First of all, I have to start out by saying that up until about five years ago (or whenever it was that I started sending my kids off to the Mid-Atlantic Music Teachers Guild’s annual Spring Competition), I was pretty much dead set against competitions.  In fact, that first year,  I only sent maybe half of my students, and didn’t even attend the competition myself.

Maybe it’s because I was an only child.  Maybe it’s because I’ve got pretty decent self-esteem.  Maybe it’s because I don’t like getting put on the spot.  Maybe it’s something else entirely.  But the whole concept of a competition just seemed so foreign to me.

And then I attended a competition.

And you know what?  It was chaotic.  And stressful.  And tiring.  There were people everywhere, and some of them were lost.  Kids were tuning instruments in the middle of the hallway.  There was nowhere to sit.  People were running late.  Some of the other students were not so great.  Some of them were amazing.  It was kind of scary, I could see how some of my students might feel kind of intimidated in this environment.  But also… it was completely exhilarating at the same time.  It was amazing.  It was like everything that I try and do with my students all year long, wrapped up into one compact weekend.  IT WAS AN ADVENTURE.

The next year, and every year since, I have encouraged all of my eligible students to attend the Spring Festival, and to participate in as many competitions as they can.  Not because I want to scare the crap out of them, but because it is exciting.  And a little bit scary.

Because events like this focus you in a way that a recital doesn’t.  Events like this push you just a little bit out of your comfort zone, in a way that nothing else does.  I have come to love the Spring Festival so much, I don’t even mind waking up early for it.  It is a great weekend.

So here are the nitty gritty details.

the light fixture in the marriot lobby.. i realize now this picture makes the place scary, but i assure you, there is nothing to be afraid of!

The Spring Festival is hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Music Teachers Guild, a professional teachers’ organization with membership in New York, New Jersey, Connecticutt, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. (What did Dela wear?  Her New Jersey! BWAHAHA I SLAY ME!) Last year and this year (and hopefully many years in the future), the competition is held at the Hanover Marriot on Route 10 in Whippany, which is an absolutely gorgeous hotel.

And I also kind of just love that the competition is in Whippany.  For myself and most of my students, it is just far enough away that you can do it in a day and it’s not to annoying to drive to and yet, you are in the car just long enough to really feel like you are going somewhere different and special.. like on an adventure!  (I will probably use the word “adventure” at least twice more in this post)

The festival takes place the weekend of March 31st – it runs from Friday to Sunday.  The majority of my students (solo piano or guitar students) will be participating in competitions and evaluations (more on that in a minute) on Saturday, and that could be at any point from 9am to about 3pm (though most of it is done in the morning).  Some of my students will hopefully be participating in the talent showcase competition, and that will be taking place on Friday night.

Possible categories that my students can participate in include the competition on their instrument (standard solo in piano and pop solo in guitar).  Students are given a piece of music to learn, and they are scored on their performance.  This is as close to a standardized test as one can get in the music world, I feel.  If an actual competition is too much for a student (say, just a beginner), then there is the evaluation category, which is non-competitive.  Students perform for the judge and they are given both compliments and criticism.  Being able to take a healthy dose of criticism is important for, well, everyone (and because I feel it is important for a student, from time to time, to play for someone who is not actually me, I encourage everyone to do evaluation, in addition to the competition).  Certain students can also participate in the talent showcase category, where they accompany themselves while singing any song of their choosing.  I am going to STRONGLY SUGGEST that students accompany themselves on their own guitar, as this situation involves the least amount of variables.

Students participating in competition categories will receive a huge trophy if they win first, second or third place in their category, or they will receive a medal for fourth or fifth place.  All students who participate in the evaluation category will receive a small trophy (being able to graciously take criticism of both the good and not so good variety deserves an award, don’t you think?).  Winners in the talent showcase category will actually receive a cash prize (DUDE, I WANT TO ENTER!).

On Sunday, winners will be announced at the Awards Concert.  This is the first time they are doing a concert, so I have to admit, I am not quite sure what the event will entail.  It is usually in the afternoon, the performances are from the first place winners of the virtuoso categories, as well as the musical theater categories and battle of the bands competition.  During the ceremony, they do announce every child that wins, and if the student is present, they get to go up and get their award themselves!  It is a great and exhilarating feeling, and it is a great way to wrap up the weekend (and yes, if you stay at the hotel that weekend, either for just one night or the other, or from Friday to Sunday, there is a discounted rate for festival goers).

There is a $5.00 registration fee for all students who enter, and then an additional $30 per competition/evaluation and $35 for talent showcase.  Yes, this means that the minimum you will be paying for your child to participate is $35, and it could be as expensive as $65 (I will not even do the math for multiple children per household).  And yes, I know that is expensive.  When your child is still smiling at the end of the weekend, it will have been worth it.

Because in the end, this weekend is not about getting that trophy (although it is nice!).  It’s not about being the best one in the bunch.  It’s not about showing off to the world.  It’s about showing off to yourself.  It’s about being the best you that you can be.  It’s about setting a goal, working diligently towards it, and then attaining it.  It’s about going outside of your comfort zone, to an unfamiliar place filled with unfamiliar people, and THRIVING.  I know these are tough economic times, but if you can afford it, I assure you, it is worth it.  It’s not a learning experience, it is a learning adventure, and when we set off on this adventure together, we come back from it different people, stronger people, better people.  And oh yeah, we spent a whole weekend hanging out together, being a little chaotic and crazy together, and showing to ourselves that we can be absolutely awesome musicians.

In the end, it’s really just about being as awesome as you can possibly be, no matter what adventures you take in your life, musical or otherwise.

Whoops.  Said “adventure” three more times, not twice.  Haha!  Do I know myself, or do I know myself??