7 Qualities of a Great Piano Judge
Marcia Vahl, the Minnesota MTA Judge Education Committee Co-Chair, has recently written an article to help educate those that will be a piano judge for the Minnesota MTA piano events. She has graciously shared her article with us as well. Several of her other popular posts on judging include: 10 of the Best Judging Comments and The 4 Elements of a Great Critique.
As we are quickly approaching the time of contests, exams, and other events in Music Teacher Association programs, students all over have carefully prepared for these events. Judges also prepare extensively to be great listeners, write encouraging comments, and make wise decisions. Let’s prepare ourselves mentally, physically, and musically for a great judging season!
What Makes a Good Piano Judge?
- Great judges are on time or early (at least 30 minutes before the start of judging) and keep to the schedule they are given. Parents have schedules to keep through the day, and part of our public relations with them is keeping to the schedule, so they can make it to other events they have scheduled. Being on time and on schedule throughout the day is the best way to see that the event runs smoothly.
- Great judges take care to make the student comfortable as they enter the judging room. Your smile and a word of welcome and encouragement make a student feel more at ease.
- Great judges follow all procedures outlined in the judging policies for that event. The organization who has chosen you has done because they greatly respect the background, education, and expertise each judge brings to music events. Be equally respectful of the organization by being well acquainted with the particulars of event policies and how to grade or score each different type of event successfully.
“Above all, great judges listen for the musicianship and artistry of the whole performance and are not nit-picky when it comes to the score.”
- A great piano judge is organized at the end of the day with alternates, winners, and non-winners and are sure to leave all critiques with the Site Administrator. Site Administrators will greatly benefit when your folder and evaluations are organized per the event instructions.
- A great piano judges’ critiques are legible and contain comments consistent with all markings on the critique. In the case of piano contest, for example, the + and – section on the top half of the critique is required to be completely filled out, and the encouraging comments on the other half of the critique should reflect the + and – you marked.
- Great judges’ comments are always stated in a positive way, sincere, friendly and helpful for the stage of the musician.
- Great piano judges’ see The Big Picture First. There is a strong tendency for many of us to address issues and details over commenting on the communication of the performance as a whole. One judge said it this way: “In my earlier experiences of judging competitions, I would spend too much time critiquing the details and missed out on opportunities to mention the more important issues that might have contributed to the success (or failure) of the performance. Seeing ‘the big picture first’ is a practice worth developing.”
For example, ask yourself:
Q: What is the general music concept I would like to address?
Q: What specifically about the performer’s technique need I comment on? A: Fluidity of scales, brilliance in tone – commendable; unintended accentuation – needs work
Remember: your first responsibility as adjudicator is to critique a performance and provide a score/rating deserving of the performance. Be careful not to step into your “teacher shoes” and focus too much on pedantic comments. Above all, great judges listen for the musicianship and artistry of the whole performance and are not nit-picky when it comes to the score. We desire artistic performances, with allowance for individual interpretation.
What are you doing right now to make sure you’re ready for events you’ve been invited to be a piano judge?
- 10 of the Best Piano Judging Comments
- The 4 Elements of a Great Critique
- Teach Active Listening and Student Critiquing – Free printables
Marcia A. Vahl, NCTM, is owner and teacher at Maple Grove Piano in Maple Grove, Minnesota. Her background includes degrees in music education and piano performance, 30+ years teaching experience in the classroom and private lesson studio, and more than 20 years church music ministry. She is an active member of both MMTA, MTNA, and National Piano Guild. She has served MMTA as hospitality chairman for judges at the state contest, judge for theory, piano exams, and contest, and secretary for the Education Council. Most recently she served as State Contest Administrator for 2005-2006 and Vice President of Minnesota State Piano Contests from 2006-2010. She has given presentations on Motivation, Building A Website for Your Studio, and Judge Training at the Minnesota State Convention. Her current responsibility is Judge Education Chair for Minnesota Music Teachers Association.