auditions, concerts, and contests are usually worth the stress for students. I still believe this is the case, but the key word here is "usually." There are times when it's better for students to avoid a particular audition or contest, or avoid having too many of them in a short period. So under what circumstances should a student withdraw from an audition, and when should they tough it out?
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1. Injury or Illness
Many musicians rely on the fragile muscles and bones of their fingers and hands to perform, while singers and wind players also develop fine control of the muscles in their mouth and throat. While we can try to prevent injuries and illness as best we can, sometimes the worst happens. When it does, we must take time to rest and recover. Playing or performing with an injury risks exacerbating it, possibly doing permanent damage to delicate muscles, tendons, and tissues. Repetitive stress injuries have ruined careers. Don't let it happen to you! No audition is important enough to risk it (besides, how well can you play with a serious injury anyway?)
2. When It's Distracting
While auditions and contests can be a great way to set goals, it's important to keep in mind students' "long game." One particular audition is rarely a make or break moment in a student's career, especially if it's a small scale, local event. If the audition is taking up a student's time and energy from more important goals like developing excellent technique or preparing for more important things down the line, then it's better to withdraw or not participate. There's no point in stressing out over a small scale audition and losing focusing on the bigger picture.
3. When It's Unfair
We all know music schools that hold competitions that are supposedly open to anyone, but are somehow magically won only by students who attend that school. Or students who study with one of the judges. What's the point in participating in anything like that? They just want to collect entrance fees from outside participants to fund scholarships or reward money for their favorites. I once was visiting the home of a music professor I knew, and I noticed a pile of dusty tapes and CDs on the floor. When I asked him what they were, he said they were audition recordings for a festival where he would teach that summer. Then he told me he didn't plan to listen to any of them--he'd already picked out which of his students were going to the festival. I remember looking at that sad pile of CDs, thinking of all the times I'd sent off recordings like that, and wondering how many of those carefully recorded auditions ended up on someone's floor.
Auditions can be a valuable learning experience and a great goal for many students, but make sure they choose their auditions wisely and keep a healthy perspective.