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#1159099 - 03/07/09 04:39 PM puzzled about judging criteria  
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 14
bobay Offline
Junior Member
bobay  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 14
Arkansas
This is the first time I have my children participated in the same piano solo competition, same category. My older son clearly plays more difficult pieces than his younger brother. Surprisingly the younger brother received an honorable mention and my older son did not get anything. I thought they both played well. This competition grouped the kids by school grades, not by the difficulty of the music. I was skeptical at first to register mine together. I thought my younger son would not have any chance to win, but went ahead registered, thought it might a good exposure for him. so now I am confused....how do you judge when the pieces have different level of difficulty? I always thought the older kids might have better chance to win since their pieces are more difficult. I guess I am wrong!

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#1159212 - 03/07/09 08:52 PM Re: puzzled about judging criteria [Re: bobay]  
Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 4,896
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member
Betty Patnude  Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Joined: Jun 2007
Posts: 4,896
Puyallup, Washington
With a competition being judged by level in school, the outcome is stacked toward the age group to determine who at this age are the more achieving students. Your younger boy presented well at his age group because of his performance compared to others his age.

The older boy, being older, was compared to other students his age, but there may have been some students who have had more piano study and reached a higher level of playing and a better performance.

Age is on the side of the winner in any category and this judging was an attempt to judge musicianship at a particular age and school level. It will vary greatly.

Competition at the level of the piece being played is very academic in ratings.

By age, it is who has accomplished the most to date.

I have a personal philosophy in my piano teaching that everyone is a winner by participating. And, secondly, that second place is the first place loser. I think that we need to honor our competition students, or students who go the extra mile, with a photo of them at the piano at the event, or with their teacher, and a certificate of participation. Not only should the medal winners go home with something in their hands.

One of the benefits to competitions is that you hear a lot of good music and that you have as much opportunity to be a winner as anyone else does providing you are prepared to the best of your ability.

Ask your teacher what her thoughts are on that event. Perhaps she has decided that it works really well for her students, or, she is not going to enter students again in that one.

It's a good idea to teach our children and young piano students to sincerely congratulate the winners. Good manners lead to reciprocity when it's our turn to be honored.

Keep participating in competitions!

Betty Patnude


#1159226 - 03/07/09 09:41 PM Re: puzzled about judging criteria [Re: Betty Patnude]  
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 22
lizcovedale Offline
Full Member
lizcovedale  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 22
South Carolina
"Level of difficulty" is generally only criterion of judging, and one of the least important in my opinion.

Technical mastery, clarity of articulation and phrasing, dynamics, pedaling, proper rhythm and meter, style, projection of character, etc. You must also remember that there is more to "difficulty" than simply technical demands, though the average listener does not see it that way.

When I am grading, I would definitely give higher marks to an exceptionally well-played easy piece than to a mediocre performance of a very difficult piece.

That said, your children should both be commended for playing in a competition, and I'm glad that you are proud of their pereformances!


#1159354 - 03/08/09 03:23 AM Re: puzzled about judging criteria [Re: bobay]  
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 7,198
AZNpiano Offline
7000 Post Club Member
AZNpiano  Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 7,198
Orange County, CA
Originally Posted by bobay
This is the first time I have my children participated in the same piano solo competition, same category. My older son clearly plays more difficult pieces than his younger brother. Surprisingly the younger brother received an honorable mention and my older son did not get anything. I thought they both played well. This competition grouped the kids by school grades, not by the difficulty of the music. I was skeptical at first to register mine together. I thought my younger son would not have any chance to win, but went ahead registered, thought it might a good exposure for him. so now I am confused....how do you judge when the pieces have different level of difficulty? I always thought the older kids might have better chance to win since their pieces are more difficult. I guess I am wrong!


Hi, bobay:

Welcome to the world of local piano competitions! What you described happens year after year. The level of difficulty varies wildly within each age category. You can have a kid playing Rachmaninoff Preludes followed by a kid playing pieces out of her Piano Adventures method books. Speaking as a judge, I tend to give more bonus points for students attempting difficult repertoire, even if they are the older kids in the age category. I figure the younger kids have more time to learn so by the time they are older they can take their turn at winning.

And if the level of difficulty is really crazy, I won't name winners from entrants who played easy pieces. That's just not right. The kids with more ability could easily have "cheated" by choosing to play method book pieces. I know there are colleagues who disagree with me on this topic--believe me, I've judged together with a couple of these teachers.

Just remember that piano contests are completely subjective, and judges pick wrong winners all the time. It is the experience that counts for all students who spent the time preparing their pieces.


Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member
#1159541 - 03/08/09 02:13 PM Re: puzzled about judging criteria [Re: AZNpiano]  
Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 14
bobay Offline
Junior Member
bobay  Offline
Junior Member

Joined: Feb 2009
Posts: 14
Arkansas
Thanks everyone. Your replies really helped me understand the "craziness" of the competition. The most important part of it is that my kids enjoyed the event!! It was a great experience for me as a parent to see other families going through the same experience, exchanging our thoughts while waiting for our children's turns to perform. For sure, there will be more to come in the future.

#1159942 - 03/09/09 09:24 AM Re: puzzled about judging criteria [Re: bobay]  
Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 72
Brian Taylor Offline
Full Member
Brian Taylor  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Nov 2008
Posts: 72
Etobicoke (Toronto) ON
One thing that, to me, is missing from bobay's experience of the competition is any mention of the judge's comments. The only thing brought to our attention is the relative outcome of winner/non-winner of an award. To me, the judge';s comments are quite valuable for the insights they provide on what things went well and what areas might need attention as the student goes forward. The judge's (or, in an exam situation, the examiner's) comments provide an additional layer of insight above and beyond that of the teacher and the parent, and I would hope that those comments are available to student, parent and teacher.

#1160106 - 03/09/09 02:38 PM Re: puzzled about judging criteria [Re: Brian Taylor]  
Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 302
MA Offline
Full Member
MA  Offline
Full Member

Joined: Sep 2006
Posts: 302
San Francisco Bay Area
Also relevant are the judges' bios. Are they accomplished concert pianists? Conservatory faculty members or college professors? Local piano teachers?


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