as many of you know, i spent quite a chunk of my childhood preparing for and participating in competitive piano. i also dabbled in vocal competition. lately i've been giving some thought to this aspect of my musical training - whether it was healthy, whether or not i enjoyed it, and whether or not it was good for me as a musician.
the answer, as usual, depends on your perspective. i am not going to go into my feelings on competitive music as a whole - suffice it to say that the concept itself is both attractive and repellent to me, and the practice does not match up with the theory, quite.
i know that i centered my efforts in lessons around preparing for these competitions. leveling up on federation pieces and student day levels was the main impetus to build my skills. also i recall stopping my participation in student day because they changed the format - there was nothing to 'win' anymore. i thought that was lame. so my competitive nature certainly came into play here. i wonder if i would have thought student day was so lame if i'd never done a competition.
but the main thing that i remember about competitions is choking. i don't remember the times i won - i just remember going in and fucking it up and coming out in tears. i remember shaking with fear the first time i sang in front of a judge. i remember getting to 'the easy part' of a piece, and since i hadn't practiced it as much as the hard parts, completely forgetting it. nervousness, embarrassment and disappointment with myself are the main emotions i associate with these events.
no one was 'pushing' me to do these competitions. they were just an expected part of life as a piano student, so i did them, and then i pushed myself to do more and be the best because i'm just one of those kids who has insanely high expectations of themselves.
one year, in the summer before 8th or 9th grade, i decided to do a different competition - the baldwin-sponsored MTNA junior piano competition. this was going to be the start of a new era for me - the baldwin (as we called it) led to the yahama (the senior category) and that, in my little head, meant i was headed for van cliburn. unfortunately, it was out of phase for me. for the competitions i'd been playing, repetoire was selected in the summer, serious work began in the fall semester, and the competitions happened in the early spring. this competition was in november. i had to bust my ass! i ended up dropping out of the competition and nearly quitting piano altogether because of the stress i put on myself over this competition. i was 13. chalk up another giant sense of failure.
anyway, there's no conclusion i'm going to draw here. i've just been pondering this lately, as i feel a strong sense of competition when i'm beating the cellos, like i have to be the best in the cello section, instead of feeling united with my band and wanting the be the best as a band. it's kind of silly.