I was delighted to win the 2018 Campillos Interntaional Piano Competition, but instead of just bragging about the results, I thought I will give you some insights about competitions, things that only a participant would know.
So many people are playing in competitions and from the outside it looks very simple: a bunch of musicians play their best and a jury chooses their favourite to win. It’s a great opportunity to be noticed and get a boost for your career. Going on that stage and pushing yourself to the limit is the difficult bit, but that’s a only small portion of the time you spend at a competition. How other participants choose to spend their free time is always fascinating to me. As performers, we need to put ourselves in the zone where we feel most comfortable, but everyone has got their own way of doing this, it’s very personal, therefore sometimes people’s methods can be unusual.
Just to amuse myself, I have come up with some competition characters based on the pianists I’ve meet over the years. Just to make it clear, I do not mean to make fun of anyone’s preparation methods – I’ve tried most of them myself! So here are the types of participants I usually meet:
The ‘I need to practice more’ participant
You can find them in the practice facilities at any time of the day or night. They’ll find that free piano even if they have to break into the building!
The ‘Champion’ participant
The pianist with extraordinary self-esteem. Most of their free time they’ll be guessing who else is going to be with them in the final round.
The ‘Party’ participant
Always in the nearest bar inviting others to have some drinks. Very social and fun to be around, this participant will make friends with everyone and have a great time.
The ‘Mephisto’ participant
This is a character who is incredibly persuasive, especially when it comes to having fun: a very dangerous participant. After spending a night with ‘Mephisto’, the next day might not be the easiest.
The ‘Davidsbündler’ participant
A very noble participant who celebrates the art of music making and supports all other participants. You will find them listening to the others and giving many compliments.
The ‘Mafioso’ participant
This type of participant is always trying to find out what relations participants have with members of the jury. With that knowledge they will try to determine the results because, according to the ‘Mafioso’ participant, everything is decided before the competition even starts.
The ‘Tourist’ participant
You probably won’t meet this participant very often, but if you do, they’ll be about the town with their camera, wearing sun glasses and a flowered shirt. No matter what the outcome of the competition, this participant is going to make sure they see the sights.
The ‘Poet’ participant
Messy hair, old book in hand, cigarette between their fingers, very stylish clothes. This is how you’ll recognise the ‘Poet’ participant. They’re not interested in the competition so nobody really knows why they’re here. They’re more concerned with life, death and the journey we are all taking.
The ‘Business’ participant
Very well prepared, knows the rules of the game, has experience and a great plan. They’ll only speak to the people in the competition they find useful and in their free time they’ll organise fancy dinners and trips. For the ‘Business’ participant it seems that the competition is just one of a dozen projects they’re realising at the moment.
The ‘Homeless’ participant
This competitor desperately needs to win because they arrived with absolutely no money or a place to stay. The competition becomes a real battle for a better life and therefore they play like they're never going to play again. Carrying a bag full of food and scores this participant is a bit crazy, but incredibly interesting to have conversation with.
The ‘Another Day at Office’ participant
“This is my fourth competition this month”, they mention. They’re traveling from one competition to another and make a living only doing competitions. Very well prepared and with lots of experience being on the stage, this competitor feels at home wherever they go and has no emotions about the competition at all. They’ll set an alarm clock not to miss the performance time because they might forget about it doing some ordinary things like cooking or taking a bath.
You can imagine that there is a lot of fun to be had during the spare time at a piano competition, when all these different characters from around the world interact. At my last competition I was very lucky to be the winner (I also received the audience award), but I’m also very grateful for all the people I met for making that time so fun and fulfilling.
Do you agree with my list of characters? And if you also participate in competitions, which type are you??