June 2000 - Feature Article - by the late Dr. Willard A. Palmer
With the Summer Competitions just around the corner, readers may be interested in this article, written by the late Dr. Willard A. Palmer.

In every festival or contest there are only a few winners who receive trophies, ribbons or public acclaim.

But in the background, unrecognized and unheralded, except by their teachers and their closest friends, there are many winners. And these are the real winners. These are the students who have won in the contest with themselves.

A student once said to me, "There is really no purpose in all this practice. No matter how good I get, someone will always be better. Someone will always have more technique and more musical insight than I have.

How glad I am that this is not the truth!

My dear student! Music is not a contest between yourself and all the other students and performers! But music, like any other worthwhile endeavor, demands your best efforts. Music may be considered a contest with yourself, just as life is.

We are thankful that music is a form of art. And art is self expression. No one can express your feelings, your personality, your spirit, except you.

Can we say that there is just one correct way to play an y musical selection? Certainly not! Heifetz, Menuhin, Elman and Francescatti are great violinists. All of them are true artists, but they differ in their interpretations of each great masterpiece they play. The great composer-pianist, Chopin, confounded his students when he played his own music, because he never interpreted his won works twice the same way.

If a performance is musically correct, no one can accurately say, "This interpretation is better than that one." One can only observe "I liked this one best." One artistic performance is not really greater than another It is only different.

Of course, each performer must strive to do all the composer demands, as accurately as possible. We must certainly play the correct notes, if we possibly can. But do not think that even the World's finest musicians are infallible. They do not always play without errors. All of them, the very 'greatest,' admit that they make frequent errors. They also have stage fright, and they even 'blank out' occasionally, just as any other human being may do! Why, then, are they considered 'great'? It is because they express themselves so marvelously, and with such intelligence, such taste, as well as with such fire and emotion, that we are completely captured by their performances. We are made to feel what THEY feel. The notes themselves are only a means to this artistic end.

If you are expressing what you feel, and if you are learning to express your feelings better, and if you are learning to temper your emotions with intelligence, you are making wonderful progress. If your technique is also improving, so that you play better at each festival or contest than you did at the last one, you are a real winner. If you did not receive a trophy, this certainly does not mean that you are unrewarded. Would you exchange your progress for a dozen trophies?

And please remember this, for it has often been a source of encouragement to me and to many others:


Why? Because no one else is you! If you have something to express, people will always be interested in your playing. If in your music you can reveal your own personality, your playing will bear a stamp of individualism that no one can duplicate or surpass, and you will be on the road to becoming a true artist.

Let us not forget to congratulate ALL the winners!