The Subjectivity of Kiwanis Festivals

Had an interesting experience watching some 11 year old piano students perform in the local Kiwanis Festival yesterday. The adjudicator was a well-respected Canadian composer and performer but her adjudications seemed odd to me.


Now I'm a performer of 35 years and have been teaching since 1980 so I know a thing or two about piano performance but couldn't for the life of me determine what this adjudicator's criteria were for assessing the 11 and under Baroque class.


Students were beginning their pieces in the wrong octave, missing endings, leaving out whole sections while others played with poise, excellent tone and hand position and solid memory work. Most of the beautiful playing went unnoticed while others were rewarded for being ill-prepared.


Back a step. All these young players performed well. Some exceptionally well, but I don't think it would take exceptional musical perception to tell which deserved the 1, 2, 3 placements. None of the students held to Baroque performance practices nor played with a great degree of sensitivity and expression. So what was the judging based on? Don't know and couldn't tell.


So I appeal to all those who place great weight on such festivals and have children spend countless hours in preparation, to take it all with a grain of salt. The objectivity of the adjudicators is no different from our own objectivity on topics of our own expertise. We are all subject to opinion. We are all affected by mood, room temperature and emotion so let's not get too knotted up over a single juror's opinion.


I have only performed once or twice in the Kiwanis Music Festival as a child and even then felt the futility of exposing oneself to criticism and judgment. I let it go and went on to enjoy making music as a lifelong career.

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