My job as a music adjudicator

I have just returned from the British and International Federation of Festivals Conference which was held in Bristol over the weekend. Music Festivals are mini amateur competitions held all around the UK  (there are many abroad too) and they play an important role in the British music scene. Consisting of many different instrumental, vocal and chamber music classes, a festival provides an excellent opportunity for budding young musicians to perform and receive constructive criticism from an experienced adjudicator. That’s my job. I was fortunate enough to be selected last October and have attended various ‘test’ days over the past year where I have routinely had to demonstrate my ability and suitability  to be an adjudicator. Selection is quite a lengthy procedure and very few are recommended to join the panel of professional adjudicators (there were just two of us last October).

The Federation Conference was attended by approximately 150 delegates from the Speech, Drama and Music areas of each festival; these mainly included festival organisers and adjudicators. During the three day event there were copious lectures and discussions relating to important issues ensuring each festival runs smoothly.

I particularly enjoyed the guest speaker, Andrew Curran, who is a Consultant Paediatric Neurologist and TV Presenter. His talk examined the effects of performances on the human condition. It was fascinating. We were treated to an indepth description of how the brain works and how this affects our music making and thought processes. Curran was humourous yet hard hitting in approach and some of his conclusions were thought provoking indeed.

The conference provided a wonderful opportunity to chat to all those involved in the Federation. This is possibly the only chance festival organisers get to meet those who work at Federation House allowing them to ask pertinent questions regarding the successful coordination of their festival. It’s also an ideal occasion for adjudicators like myself to meet these organisers with a view to future bookings. I have since been booked for several festivals in 2014 – in the distant future or so it seems, but festival adjudicators are often booked many years ahead. My first engagement at the moment will be next June at the Leamington Spa Festival where I will adjudicate two days of piano classes (I’m a generalist adjudicator as well as a piano specialist).

There are many ways to get pianists and piano students performing publically but a music festival is a great chance to play locally and meet other like minded individuals. If you are an instrumental or music teacher with students who would benefit from practising their pieces before their music exams or perhaps you are an adult who would like performing experience, then do consider entering.

www.federationoffestivals.org.uk


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


Music Festivals – A platform for your child

I spent a few hours listening to vocal classes at the Chesham Arts Festival this evening. As I live a stone’s throw from The Elgiva Theatre it seemed a good idea to support my local festival. I thoroughly enjoyed it and all the young singers (mostly girls) gave their best, some producing admirable performances. Sadly though, there were about twenty people in the audience (most of them competitors).

Music Festivals are an ideal platform for young musicians to learn their trade. There are hundreds around the UK – so there is bound to be one near you. If you have a child who is preparing to take a music exam then a music festival is the best place for them to get used to giving a performance in public. Performing is a stressful business and everyone who does it needs practice especially when they are just starting out.

If you enter your child for a festival, they will usually be placed in a class of similar age and ability (you can choose which class on the entry form). All competitors will be invited to perform their piece or pieces to a small audience and an adjudicator. At the end of the class, after everyone has played, the adjudicator will give comments and feedback on every performance and then announce a winner. The atmosphere at these events is both friendly and relaxed, quite different from an examination.

The old adage is true here; it really isn’t the winning, it’s the taking part that counts. The one major benefit of performing in public is to build confidence. The more confidence a person has the better they will act under pressure. Learning to perform really is a useful tool for so many situations in life. Its the reason why I feel that every child should have the opportunity to learn an instrument (more on this subject in future blogs!).

If you wish to investigate Music Festivals as a possible activity for you (if you are learning an instrument – there are many adult classes too!) or your child, here are a few suggestions:

Make sure your child really knows the piece they are going to perform (it’s a good idea to get them to play it through to a few relatives first before the big day). If a competitor is unprepared it could knock their confidence and stop them trying to play in public ever again. Preparation is the key to success.

Make sure your child has plenty of family support on the day (why not watch the whole event?).

Always give your child plenty of praise afterwards – you have no idea how difficult it is to get up and perform in public.

You can get lots of information about Music Festivals all over the UK (and abroad) from the following website:

http://www.federationoffestivals.org.uk/

Some competitors in Scotland:


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.