My daughter sang in the Kiwanis Music Festival today. It was so sweet. All the girls who sang were very cute. I love the fact that Riley likes to perform in front of an audience – she’s really into it, and I hope she will always retain that joy for sharing music. Last year was the first year she sang in the festival, and it was a non-competitive class – everyone got a participant ribbon, no first-second-third nonsense. If only life could be so, well, non-competitive. Although Riley’s classes were competitive this year, she still didn’t seem too concerned about whether or not she would win, although she very much hoped to get a ribbon (colour not important), just because she likes ribbons – and she came home with a blue one and a white one (even better – two different colours!).
You might wonder what would be the point of having competitive classes at that age – is there any real purpose to being marked and ranked when you’re seven? I suppose it prepares kids for “real life” and the reality of sports and spelling bees… and jobs. Having gone through that whole music festival experience myself, as both participant and adjudicator, I am cognizant of the somewhat subjective nature of music competitions – of how the adjudicator’s own musical tastes, biases and expectations come into play in their evaluations. When I adjudicate, or when I have to mark my university students on their progress, I always find myself wishing I didn’t have to assign a mark – that I could just relate my comments and constructive criticism, and leave it at that. Of course, that would be taking the easy way out – and what kind of message would that send to the kids? There’s already an attitude (borderline epidemic?) of entitlement apparent among today’s youths. Perhaps we should embrace any opportunity to demonstrate to kids that success requires effort, that hard work is rewarded – and that you don’t automatically get something just because you want it.
While we may worry now about our desire to keep the music festival experience a good one, it is inevitable, if the adjudicators are doing their job, that Riley (and Bailey, in his turn) will experience disappointment along the way. And rather than try to negate or temper the impact of such an experience, perhaps the best thing we can do as parents is to make sure our kids learn something valuable in the process – how to deal with disappointment, to see it as an opportunity to build character, and to always look for the positive in any situation. Lifelong goals, for sure. And if we can keep music-making fun through all of that, then I will be very happy.