Why I Hate Competitions

I had occasion this evening to attend an amateur singing competition for kids and young adults. They had been selected via video clips and were in a semi-finals to compete for a nice package of prizes and money totaling about $25,000 as the grand prize for the winner.

Unfortunately, the range of ability in this competition was very wide and two of the most talented contestants did not make it into the next round. This wouldn’t have been so awful had not two of the final four chosen been so rotten. These chosen kids (both age 11) sang B A D L Y. One had material that was poorly chosen and totally inappropriate for a kid (Why Don’t You Do Right?). The other girl sang an Andrea Bocelli song in a yodeling voice (with a huge cracking break between chest and head) ending on a sustained high pitch that was one full tone sharp and was dressed, of course, is a ball gown.
Since at least two others in the group of 10 were pitch perfect and very effective, I thought this choice was just insane. True, the other two of the final four who were sent to the finals were good and should have been sent on, but it must have been very upsetting for the two really good kids to lose to two who were so bad.
How could this happen, you ask?
The judges, that’s how. Four men. Not names I knew. Clearly, not singers or musicians of any level of skill. Why else would they have made such blatantly poor choices? You didn’t have to be a musician to realize that two of the four who were chosen were lousy. My husband, the chemist, could tell, and he is no expert.
It should be IMPERATIVE to have judges of any kind of a contest in which people are going to sing and compete for money and “fame” to be knowledgeable about SINGING. Not song writing, not producing, not being a dj, not being an owner of a music store, not being a teacher of clarinet, not being a band leader of a high school marching band, not being a local celebrity or politico. NO. It is necessary to have judges who are experts at singing. How hard would it be to get such judges? I was only two hours out of mid-town Manhattan. There are a lot of music colleges in the area. Surely, if anyone really cared about who SANG the best, they could have made the effort to get judges who would have picked the kid who played gangbusters piano and sang a great cover, and the kid who did her own very good version of “At Last” even though she was only 15.
I realize that the TV model has made this worse. Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell do NOT know singing, but they think they do because the are producers. This goes back to the same old saw I am always grinding that people think singing is “just singing” and that it’s really no big deal. When the general public has zero music education it may be that they can’t discriminate between lousy and good, but there are still music professionals who are singers first who would be able to pick the performers who stayed in tune (at least) and who sang with some clue about what was supposed to be happening.
This is why I NEVER watch the TV competition shows. I find them, as I found all the many local competitions I ran or judged here in NYC, to be exceptionally frustrating. Even the judges who were members of the professional associations here often had no clue. You can join the singing teachers organizations without being able to do what you profess to teach, (crazy, but true). Another old saw and a different post.
The kids who were good and lost anyway had to go home knowing that the girl who sang a full tone sharp and the girl who sang a song that no eleven-year old should touch and who had no idea what she was doing when she sang it, got a shot at the big prize. If they are spunky, the loss will mean nothing to them and they will keep going. Show business is the most competitive of professions and if you want to sing, you have to be able to stand up to rejection after rejection after rejection without letting it bother you in any way. Tough, yes, but real.
It’s no picnic, even to the listeners in the audience, but really folks, it makes me want to run up to the judges and scream……….What’s wrong with you? Are you deaf?
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2 thoughts on “Why I Hate Competitions”

  1. A follow up. The 11 year old who sang the “Opera Aria”, Con Te Partiro and wore the Ball Gown, reprised her performance in the finals. Her performance was no better. Her registers were unbalanced and seperate. Her final note started a whole tone sharp and ended a major third sharp. So of course, she WON the competition. It made me sick to my stomach. A travesty! The prize: $2000, a piano, a Honda Civic and the belief, that she is the most talented singer in New Jersey. Unbelievable.

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