Today I played piano at a festival. I was accompanying some very talented and lovely young people who were baring their soul to an adjudicator. One of them was my daughter Martha. (Well it wasn't going to be Ben as he can barely say 'Paw Patrol' and it wasn't going to be Iris as she is a mere 5 months old.)
Everyone had worked hard, committed to performing in front of some peers, parents and friends and given their time, effort and indeed their all to sell a story through song, read a poem or connect to a pop song.
My wife Catherine teaches most of these children. Otherwise, I'd not have known that this opportunity existed. I never did festivals as child.
What is a festival I hear you ask? Well, simply put, it's an opportunity for a young person to sing, dance or act in front of an adjudicator who marks them and then dishes out a result where someone gets first, someone gets second and someone gets third. The rest get a mark and feedback and usually some nice comments pertaining to them improving in the future.
All well and good. BUT!
Firstly, art is subjective. I personally find Mick Hucknall a contemptible knobhead who whines his way through a song from start to finish. However, many people think he's the best ever. Including Mick, it turns out who voted his own material best song ever. Toss pot. But my point is, art is subjective. One person's awesome, is another person's terrible.
Secondly, young people are under enough pressure. They don't need calling out when they choose to express themselves artistically. Good or ill.
Finally, a recent argument I heard against the whole idea of competition holds a bit of weight with me. The argument goes that by competing against fellow humans, we are suggesting superiority against others. We are stifling the expression of our fellows in order to win against them. Put politically, our current obsession with 'winning' is destroying our innate humanity of failing. The desire to prove a winner is damaging the world we live in. If the Wright Brothers were afeared of failure, mankind wouldn't be benefitting from the invention of flight. No flight, no aerial warfare, no missile development, no space race, no mission to Mars, the world is a different place. Extraordinary variables to play with there. Feel free to plan a future for humanity without flight in the comments below!
So why did I enjoy said festival? Well...
I witnessed all candidates apply themselves and try their hardest to show the world what they've got. This showing of determination was so super awesome.
I witnessed all candidates consider the feelings of others performing. Whether they be watching a fellow competitor or a supporting a friend or offering words of encouragement to a younger (or older) festival attendee, I saw children aged 4 - 18 act beyond their years.
I witnessed a genuine expression of feeling. Yes, of course it's easy, even from an Aspie point of view, to see the clear expression of feeling whilst people are singing, BUT it's more than that. The work that has gone into the preparation for each candidate, the hours spent learning lyrics, creating moves, connecting to emotions that many younger people haven't felt before was awesome. I beamed with pride even for those I didn't know. For many, the opportunity to open themselves in such an obvious way was a hard task. To those who journeyed that way, I am completely in awe of you.
Martha picked up a first place and second place and was so happy with her success. Most importantly, she was SO happy for her friend who pipped her to first. Whilst clearly disappointed on one hand, her urge was to congratulate her friend and move forward saying how happy she was that her friend had achieved a great result and how proud she was to know her. This was the level of professionalism and behaviour I experienced all day.
I wish all mankind could be so magnanimous and I truly wish that we could return to the realms of competition for development's sake. Surely the days of damning people for trying has passed? Surely the need to ridicule has disappeared for good? Surely, the efforts of participants of creative ventures will be recognised and not patronised?
I'll end with a simple, well done everyone. I was intensely proud to accompany you all. Sure, I had my favourite songs to play, but your ingenuity and passion always added to my efforts. As Sondheim would say, 'I wish to go to the festival'. I did. Thank you all!