Sunday, March 21, 2010

Eureka Contests for Youth - Interpretation & Results

It is hard to imagine the amount of talent that we currently have right here in our own midst!  Many times, I'm in my own little bubble (which is quite good in and of itself), and I don't always get the chance to hear what's outside our Bluegrass Shack world, if you want to call it that.  Last night at the MABC Spring Bluegrass Festival I got the chance to fully listen the youth talent that was present at the contest.  It is simply amazing!

First of all, since I manage many of these contests, I don't always get the chance to listen to all the performers.  I am busy making sure the judges have everything they need, that the performers are on deck when they should be, warming up contestants, backing up contestants, presenting the awards, and many other duties that arise.  I made it a point last night to try to listen to as many of the performers as I could.  I couldn't stop thinking and talking about it afterwards.  Don't get me wrong -- it's not that I don't know it's out there and it's not even that I don't get to hear it.  It's just that I don't always get to the hear the "live" performances. 

A contest is not actually a true picture of a person's talent.  It is a small snapshot into their abilities.  What I mean by that is this:  Some people have the unique ability to rise to the occasion and really perform under pressure.  The audience energizes them.  Unfortunately for others, lack of stage experience and/or nerves and/or myriad other things prevent some performers from doing as well under pressure.  Much of this can be chalked up to the number of times a person has performed on stage or in contests; a person's general make-up and how well they do under pressure; the judges' individual tastes; coincidence or luck on a particular day; how many other contestants there are and how they perform; song choice; order of performance; and other issues. 

As an experienced teacher, I have the ability to see through mistakes not only in lessons but also in performances.  I can see and hear a fine musician flub up an entire performance and still know what kind of a musician they are.  I am able to look at the entire picture, even if I don't know the performer and haven't heard them play before.  And, obviously, if I DO know them, I am even better at this.  How?  Well, I am looking at how a person handles mistakes, how they can recover from them, execution and tone of a song, demeanor, and other things.  In a nutshell, I can learn more from a person's mistake than I can a perfect performance.  Everyone can get lucky and have a perfect or near perfect performance.  When a person makes a mistake, I get to see how they recover from that mistake.  That is a key factor in overall musicianship.

What I saw at the youth contests last night was incredible.  The banjo and fiddle contests were something that I get to see more often than anything.  The talent portion of the contest is something that we only have around here once a year.  We had 16 entries in the talent contest last night and it ranged from fiddle, to flatpick guitar, to singing, to youth bands.  Since kids are natural performers, it was a blast to watch them all in their element.  I heard a little girl named Olivia, who was not even 10 years old yet, sing Mule Skinner Blues like no one's business.  In fact, she won 3rd place in the contest!  Drew, who also played in the banjo contest, flatpicked in the last spot in the contest and was a huge hit.  His banjo playing was good, but his guitar picking was outstanding!  Drew won 1st place.  Drew is only 10 years old.  (Makes me want to throw my Martin...)  Wyatt sang with some guitar backup from dear old Dad and I can only just wait to hear what will become of this young man's future.  Sophia and Daniel did an outstanding job playing and singing Old Joe Clark.  They had the entire arrangement all figured out and performed flawlessly.  The first contestant of the night, someone I have watched for the past several years, is only 11 years old and sang and played guitar to a song that she WROTE herself.  Heather is an example of a young girl I have gotten to watch improve dramatically over the past couple of years.  She also played in the fiddle contest and won second place.  I could actually write something about each and every performer, but I think I'd run out of room here.

The kids made my evening!  If I was judging I'd have to proclaim a 10-way tie.  It was that good.  Now after that long summary, here are the actual results:

16 & Under Fiddle:
1st - Paige Park
2nd - Heather Stortz
3rd - Paige Johnson
Most Entertaining - John Klein
Youngest - Sophia Hasler

16 & Under Banjo
1st - Nikki Warnecke
2nd - Emily Hall
3rd - Drew Thurmond
Most Entertaining - Nikki Warnecke
Youngest - Drew Thurmond

16 & Under Talent
1st - Drew Thurmond
2nd - The Pickin' Chicks
3rd - Olivia Park
4th - Emily Hall
5th - Paige Johnson

Many thanks to our judges, who had some very tough decisions to make; to MABC, for sponsoring this wonderful contest and opportunity; to Carla (my mother), for her scorekeeping duties, which are vitally important for this kind of function; to Zane, for providing backup to anyone who needed it; to Steve, who did a great job on sound; and to all of the audience, who provided support to MABC and all of the performers.  It was a successful night indeed!

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