When my son started high school and entered a musical excellence class he said to me, “Mum, I hope there are lots of kids better than me in the class.” I was impressed by his musical confidence and maturity that he should want such a thing – I’m not sure I would have done at his age. But he was right. In order to grow as musicians it is helpful to surround ourselves with role models, people who are ‘better than us’ at some things and can inspire us. A bit of healthy competition never hurt anyone!
Or did it?
What about those music competitions where children are lined up to play one after the other, and a ‘judge’ attributes points to their performances and declares one person to be the winner?
I was never a huge fan of these events, feeling that music is a creative pursuit that should be enjoyed rather than judged, but over the years the Sunshine Coast Junior Eisteddfod has changed my mind.
The event itself is incredible and, as many of the adjudicators point out during the fortnight, we are very lucky to have it. First and foremost it is a celebration of music and drama where well over 5000 children cross the stage to sing, play, act, speak, compose and sight-read in solo spots, duos, trios, quartets, small ensembles, concert bands and full orchestras. The event provides three key opportunities for every young musician on the coast. Firstly the opportunity to take part, to prepare a piece of music well enough to walk on stage and perform it to a rather important audience. Secondly, the opportunity to hear all the other competitors and be inspired by what others are achieving. And thirdly, the chance to feel part of a very big and very wonderful musical community. The adjudicator’s hand-written comments on each and every performance can be illuminating too!
This year I was involved as both a parent and a teacher – sometimes both together – and throughout the fortnight I was in awe of the talent, enthusiasm, creativity and love of music that was displayed by everyone involved. Some of the bands, and individual students, are incredibly advanced. Some are consolidating their learning and others are just starting out. Everyone is supporting each other and enjoying what they do.
It takes years to nurture musical greatness, but joy and love for music can be nurtured in just a couple of weeks.
Here are some of my favourite quotes from kids who took part in the 2014 Music Eisteddfod…
“Guess what? My favourite thing in the whole world is MUSIC.”
“I didn’t feel nervous, but when I got on stage I discovered that my fingers were nervous and they forgot what to do!”
“I don’t care whether I get a place – that was my best performance ever so I’m happy.”
“Oh!” (looking very surprised) “Is this a competition?”