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#1991970 - 11/28/12 03:05 PM Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level?  
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In your opinion piano competition should be categorize by age or by level to be fair?
Jane is 9 YO, she can play Level 9 pieces because she started piano at 4YO and really hardworking in practicing.
Adam is 9YO too, he can only play Level 2 pieces because he just started piano one year ago.
Let's say both of them are same quality in performing their own pieces, and went to piano competition categorize by age, of course the judges would favor Jane but not Adam.
What do you think?


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#1991978 - 11/28/12 03:31 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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That's why I never really got the point of competitions.

#1991980 - 11/28/12 03:33 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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Like skating since size isn't an advantage, I'd go with by skill level. You have to trust the teacher (just like the coach) to not sandbag. It happens, but life isn't always "fair".

#1991981 - 11/28/12 03:33 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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Fair competition is stimulator and will serve it good purpose.
I am thinking about this because as far as I know, chess competition is not categorize by age but their Level (from 0 to 2000 as national master). However, physical competition such as running is categorize by age. I like to know what other teachers think. Thanks.


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#1992019 - 11/28/12 04:57 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
I like to know what other teachers think. Thanks.
Competition is apparently inherent to the human condition. This neither makes it healthy or unhealthy for students. Generally speaking, my experience has been that musical competitions are so inherently "unfair" that I seldom enroll my students in them. The exception for me is when I can make the student's participation congruent with other learning goals, such as a performance opportunity for an advancing student that has music performance ready and is looking to perform.


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#1992030 - 11/28/12 05:19 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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In one competition that I observed, there were 3 categories based on grade in school: elementary (for kids K-5), Middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (9-12). The overall winner could be from any of the categories, and in the case I observed, it was won by a middle school child.

If the 9 year old plays her level 9 piece well, then she'd be more likely to win than someone playing a level 2 piece well. But a lower level piece played well would outscore poor playing at a higher level.

Jane and Adam would be in the same category. You would have to look at the quality of student who generally enters the competition to figure out whether it would be appropriate to enter a Level 2 kid in the competition.

Last edited by Ann in Kentucky; 11/28/12 05:24 PM.
#1992038 - 11/28/12 05:46 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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There are competitions, and then there are COMPETITIONS.

At serious events -- and yes, I know that the word "serious" is loaded -- age is usually the criterion, and it's not really much of a problem. All of the 10-12 year olds are going to be quite good. You're not going to have 12 year old beginners entering the same events with the 10 year old whiz kids playing advanced sonata movements. Serious events would include scholarship auditions (things with money on the line) and important master class auditions. These events are somewhat biased against late starters. That's life. I know this one from personal experience since my eldest was just such a late starter. Oh well.

At more "friendly" events, like Federation festival, level is the criterion. Students play pieces from a set list that is level normed. And this too isn't a problem. Students aren't competing against each other quite as much. They're shooting for a superior, for instance. These are events that are primarily designed to support student learning and give them a performance opportunity (with feedback) outside of normal studio recitals. They are less intensely competitive.


#1992053 - 11/28/12 06:17 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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Well, there's a big difference between being able to play level-9 pieces and playing it musically. If a 9-year-old kid can play Liszt or Brahms convincingly, musically, and powerfully (that's a big if), then that kid should definitely go compete.

Teachers must do their homework and find out the nature of each festival and competition. Enter the average students in the less competitive ones, and enter the really talented students in the more competitive ones. It's really not that complicated.


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#1992337 - 11/29/12 10:41 AM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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Quote
Teachers must do their homework and find out the nature of each festival and competition. Enter the average students in the less competitive ones, and enter the really talented students in the more competitive ones. It's really not that complicated.


Indeed.

There is no dominant ethic of fairness that should govern how every event is run. There is instead a diversity of goals and norms. Pick and choose based on the talent, training, and personality of your student. As AZN says, It really is not that complicated.

#1992379 - 11/29/12 12:37 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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I think the fairest competitions are based on level of playing - where they have a list of what pieces they consider to be "advanced" "intermediate" etc. and the competitors choose from that list.


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#1992434 - 11/29/12 02:54 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
There is no dominant ethic of fairness that should govern how every event is run. There is instead a diversity of goals and norms.

The problem is that we always have a few outlier teachers who don't read the rules and/or just "don't get it." They keep on sending kids in method books to the most challenging events. My favorite example, which I've alluded to before, is a girl playing from The Joy of First Year Piano, while the rest of the field is playing Mendelssohn Songs Without Words, Bach Prelude and Fugue, Mozart Sonatas, Mozart Fantasies, and other substantial repertoire.

On the other extreme, there are also trophy hogs who send their best students to the easiest categories. Recently, I'm observing more and more judges (with ample experience) who actually punish the talented students in the easier categories by picking winners whose repertoire matches the intent of the category. Good for them!


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#1992446 - 11/29/12 03:27 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: Morodiene]  
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Originally Posted by Morodiene
I think the fairest competitions are based on level of playing - where they have a list of what pieces they consider to be "advanced" "intermediate" etc. and the competitors choose from that list.


That's the way the Federation state level competition in Virginia was (is) run. They take the various levels (oh, perhaps twenty of them) and bundle them into three super levels. You still wind up having early intermediate students competing against early advanced students within the same level, but that at least narrows the field a bit.

But I would hesitate to call this "fairest" in any objective sense. As AZN notes, you can have an advanced student go back and clean up in an easier category, both because they are older (and more musically mature) and because they are simply better. That's not fair to the students who are younger and who have just begun to mature into their current level.

In my area, we have a major scholarship audition for high school and below that is divided into junior and senior categories, by age. Thirteen and under is junior. Fourteen and up is senior. Period. Clearly, a fifteen year old intermediate student has no chance in the senior category. Many have tried, and for them it's just a performance opportunity. That's OK with me. I don't find that particularly unfair. These high schoolers aren't allowed to go compete with the juniors. Likewise, there are some juniors who are as good as the top seniors. In the junior category, these wind up the winners! What a surprise. That's life. The juniors who are not at that level have something to which to aspire! Everyone is invited to listen to all the performers, so every contestant has the opportunity to hear the others, if they wish.


#1992448 - 11/29/12 03:46 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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I have ALWAYS had a problem with competitions for students. Young students in particular.

Music should be about SHARING MUSIC, not competing.

At all levels and ages.


Grrrrr....

end of rant.


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#1992449 - 11/29/12 03:50 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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who actually punish the talented students in the easier categories


By saying so, you mean competition at your branch is base on easier or harder categories (level) but not age?


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#1992452 - 11/29/12 03:56 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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In our local sonatina/sonata competition, we have six divisions (Primary through Advanced), and each one has an upper age limit, e.g. Primary - 7 and under, Elem. I - 9 and under, etc... The repertoire selections within each division are graded within a narrow range.

This lets the younger students "move up" and compete with more-difficult repertoire, but prevents the "big kids" from playing the simpler pieces in the Primary and Elementary divisions.


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#1992455 - 11/29/12 04:02 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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They keep on sending kids in method books to the most challenging events.


This is really weird. Don't those events have a pre-screening? Top auditions require students to list the repertoire they have played for the previous year or 18 months. The organizers can then limit the competition to students who have achieved at least a certain minimum level of proficiency.

#1992460 - 11/29/12 04:11 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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Originally Posted by ezpiano.org
Quote
who actually punish the talented students in the easier categories


By saying so, you mean competition at your branch is base on easier or harder categories (level) but not age?

No. My branch does every festival/competition by age, except for Bach Festival. There are lots of other non-MTAC competitions in Southern California, and they are all different in terms of difficulty and competitiveness. Do your research.


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#1992462 - 11/29/12 04:15 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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So you mean some is by age and some other is by level, and I have to do my research.


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#1992463 - 11/29/12 04:16 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Quote
They keep on sending kids in method books to the most challenging events.


This is really weird. Don't those events have a pre-screening? Top auditions require students to list the repertoire they have played for the previous year or 18 months. The organizers can then limit the competition to students who have achieved at least a certain minimum level of proficiency.


There might be one or two events that pre-screen, but none that I know of. It's commonplace to see the scenario I described. It happens almost every year. At the top, top competitive events, most of the teachers know what they are doing when they send students there.

Who knows? Maybe the teacher is sending the method book student to these events as a "See, you need to practice more!" learning experience. Some kids are oblivious to how much more advanced their peers are.


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#1992468 - 11/29/12 04:27 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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If the events don't pre-screen, then they are creating their own problem. And part of this problem is borne by the poor students who don't know what they're getting into, and who wind up profoundly embarrassed. I would not have much respect for teachers who deliberately send young people into the buzz saw, wasting the judges' time and embarrassing the kids and their parents.

I remember being in events for which I was overmatched. But I was playing the right level of repertoire.

#1992470 - 11/29/12 04:31 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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Well, the person who enters a nine year old playing level 2 into any kind of competition has judgment issues.

Competition has it's place, but it is not for everyone.




Last edited by The Monkeys; 11/29/12 04:33 PM.
#1992493 - 11/29/12 05:34 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: The Monkeys]  
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Originally Posted by The Monkeys
Well, the person who enters a nine year old playing level 2 into any kind of competition has judgment issues.

Oh, but there are actual competitions with categories for age 9 playing level 2 pieces. You just have to find out where that is and then avoid it like the plague.

I was told that some of the free-for-all festivals were set up deliberately in a way so that experienced players can compete side-by-side with the more novice players. At these events, some judges will take it upon themselves to judge Liszt Tarantella harder than Burgmuller Arabesque.


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#1992522 - 11/29/12 06:47 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Originally Posted by Morodiene
I think the fairest competitions are based on level of playing - where they have a list of what pieces they consider to be "advanced" "intermediate" etc. and the competitors choose from that list.


That's the way the Federation state level competition in Virginia was (is) run. They take the various levels (oh, perhaps twenty of them) and bundle them into three super levels. You still wind up having early intermediate students competing against early advanced students within the same level, but that at least narrows the field a bit.

But I would hesitate to call this "fairest" in any objective sense. As AZN notes, you can have an advanced student go back and clean up in an easier category, both because they are older (and more musically mature) and because they are simply better. That's not fair to the students who are younger and who have just begun to mature into their current level.

In my area, we have a major scholarship audition for high school and below that is divided into junior and senior categories, by age. Thirteen and under is junior. Fourteen and up is senior. Period. Clearly, a fifteen year old intermediate student has no chance in the senior category. Many have tried, and for them it's just a performance opportunity. That's OK with me. I don't find that particularly unfair. These high schoolers aren't allowed to go compete with the juniors. Likewise, there are some juniors who are as good as the top seniors. In the junior category, these wind up the winners! What a surprise. That's life. The juniors who are not at that level have something to which to aspire! Everyone is invited to listen to all the performers, so every contestant has the opportunity to hear the others, if they wish.

It still think it's the "best", not meaning optimal. It's a compromise but it works for most people. Those younger students can get the experience and then when they're older they can play easier rep and win. smile

And by the way, what's wrong with having it be "just" a performance experience? If you have a student that is going to be pursuing a career, they will have to get used to the whole competing/auditioning thing where they set their own goals for their performance and enjoy the process of sharing their talent with the panel, no matter who else walks in the door.


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#1992542 - 11/29/12 07:25 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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Folks, I'm going to reiterate that there are competitions, and there are COMPETITIONS.

When we're talking about events at which many thousands of dollars of scholarship money are given out, this is a serious business. At an event of this sort, it's unlikely that the organizers are interested in hearing a fifteen year old play Mozart's K545. At events of this sort, age-based criteria seem quite sensible. Scholarship auditions are about "the best," and as fraught as that judgment may seem, the "best under ten" has some meaning.

I have no problem with students who seek out competitions as performance opportunities. But there is a reasonableness criterion. It's a waste of just about everyone's time, including the performer's, to have a young person playing a repertoire that is completely out of line with the event. Teachers should do some due diligence to ensure that there is an appropriate match between the student's ability and training, and the event for which they are entered.

#1992587 - 11/29/12 09:30 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: lilylady]  
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Originally Posted by lilylady
I have ALWAYS had a problem with competitions for students. Young students in particular.

Music should be about SHARING MUSIC, not competing.

At all levels and ages.


Grrrrr....

end of rant.


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#1992610 - 11/29/12 11:14 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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There is no such thing as a "fair" competition.

The problem with having level based competitions (as opposed to age based ones), is that levels are too subjective. The criteria for delineating categories for different levels would be too fuzzy. ..PLUS I think a lot of scheming teachers would opt to put their best students in an "lower level" competition, so that they would have a greater chance of winning first place.

#1992614 - 11/29/12 11:34 PM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: Piano*Dad]  
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Folks, I'm going to reiterate that there are competitions, and there are COMPETITIONS.

When we're talking about events at which many thousands of dollars of scholarship money are given out, this is a serious business. At an event of this sort, it's unlikely that the organizers are interested in hearing a fifteen year old play Mozart's K545. At events of this sort, age-based criteria seem quite sensible. Scholarship auditions are about "the best," and as fraught as that judgment may seem, the "best under ten" has some meaning.

I have no problem with students who seek out competitions as performance opportunities. But there is a reasonableness criterion. It's a waste of just about everyone's time, including the performer's, to have a young person playing a repertoire that is completely out of line with the event. Teachers should do some due diligence to ensure that there is an appropriate match between the student's ability and training, and the event for which they are entered.


That's not what I meant. I'm not talking about wasting anyone's time, and I also mentioned I was referring to competing AND auditioning. You go in and do your best, but you NEVER know who else will walk in the door, so you always have to have your own goals. That is very far from saying that you go to a competition when you're not a serious contender just for the experience.

edited to add: And I would never encourage a student to try for a competition that they had no chance of winning. Nor would I have them enter something that wasn't enough of a challenge for them.

Last edited by Morodiene; 11/29/12 11:36 PM.

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#1992672 - 11/30/12 04:01 AM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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When the question was first asked I thought the answer was obvious. Students who have been studying for 5 years would compete against other students who have been studying for 5 years. Students who have been studying for 2 years would be competing with those who have been studying for 2 years. It just seemed logical. Now I understand that a student who has been studying for 8 years could compete against a student who has been studying for 2 years because they are the same chronological age. It just seems very strange. What is the logic behind that?

#1992674 - 11/30/12 04:21 AM Re: Fair Piano Competition - by age or by level? [Re: bzpiano]  
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When I grew up playing music we (my brother and I) were entered every year for the local festival competition. I did a grade exam, six months later there was the festival, 6 months later the next grade exam, and so on till I left home. It's just what we did. The competition was organised by age, so it was 'under 10s' then 'under 11s' etc. Basically it meant you could only enter if you had started around age 7, otherwise you were way behind everyone.

Sometimes I won, I was delighted. More often than not, I didn't win. Didn't upset me, as I wasn't expecting to win out of 20 performers. I was nervous, and it was good performance practice for me.

Now I am teaching the whole scene is different, and I'm not sure why. Most of my students seem to learn much slower than I did. Fully half of my students don't start at the 'normal' age of 7. The whole learning picture is much more diverse. There are very few of my students I would consider entering for competitions.

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Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member
keystring  Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Joined: Dec 2007
Posts: 14,546
Canada
Originally Posted by ten left thumbs
. Basically it meant you could only enter if you had started around age 7, otherwise you were way behind everyone.

That's the point, and the question asked by the OP. Not everyone starts lessons at the same age.

Quote
Fully half of my students don't start at the 'normal' age of 7. The whole learning picture is much more diverse.

Is it possible that the system is reflecting what you knew in your childhood and that it has not kept abreast with present day realities?

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