Sunday, April 23, 2017

Piano Judging, Competition, and Recital

Don't practice until you get it right.
Practice until you can't get it wrong. -Unknown

I pushed the Princess through the early teen stage of wanting to quit piano hoping that her teacher was right in how many students, who start young, want to quit at that stage in their life, but if they continue on, they do begin to love piano again. I began to see my child enjoying it more last year when she was asked to join the youth praise band at our church, however it got off to a very rough start because the leaders were...well, they were all teens, knowing everything with little evidence to prove it. They had been practicing for months and had never played even one song for the teen service until recently. Thankfully, our new praise and worship pastor decided to take on the youth praise band and they have since performed a couple of times. My daughter is a performer, even though she would deny it at this point, but without a deadline for performing, she was not really excited about what they had been doing with the band. Nice to see that is changing.

I am always amazed and ever so thankful when I realize God has this and I really do not have to worry about everything (because I tend to worry about everything as if it is a career choice). I knew that Princess needed a bit more inspiration that she was not receiving it from either one of her parents or her piano teacher and God provided it in a way that we could not have foreseen. Last year at church camp, my daughter met a boy that I will call Guitar Guy here. Although Guitar Guy goes to a different church about 30 minutes east of us, he and the Princess have become good friends ever since, inviting each other to their youth group functions at times, and they have one thing in particular in common: both are amazing musicians. Guitar Guy excels in ear training, in which the Princess is weaker, but he lacks in music theory, which the Princess knows far more than she thinks she does. He has been very encouraging to her and I think she is beginning to view her talent and music as something worthwhile, maybe even valuable. Of course, Guitar Guy has his own band and they play music that is heavy metal Christian that neither the Princess or I like, but at least this guy has a plan for his life. He wants to go to college to get that music theory and play guitar or bass in a band. Through recordings on YouTube, his band has gained more popularity in England than here and he hopes his band will tour there next summer.

First, the Judging
I am very pleased that I have been seeing this little spark that I had not been seeing for some years in the Princess as I watched her prepare her two pieces for the annual judging. She has never been as fond of Mozart as I have been, but when they were choosing music, her teacher played a piece that she liked. I have to say that she just barely makes the octave stretch on Turkish Rondo, as she is petite with small hands, but she does it. However, it is the Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka that she really loves to play. Both songs are fast and she likes to play fast.

On March 25th she was judged and received another superior rating. This makes her seventh year in a row. The judge mentioned how she holds her hands perfectly and how crisp her triplets were on the Tarentella. This is worth noting because of what comes next.

Second, the Competition
Guitar Guy goes to a church of a large denomination: Assemblies of God. They have a competition every year called Fine Arts. He has competed in it and he encouraged the Princess to compete in it this year. It was started on the following Friday evening, March 31st and continued until Saturday early evening, April 1st. She would stay overnight at a hotel with Guitar Guy's older sister who was chaperoning as well as some other girls. My husband needed to go to Florida as that Friday also was the day that the Queen Mother was being moved into the nursing home, but he did not want to miss seeing the Princess' competition, so we decided that I would stay home, he would go and stay at a hotel one night and drive the rest of the way to Florida from there, as it was about two hours south of us and on the his way. The Princess would come back with the other kids on the church bus, which is how she went down there, and I would pick her up at the church when they got back.

The Princess was actually excited about the competition because she wanted to know how good she was compared to others, as judging alone was not competitive in her mind...probably because she had always done so well. For this competition, she could only play one piece and she chose the Tarantella. There were only six pianists in this age group and three played the Beethovan's Für Elise (which Trudy, our piano teacher, hates because she always says it is so overused, but we had not run into that before this).

The Princess did well, but the judges all criticized her triplets. One wrote they were a muddled and another wrote that her pinkie finger was weak, things along those lines that made me suspicious, since I know that the one attribute that shines with her is crispness and how her fingers are well trained to keep the notes even. She was disappointed that she got two points off from each of the three judges on performance.

When the Princess came home and I read the judges remarks myself, I asked her what had happened. Apparently, they had her class in a room with a digital piano instead of in the sanctuary with the grand piano. The digital piano had horrible key action. Some of the keys even stuck. This is the downside of being a pianist when other musicians can bring their own instruments; a pianist usually has to play the piano available and the hosting church was to provide the piano for the competition. My husband noticed that all the kids had problems and after it was over asked a man from the hosting church to play it...and he said it was "awful." One girl, who was very good and might have won, had slowed her playing in one part of her piece to compensate, but timing changes that counts heavily in the scoring. The Princess has benefited from playing at least two recitals a year in different venues on different pianos and she performs well, which might have been what made the real difference for her.

Yes, my Princess won first place in Georgia and has been invited to the national competition in Anaheim, California in August.

Guitar Guy had won first in guitar last year, but there were some technical problems and he came in third, but he did get first for bass, so he is also invited to nationals. They were the only two who won from the church group, although my daughter said that the girl from their group that sang was far better than the one who won.

Feeling bad for all the kids who had to use the sticky-key piano, I have since called the person in charge of the Fine Arts competition in Georgia so that it does not happen again. The piano should have been tested by the judges before the judging so that the problem was known or that they could have judged on a different piano. The lady was surprised and nice about it and asked me to email it so that she would have it in her folder for the next year.

Third, the Recital
April 22nd was the day of the annual spring recital. Last fall I found a formal dress in a thrift store that would be good for a recital dress and was a style that the Princess likes. She looked so good in it, but she told me that I was sending her mixed signals as this lovely black lacy dress with gold highlights had spaghetti straps, which we do not allow her to wear. (Actually, the straps had to be reattached so it looked strapless at first.) However, I knew that the recital would be around her sixteenth birthday and that we talked about appropriate dressing, as in I would not allow her to walk in the neighborhood with a tank top or a bathing suit, but if we are at a beach or pool, then it would be more appropriate (and what we wear is far more modest in comparison to the others there). This would never be a dress I would allow on a date, if she were allowed to date, that is. However, she is just beginning to appreciate that she looks very good dressed like a young lady, even though she still dresses more like a tomboy most of the time, so I wanted to encourage her to see herself that way. I assured her that if her father and I say it would be appropriate for this recital, then it would be fine.

The Princess played the same pieces as she did for the judging and she looked lovely with her long hair—that is long enough to sit on—pulled back from her face on the side of the audience. She played well and the smile she gave afterward was genuine. She never really can convince me that she does not like performing.

Afterward we went out to dinner and had some interesting conversations as we had invited a friend to the recital whom my daughter called her lost twin when they met at the Home Learning Center three years ago. Although we rarely can get together with her family, we have very much in common with them—besides that the names of our teenage daughters' are the same and, oddly, our former dog and their other daughter had the same name. The mother gave birth to that daughter at the same age I was when I had my daughter. Lots and lots of parallels, but differences as well.

When we brought the girl back, we all talked for couple of hours—I really love that family!

So, the spring piano season is done and now the Princess is setting her sights on the nationals for Fine Arts in August. We all have lots to do before we can get there.

My Lord, thank you for this gifted child and for helping her to see herself as we see her through loving eyes. 


  1. Sometimes it's just so hard to find the words. The Princess looks stunning. Wonderful frock. And having heard her play I am not surprised she is winning comps. Wonderful! Such a precious gift.

    1. She is better than her thinks she is and could be better than she ever thought, if she would apply herself just a bit more. But the love for it has to be there.

      I will say that there was one girl at the recital, who is not as advanced but when she, just wow! She was the best of the show to most everyone. You could see, hear, and feel the love she has for it.

      That is the love for piano my daughter used to have and I keep praying she not just regains her love for piano but loves it more than she ever did.


Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.