Monday, March 16, 2015

Competition day

A few months ago, Biscuit's piano teacher mentioned that he belongs to a local music teachers' association that started in 1964. The local chapter is part of a larger state group, which is part of a national group. Each year, the local group has a conference at one of the colleges here in town where students can compete and get grades for their performances.

I kind of assumed that he was talking about really experienced students, but apparently, competitors can be first-year students all the way through those who have studied for years and years.

So I asked Biscuit if he'd like to do it, and he said he wasn't sure. I think it was because he didn't understand how it would be set up or really what the purpose was. But we started practicing a song, just in case.

A few weeks ago, when the time came to sign up for a competition spot, I sat Biscuit down and explained exactly what would happen. I told him that he would go into a room and play one song, by memory, for one person. Then that person would tell him how he did.

With an explanation like that, he was in and ready to go.

Biscuit's teacher decided that he should play a version of "When the Saints Go Marching In" that he had learned recently for a lesson. It included a good variety of musical skills, and Biscuit seemed to enjoy playing it.

So Saturday afternoon, we got Biscuit in some nice clothes and headed over to the competition.

We got there way too early, and I was worried about Biscuit getting bored and frustrated. His competition time was 3 p.m., and we got there about 2:20 p.m. Plus, they were running about 10 minutes late. But the music building was buzzing with activity, which allowed for plenty of people-watching. And of course, there was my phone. Biscuit has some games on my phone, and I quickly and easily handed it over to keep him occupied until time for him to play.

We signed in and got our room number. And then there was just waiting. Biscuit was completely unfazed, but I was crazy nervous. I'm not sure why. The competition is a good experience, but it's not like it ultimately counts for anything. I wasn't nervous about whether Biscuit was going to do a good job. And I could tell he wasn't nervous about what he was there to do. Quite frankly, I don't know why I was nervous except that it was something we hadn't done before, and I wanted to make sure Biscuit was okay no matter how things went.

There were about 16 or 18 competition rooms. And because we were in the music building, all the rooms were soundproof. So we were walking down a hallway with rooms full of judges and pianists, and we couldn't hear a thing! Each room had a monitor sitting outside with a clipboard. The monitor checked off the participants' names because the judges aren't technically supposed to know the competitors' names.

After 50 minutes of waiting, the monitor told us Biscuit would be next.

"Are you ready?" I asked him.

"Let's do this," he said with a grin.

The monitor escorted Biscuit into the room. At this age, the songs he plays are really short, so it was no time at all before Biscuit was back in the hallway.

A couple of teachers stopped right
in front of me, so I couldn't get a good
picture of Biscuit coming out of the room.

A few minutes later, the judge handed out her judging form to the monitor. And the monitor passed it on to us, making sure we didn't any questions.

He got a superior score. That's the highest you can get.

The judge said, "You have a beautiful hand position. You produced a great tone for the melodies line. Your left-hand staccato was not too heavy. You're doing great work. Keep it up!"

(Staccato notes are played quickly and sharply as opposed to the smoothly as usual. That's not easy for a beginner, but Biscuit worked really hard on them for this song.)

And although the score and the comments were wonderful, the best score came when we made our way out into the lobby.

"How'd you do?" I asked him.

"Mom, I did great!" Biscuit said.

And for me, that was the most important comment of the day.

We found Biscuit's teacher to let him know how it went. He was really excited for Biscuit. He gave him $5 to get ice cream and said, "I can't do that for everybody, so keep it quiet."

We went over to the check-out table to get Biscuit's certificate, and after Biscuit told them his name, he immediately said, "Guess what? My teacher gave me $5 for ice cream!"

"And your teacher also said not to tell anybody," I said to Biscuit.

"Oh, um, nevermind," Biscuit said to the ladies at the table.

It just so happens that there's a really good ice cream place near the college, so we headed over for a treat.

This was a kid-size cone. Guess how long it
lasted before we had to get a cup to put it in?

When we got home, I made Biscuit pose with his certificate.

Then I asked him if he would play his song and let me video it, since I couldn't be in the room when he played it.

"Ughhhhh ... okay," Biscuit said.

I could tell he was tired and ready to play, but he relented. It took him three times to do it to his satisfaction, but he was excited when I told him we got it.

Here's Biscuit playing his song, along with his disclaimer.

"Mom, can you just let everybody know that I played it a lot better for that lady?" Biscuit asked.

"I will let them know," I said.

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