students to different auditions and events gives the teacher an opportunity to meet their colleagues. This can lead to future collaborative projects, such as accompanying, chamber music playing, or convention partners (sharing costs of transportation and accommodation). I have certainly met many colleagues this way, and appreciate the friendship as well as professional connections with them.
Do you send your students to music auditions/exams? Do you believe in competitions? Please share your thoughts below!