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
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:
"NO ONE CAN PLAY LIKE YOU CAN!"
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!