February has been an extremely busy month for my studio. About half of my students participated in various competitions. Some of them did extremely well, some of them did about as good as I expected, some of them didn’t do as well as they could have, and some of them did amazingly well but unfortunately did not get recognized.
Music competitions are not for every student or every teacher. It does take a strong heart! Some students excel under pressure, some don’t. Some students deal with unfavorable results gracefully, some get heart broken. The toughest part is when you as a teacher disagree with the judges. And that happens quite a lot! Music is subjective. Music speaks to different people differently. Sometimes a chord is struck and there is chemistry, sometimes there is no connection. The same performance could wow some people, but not move others.
Like it or not, competitions are not going to go away. They are everywhere in life, not just in music. There are many types of competitions, some more “friendly” than others. In general, I do feel they offer many benefits for both students and teachers. One thing I can honestly say is that whether I agree with the result or not, every time I present a student for a competition, I grow and learn as much as they do from the experience.
Still, it is nerve-breaking to sit through a student’s competition and wait for the results to be announced. I admire those who do this at a high level constantly. At the same time, I can understand why some teachers or parents do not go the competition route at all. If you are a seasoned competition-oriented teacher, I welcome your thoughts on how you deal with the emotional ups and downs of preparing students for competitions. Here are some of my thoughts:
1. Look on the bright side.
If a student wins, great. If not, have you or the student learned something from the experience? If yes, it was worth it!
2. Competitions are eye-openers.
I have great students. Others have great students, too. I think I am a good teacher, but there are other excellent teachers. Competitions often inspire me to greater teaching. How did those other kids do so well? How did their teachers inspire them to work so hard? What can I do to inspire my students more? What can I do to better prepare my students next time? What professional development should I undertake to better my teaching?
3. Be prepared to gain/loose students.
I have gained new students because my students win in a competition. I have lost students because my students don’t win in a competition. I have even lost students after my students did win in a competition! I don’t let that bother me anymore. It is the nature of our business that students come and students go.
4. Celebrate the success of others.
It is ok that someone else wins this time! Here is an open letter I wrote to my students to prepare them for the outcomes of a competition.
5. Stay humble and do not be discouraged.
There is a saying in Chinese that goes something like this: the next mountain is taller than this one. The standard is so high in today’s music competitions, that one must remain humble even if one wins. At the same time, one must not be discouraged if one doesn’t win. There is next time. The world does not end. There are other opportunities.
I would love to hear your thoughts!