Printer-friendly version
Alice Smith

February 13, 2005 at 11:59 PM

These past three days have been some of the worst of my life. But it's a long story, just warning you.
So, this is what happened. As I wrote in my last entry, I got into the finals of a BIG competition. Only the Children's division, but it's still a big deal. Anyway, my whole family was really excited, and I was so happy, and all of my friends were congratulating me. It was really great. The other two kids in the finals were pianists; we knew their names and instruments but no ages. (Nothing came up when we googled them either, so it was pretty much a mystery.) So for two weeks before the competition, I worked really hard, and so did my mom and teacher, especially. He gave me extra lessons every day of the week, not to mention letting me borrow his old Italian violin for about two months. Anyway, we were really all psyched up for this, and it was so exciting. We worked out a 10 minute warmup to do (they give you ten minutes in a practice room before you go out) and I took two weeks off from school to prepare, stretching the patience of my school teachers and friends. So, finally it's the day of the competition. I was reading the comics while eating breakfast and happened to come over the horoscopes, which I hardly ever read and didn't believe in. Anyway, I read them just for fun. And this is what my horoscope said:
You cannot win for losing.
That kind of freaked me out, but I didn't exactly know what it meant. I told my mom, and she said to read her horoscope. It said:
Your trust in somebody will go up in smoke. .
Then we read my violin teachers and it said: Act as if it doesn't really matter.
At this point we were laughing (a bit nervously) and said that this was the day we'd prove that newspaper horoscopes were wrong.

I spent the morning practicing, and a few hours later my teacher and accompanist came to the main branch of my music school so we could warm up close to where the competition was. I was feeling really prepared, and the warmup had gone well. So we headed over to the hall, and signed in. There I saw the two other kids in my division, a girl my age and a boy who looked about 9. I changed into my dress, and warmed my vibrato up silently, and we trooped into the warmup room. My accompanist and teacher were great backstage; they were cool as cucumbers and very reassuring. I'm glad we didn't arrive there too early; I've found that the longer I stay at the place where I perform before I perform, the more nervous I get.

Eventually somebody told us it was time and walked us backstage. I was feeling, oddly, not too nervous. I bounced up and down a bit and paced. I could hear the girl before me doing her audition. She sounded great, but not being a pianist, I didn't get a very good sense. She finished, and came off the stage. She smiled and wished me good luck, and I congratulated her on her performance. I walked out onto the stage.

Now, in the preliminaries of this competition, it's a closed audition, and it's blind. (Which is not the best, becuase although it does make it more honest it's hard to play for a screen instead of an audience. you can see.) But in the finals it's an open audition, kind of like a concert, and it's not blind to the judges. About a hundred people were there, including a lot of my family. So I tuned, smiled and began. Playing in that hall was amazing. It is HUGE, and pretty, and the stage is big. My performance of the Vieuxtemps was great. I didn't feel very nervous, but I could feel my legs shaking. I was told I got very big applause, but I couldn't really tell, as I was feeling exhausted. I smiled brightly, bowed and walked off.

After I got offstage, I started to cry. I tried not to but it was really hard. I told my teacher, who was waiting backstage for me, and my accompanist, that I thought it was terrible and I was really upset. They tried to calm me down, and they said it was the most musical they ever heard. It only took a few minutes for me to stop, and my accompanist told me it was just the feeling of let-down, and I totally agreed. It happened to me last year after this competition, and after an orchestra solo. So I felt better, and decided I thought the performance was really good. I put away my violin, and by that time the third kid was done, so I went out into the lobby and all of my fans (i.e., family and friends) told me how great they thought it was, and a lot of people told me that hands down, I was the best. I hadn't heard a lot of the two pianists so I didn't know, but I was feeling pretty good.

So my teacher and I watched the rest of the divisions, including the vocal, and four hours later went to the reception in the same building, where they would announce the winners. I hung out for a while with my friends, ate some food, and then the MC came out, and made the expected speech: "the judges were very impressed with everyone, it was a great experience, we have no concern about the future of classical music, blah blah, everyone here is a winner, but of course the prize could only go to a few." I had prepared myself for winning, and for losing to the pianists, even the 9 year old one. I braced myself, and then they dropped the bombshell.
"The jury has decided not to award a prize in the Children's Division. Moving on..."

I got this really weird tingling feeling in the pit of my stomach. My mom, who was sitting in front of me, turned around slowly with her face totally aghast. Later, she told me she saw the other girl's eyes fill with tears and her mother whisked her out of the room. I felt very empty and I'm sure my shoulders just drooped. Meanwhile, the announcer kept talking cheerfully. He handed out two awards in the Junior division, instead of one. And two in the Senior division, instead of one. And one in the Vocal Division. After the winners were announced, the room emptied very quickly but other contestants were weeping in the hallways. A few people stood around and awkwardly congratulated me on getting to the finals. My mom was still completely horrified, and my eyes felt watery. My family went out to dinner with my violin teacher afterwards. We talked about it, and we came to what seemed like a good excuse for not giving a prize in my division; nowadays, they put all the winners on one concert, whereas in the past each winner got their own concert. 5 winners performing one one concert, some of them a whole concerto, was already pushing it. So who did they boot off the concert? The youngest, weakest, least experienced players. Which made sense. But I had this feeling of incompletion. I felt like, well, who won? Who won this competition that all three of us worked SO hard for? Also, this feeling of public humiliation. They basically said, in front of everyone in the room, and to everyone in the city who would find out the next day, "Sorry, none of you are good enough."

It didn't really hit me until the next day, where I slept till 11. It was a gloomy day, but I had to go to orchestra. What was terrible though, was when my teacher called up at 10 o'clock that night and basically told me that if I had played the beginning more in tune, they couldn't have not picked me. I burst into tears and gave the phone to my mom. She talked with him for a long time, and I went to my room and cried into my pillow. After a while, she emerged from her office looking considerably brighter. She told me that my teacher said this was a wake-up call. I should stop doing so many competitions and go into "hibernation" to get a huge, monsterous technique. That didn't especially make me feel any better, but that's the plan. My mom and teacher decided to cancel my spring competitions. And I'm really mad about that. But I have to do it.
I'm very depressed right now. My only consolation is that I got the part of Miss Hannigan in my school musical, which is something I really wanted. And tomorrow, I'm going to Harrisburg with my class to protest the cutbacks to public transportation. Yay. .

From Emily Grossman
Posted on February 14, 2005 at 3:15 AM
My heart cried with you as I read about your disappointment in the competition. I wanted to yell that it wasn't fair, and I thought it was a very unwise decision on the part of the jury to slight your age group like that. I suppose these comments would only add fuel to bitterness, when the only thing you can really do is pick up and move on and show them next time. Don't you let them keep you down! Good luck in the future, and congratulations for having the nerve to put it on the line like that.
From Pauline Lerner
Posted on February 14, 2005 at 4:26 AM
I am so sorry about the competition results, and I understand your disappointment. I think the judges were unfair and unwise to dismiss the youngest competitors so lightly. It obviously meant so much to you, and you worked so hard for it. I'm glad you wrote about it in such detail and posted it for us to read. You write *very* well, and writing can be therapeutic. Although this was a terrible disappointment for you, you will have lots of good experiences with your violin soon. That's not in your horoscope, but it's true.
From Nisha Bala
Posted on February 14, 2005 at 6:36 AM
It must have been very dissapointing for you, I can imagine. But your teacher and mom is probably right :) Once you get the 'monstrous' technique after a break, you'll be loads better (both playing and maturity wise)and probably sweep first prize! Good luck :)
From Laurie Niles
Posted on February 14, 2005 at 6:41 AM
I am totally appalled. I've judged contests before, and the idea of not giving out an award in the Children's's just ridiculous! Isn't the idea of a competition like this to encourage children? I'm fuming for you, if that helps at all!
From paul king
Posted on February 14, 2005 at 2:43 PM
I sympathise with Alice as well.
I guess though, that whether or not a prize is awarded is always at the judges' discretion, and this is presumably stipulated in the entry conditions. Whether you should have such a condition in a childrens' category is another matter.
From Scott 68
Posted on February 14, 2005 at 7:49 PM
As Mr Francescatti said life is a fight...

You should be proud - you played your heart out, you worked hard. Nothing good is easy or free in life, just remember all this will pay off one day and try to have fun

From Sue Donim
Posted on February 15, 2005 at 3:01 AM
Hey Alice,

I've written you privately about the competition. But I've just read your update and wanted to say congratulations on getting Miss Hannigan; it's by far the best part in a terrific musical. Have fun!:)

From Nick Bleisch
Posted on February 15, 2005 at 5:15 PM
(Stupid judges.)

In my estimation, YOU WON!

And I'm glad you don't have any more competitions this year. Itzhak Perlman I read somewhere says he doesn't see the point in too much competing. He said something like, "Playing in a competition is fine if you want to have experience playing under terrific pressure. But don't enter to win."

We all know, decisions can be so political.


I hope I get to hear you someday in carnegie.

Cheers! Nick

This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Yamaha Silent Violin
Yamaha Silent Violin

Corilon Violins
Corilon Violins

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Business Directory Business Directory Guide to Online Learning Guide to Online Learning

ARIA International Summer Academy

Meadowmount School of Music

Antonio Strad Violin

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop

Bobelock Cases


Los Angeles Violin Shop

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Metzler Violin Shop

Leatherwood Bespoke Rosin



Johnson String Instrument and Carriage House Violins

Potter Violins

String Masters

Bein & Company

Annapolis Bows & Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine