It seems that the piano world is bursting of competitions for all ages: national, international and each of us teachers that has talented students faces every way the conflict: is my student ready for the regional/national/international next competition? what is the right repertoire for him/her that will get the progress? what is the right age to start? Are competitions useful? a must or a choice?
Years ago, competitions did not take part in my life in such a young age . My first competition was at the age of 17. Today the piano scene has been changing and the level of the young pianists is outstanding: the question is not about entering a competition, but actually when.
The main difficulty when your student enters a competition is the involvement. I see many teachers (including me at some cases) that react in an extreme way if their student did not get the result they expected- even more than the students themselves.
It is a challlenge to understand that the student is an individual musical and pianistic personality, and not an extension of the teacher. It is ten times more difficult to internalize this fact after hours and hours of preparation and coaching, but we have to.
Teaching is almost like raising a child , and letting a student go and compete is a sort of a risk that the teacher is taking: you will never expect anything except really wishing that the student will do his best.
During the last years, many students of mine entered competitions, and with no connection to the results, I think overall that the decision to enter was right. Competitions are of course tough, there are many regulations and codes that are not written and you have to obey them (especially concerning repertoire), it is sort of a game or a gamble in a way: but the benefits and the challenges are more that the faults . I am trying to put them down , along with insights and points to learn for the future.
Here are the benefits:
- A great motivation for the student: all of us need deadlines. The student needs the deadline to prepare and experience. Competitions motivates for more practice than a concert (a fact)
- Practice stability: One of the problematic experiences of performance is stability- control and self-control. A competition is the main school for practicing this issue.
-Dealing with extensive repertoire: Competition forces the student and teacher to take over a huge amount of repertoire, and organize the work and preparation.
-Stage performance practice: a competition, unlike concert can be a painful experience, since some of them are in front of jury and very little audience. Some students have problems with audiences, and some feel worse in front of jury.
-Getting out of your comfort zone: In a competition you will not always be appreciated: the jury's taste might be totally different from the student/teacher's view, and the hardest thing is for a teacher to accept(or not to accept) a juror's opinion.
-Progress: If a student keeps a competition routine - that is entering one every year or two- it is a definite progress. It does not have to be connected to results: results of competitions are so relative and do not always connect with the students' abilities.
I am happy and proud to see progress during the years with my students, (and good results too)
Here are some examples:
Tom, when he was 10 years old, and already won 1st prize at the national competition, and 3rd in another:
3 years after, the same competition (different category) - again, 1st prize:
Talmon, 13 years old, at the national competition (2nd prize):
And 2 years later (1st prize):
And Natanel that won just recently the "young artist competition" 3rd prize, after some other competitions, including the international one in Mayenne, France last year (2nd prize):
Very proud of my students' achievements, and even though I am not always happy with the results or process, I think that a competition is a necessity these days, and one can really be his own individual and musical personality, along with willpower and support and survive this tough medium.
We, teachers have to let our ego and emotions put aside and be stable and confident as much as we can for the students' well-being and progress.