Evening programs - 7 PM sharp
• Please note that students must arrive by 7 PM sharp (not 7:30 as in past years) on both Friday and Saturday evenings.
• The "Winners Recital" (2001-2013) has been abolished. Instead, all participants will play their best selection (chosen by the judges at adjudications) for the "Celebration of Students' Best Recital." No student will be excluded from performing. This new format will help bolster our message that there are no "losers" in this festival. All students will be fêted for their best work. As always, every student will receive a congratulatory Participant Certificate and one prize for their hard work and courage in performing. By shining a joyous spotlight on everyone's "winning" accomplishments first, we hope that the awarding of First Prizes and Honorable Mentions later on in the evening will be seen as "frosting on the cake" rather than the be-all and end-all of the festival.
• The quality of performances at the "Celebration" recital will not affect the judges' prize decisions. Judges will have already determined prizes (based on adjudications) during their deliberations. So students, just relax and enjoy the limelight on this program. Your "trial" is over. Everyone is rooting for you and honoring your best achievement in this program!
Announcement of Prizes at Awards Ceremony
• Prize decisions will not be posted or announced prior to the Awards Ceremony. Since there is no longer a direct tie-in between prizes and the student recital, we feel it is better to hold off announcing the prizes until the Awards Ceremony. Please do not make the judges or Director of the festival uncomfortable by trying to coax them to "spill the beans" prior to the Awards Ceremony. A strict "gag order" will be in effect. Students: Even if you think you did not win any prizes, please do not ungraciously decide to go AWOL on Saturday evening (more on that below). Students who have done that in the past often found out later that they did indeed win a prize, but forfeited it by being absent.
• Remember: Students must fulfill all festival requirements to receive prizes. That means attending at least 3 adjudications (beyond your own), attending the Friday evening program, performing on the "Celebration of Students' Best Recital" and being present throughout the Awards Ceremony. (Prize requirement exceptions might be made for Honorable Mentions only due to highly extenuating circumstances, at the Director's discretion.)
• Judges will award no more than approximately 5 Honorable Mentions so as to confer greater significance to these prizes. Also, this will more likely keep the pool of non-prize recipients from getting so small that students feel stigmatized. But speaking of stigmas, please read on...
No Awards = Bad Performance? (Probably not!)
• Should students who are awarded no prizes assume they performed badly? Here's a far more likely explanation:
Heavily contested prize categories. Let's say 6 students perform a piece from the Romantic era. Let's assume further that 4 of those students play their piece quite well. There is only 1 "Best Romantic Period" prize (though judges sometimes split a prize). Even in a "best case scenario" wherein the judges split the "Best Romantic Period" prize and award an Honorable Mention to boot, that still leaves 1 deserving student unawarded. Furthermore, if that same student happens to play only repertory from heavily contested categories, the end result might be no prizes at all despite commendable performances. The judges work hard to avoid this, but there are only a finite number of prizes.
Lightly contested categories
On the other hand, let's say that only 1 festival student performs a transcription. This student is almost a shoo-in for the "Best Transcription" prize. ("Almost" because judges are not obligated to award every category of prize; performances must meet at least a minimum level of excellence.)
The aforementioned scenarios illustrate how the number of prizes earned (or not earned) may sometimes reflect more on the choice of repertory & skills presented than on the quality of performances. It might be tempting for a parent of a non-awardee to think, "My Suzie Q [Romantic Period performer] played way better than that Best Transcription kid! What were the judges thinking?!!" On the surface, that sentiment is understandable, but it's a classic case of "apples and oranges." The fact that someone's Chopin may be superior to another's jazz (or vice versa) is not necessarily relevant, especially when conferring prizes in highly restricted categories.
Respecting Prize Decisions & Good Sportsmanship
Teachers, parents and students are strongly urged to take the time to read carefully the festival website and understand its intricacies. Adjudicating this festival is immensely complicated and challenging; the judges' notes and "prizes worksheets" make the federal tax code look simple by comparison. The judges care deeply and work very hard to validate as many students as reasonably possible, as fairly as possible. They discuss, re-discuss and often agonize over decisions, for they passionately want to be as encouraging as possible and avoid hurt feelings. But judges must often make close calls. Difficult decisions must be made and should be accepted with grace, understanding, and humility. (Why humility? Well, check out their bios - there's quite a bit of training and expertise in them thar hills.) Of course, that's not to say that judges are infallible - they're human, after all. But aspersions on their integrity or motives (blessedly rare, thank goodness) only reflect poorly on the judgment, civility and grace of the accuser. Prizes are fun, but let's keep most of our focus on the festival's valuable learning experiences. Students, given half a chance, are resilient in the face of disappointments and are better served if we encourage them to look forward, not backward, by strategizing, learning, and practicing hard throughout the year so as to perform better and better in each festival.
Tips for Students