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So I have a story to tell. I'm a junior at a lame highschool in a lame town, and I play the alto sax. My family is very musical and I've been raised with music all around me. I performed in the district solo and ensemble and won, so I got entered in the state competition. In Washington we have 22 districts, so I was competing against 21 others. I work my *** off in a musically challenging piece for two months, and head to Ellensburg (another lame town :p) for the competition. I go in thinking I just love performing, so I'm just going to have fun up there. I suck on my damn reed for three hours before-hand, and actually nearly barf a couple times from gagging, and as I finish my warm up, I head into the performance room to get my horn acclimated to the temperature and to listen to some performances. I get in there and there is a girl about to perform.

She looks to her accompanist and he plays a Bb in octaves, and she tunes...but she waves her elbows like the chicken dance...or something it was odd. Trying to be musical maybe? I was confused, but whatever. She then started playing, and it was runs up and down her horn, really loud. I was interested to see where'd she go with it, but then I realized that she wasn't going to go anywhere with it, she played loud and fast for 6 minutes. I was thoroughly disappointed, because she was rather good, just did an extremely boring, but technically challenging piece.

Then another boy comes up and does his bit, tunes to a Bb and plays his piece, although he tensed up and the piece romped him, I felt bad for him. Anywho, after him was me, and my band director, private instructor and parents etc were all there and happy. I tune to A, because A > Bb, and then do my performance. I did it incredibly well, most crisply clean I had ever done it, with inflections, pop out my altissimo G in the middle of the piece like it was a palm key E, and ended incredibly strong. I was psyched, i though I had a chance at the win, so I'm all happy. I walk outside for my dad's pictures and crap, y'know the works after every single performance, and I overhear my private instructor and my band director talking about the other girl who had performed, and they both agreed it had no direction, no dynamics, and no inflections or subtleties to it at all. They both then came up and congratulated me and told me that it was very musical and they were proud (they're kind of biased though) but what made the day was a random lady coming up and saying that I was absolutely phenomenal and that the performance was the most musical and expressive she had heard all day. I was the second to last performer as well. So I'm absolutely stoked!

Well, later on I find out I didn't even place in top three...yet the girl did. The girl who flashed her fingers and played loudly, and everybody around me was upset when they found this out. I tried to not let it get to me, thinking I did wonderful and had my best performance to date, but it still hurts! Do judges go more for technically hard pieces? I mean, mine was challenging, I played the first movement of Paul Creston's Concerto (could be another musical name, like Sonata, I can't locate it atm) but her's was technically harder. I played way more musically than her, yet the judges preferred hers. I know I outperformed her, so why did she 'beat' me? Big source of frustration...and I do try to forget about it and think that all that matters is my performance and personal score (1 from each of the three judges, on a 1-5 scale 1 being highest) and that I did better than I had before, but I still wish I had something to show for it.

I also think that me being a junior and not a senior might have something to do with it, any wisdom from you vets of competitions would be grrrreatly appreciated.

-Brandon
 

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Sometimes you just don't win...That's it. Part of it's luck...I do have a question, however: Why don't you even know the name of your piece? (You were playing the Creseton Sonata, by the way.) Believe it or not, knowing what you're playing never hurts...
 

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Competitions don't always work out right. Actually more often than not you would be amazed as to why certain people win when it was obvious that other people were better. Different people are listening for different things. A lot of times in a competition people just want to see who is the flashiest and can do something that stands out from the rest. I once saw a competition(and I know this has happened even more numerous times) but this one person played their stuff memorized and did an OK job, but this other person had musically and SOUNDED WAAAAY better than everyone else. Who wins? the guy that had everything memorized because it was a more impressive performance to the judges. Of course this doesn't always happen, but I've seen/heard it happen a few times.

My advice, don't give up. Keep trying and if it happens again, then whatever. I could share many stories of this kind of crap, and I'm sure many others could as well
 
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Before your next competition, try to find out what the judging criteria will be. You then choose your piece and prepare for it by addressing those criteria. Don't assume that the judges will be making decisions on what you think are important.

Perhaps, in this particular competition you just did, technicality was more important than musicality. Perhaps, that girl knew this, but you didn't.

It's the same with marking high school projects. I used to teach high school, and students would submit flash projects - lots to fancy pictures, sleek binding, etc. The marking criteria don't give marks for the fancy pictures and the sleek binding, so students are disappointed when they just get a 'C' for their effort. Of course, students are told from the start what the marking criteria will be.
 

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I think that the whole evaluation process in musical competition is quite interesting. When you think about it, there really isn't a heck of a lot of difference between this and something like judging skaters or divers at the Olympics. Obviously there are a great deal more criteria to be aware of at once and it's much more complicated, but I wonder if it would be worthwhile to break down a performance into different elements, giving them different weights in advance in order to determine a final mark and therefore a winner. Statistizing music like this would probably have some odd consequences, particularly in North America: controversial wins would probably happen less often (I would hope), and the standard of playing might actually increase as students and teachers would be more aware of all the different aspects of music that often get left by the wayside, and also interest in classical music would likely also increase (at least in terms of competition) just because the tools of evaluation would become available to a wider public and as most people have no idea of what good 'classical' music is, this would give them a way to better evaluate performances themselves and have an idea of what they're talking about rather than a completely subjective impression of how it struck them. At the same time, I think it would destroy to a certain extent the mystique that we like to cultivate and perhaps denigrate the expression of the soul as we'd essentially be assigning a number to something that can't really be measured. Also, the perception of music by the public would be just as shallow as it is now because they'd largely be interested in musical value in terms of the competition aspect (of course chances are a larger group of people would grow true appreciation for music through this, if it actually did become more popular).

What do you think?
 

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Don't forget to throw a little humility in your gig rig on the way to the next one. Nothing wrong with confidence, but have some fun. Don't spend your time picking apart your "competition." The props will come, but rest assured that you'll suffer plenty of injustices in your musical career. Just try to keep a level head, and you won't find yourself so upset over it.

Dave
 

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Dave Collins said:
Don't forget to throw a little humility in your gig rig on the way to the next one. Nothing wrong with confidence, but have some fun. Don't spend your time picking apart your "competition." The props will come, but rest assured that you'll suffer plenty of injustices in your musical career. Just try to keep a level head, and you won't find yourself so upset over it.

Dave
Dave just said it. Sadily someone is going to be better than you unless you are a Legend. I am betting that you were concentrating to hard on the competition. You HAVE to play your own game; and relax.
 

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saxman_aja said:
Tim McAllister once told me, "Practice to win, but prepare to lose." I think that says a lot coming from him.
Great quote, I wonder how many times that guy has lost anything ;D
 

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Welcome to the music world.
 

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Reminds me of one competition I competed in back when I was a high school senior in 1993. It was in the evening on a school night so before I left my school for the competition my band director said to me, "Remember: The person who plays his individual piece best wins." I get there and the two other guys who got into U Mich with me that year are there too. Talk about stiff competition! They were both playing the Ibert Concertino and I was playing the Glazounov Concerto.

Long story short: I won 1st prize. One of the other sax players placed 2nd or 3rd (I can't remember).

It's about how YOU play YOUR piece. Don't think about how the competition does. It's pointless. You don't control them. You can only control how you play.

Oh, and a little humility is in order. Become a servant of music.
 

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Forgot to mention. I competed in the same competition the year before. One of the students who placed performed the Creston Sonata. So it's possible to place with the Creston.

FYI, I played the Suite Francais by Pierre Max Dubois. A very difficult unaccompanied piece that in hindsight I rendered well. Rule of thumb: Never play an unaccompanied piece for a competition. You'll get clobbered by the more exciting sounding accompanied pieces.

Btw, did you get the judges' comment sheets?
 
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