"I'M THE BEST PIANIST IN THE STATE!"
So proclaimed a nine-year old friend of one of my (very talented) students.
This student pianist felt he could make this claim because he had won first place in a state music competition.
My student told me this, then showed me how fast his friend could play "Knight Ruppert."
I asked my student "What do you think music is about-- how fast you play/"
"No" answered my student.
"What IS the purpose of music?"
"Yes, feelings and imagination and how the music is put together."
Narcissism can be a problem for musicians young and old, professional, semi-professional, or amateur.
I am sure the child making this claim is a very fine pianist with excellent technical skills. I am sure he was well-trained in the style of the pieces he played to win the first place trophy at the event. No doubt the student's teacher was extremely knowledgeable about music and teaching.
However, to get that award, in any age category, the student only has to receive a Superior rating from one judge at the District level, and a Superior rating from another judge at the State level. This State level judge is then only person selecting him as the trophy winner.
That means only two people in the whole State were involved in deciding he was "THE BEST."
Out of the WHOLE state.
Auditions and competitions can be great goals motivating students to strive for excellence, but teachers and students need to keep in mind they are subjective events. A little humility can go a long way in developing a fine musician, partly because the focus can then be kept on the music and what it means, and not the vanity of the person performing it. Yes, we do need to have confidence in the abilities we have worked hard to develop. And we do need to celebrate when we play well. But we also need to remember that there are many ways to be an excellent musician and that playing a couple pieces well in front of a judge is just one small measure of our ability as a musician.
While we are training pianists to be their best, we also need to remember we are training human beings to be their best.