Last Saturday, my oldest daughter participated in the ISSMA (Indiana State School Music Assocation) piano contest. Tomorrow, she participates in the ISSMA contest for her flute. So, it seemed appropriate to remember my music contest memories.
I took piano for 10 years, beginning in second grade. I took from Miss Barkman for five years. Then she moved to Florida, and I took five years from Mrs. Gilkey. During the Gilkey years, I went to Federation piano contest each year.
“Contest” was held at Indiana University’s School of Music. To this day, I cannot walk through the halls of that building without getting a stomach ache. Contest was one of those things I’m glad I did in retrospect, but it stressed me out at the time.
We were required to memorize two pieces, a “required” and a “choice”. When it was your turn, you entered the room and played for the judges. These judges were no pushovers – despite practicing the pieces for months and having a recital beforehand, I can recall at least one year where I didn’t get a first place.
I remember a judge’s comment one year: “the sound of fingernails clicking on the keys is not pleasant.” Even now, I think of that each time I trim my nails.
After everyone had played, we went to the auditorium for the “Honors Recital”. This was a unique type of torture. No one knew who would play in this recital. The judges recommended some people based on their performance in the morning, and at the recital the lady on stage would call out a name, and that person would have to walk up on stage and immediately play.
Not a lot of people were called to participate in this, but the possibility of it definitely kept me on my toes. One year a little kid was called, and he played this ridiculously difficult violin solo. My mom said to me, “I pity the person who has to play after him.” Guess what? My name was called next – I believe it was my one and only appearance in the Honors Recital. (By the way, this was the little kid who played before me).
Band instrumental contest was another contest I participated in from grades 7-12. I played oboe, and performed a different solo each year with my mom accompanying me. These seemed to make me less nervous, probably because oboe music is easier to memorize (it’s just one note at a time, unlike piano where there’s more going on to remember).
At band contest, you would play your solo and then go into the hall to await the proctor coming out every so often to post ratings on a sheet by the door. I remember waiting nervously for those ratings to be posted. Then you would go to a table in the hall and claim your medal. I proudly pinned all those medals into the velvet in my oboe case.
What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~Cynthia Ozick