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I have a 6 year old daughter who has been taking piano lessons for a couple of years. The school where she goes assumes that all their kids will go compete in a local competitive music festival, where each performer is judged and there are winners for the different categories.

My thinking at the moment is that I don't want music to become a competitive thing (it can already be a source of stress at times getting her to practice--though usually it's not a big deal). I'd like to keep music as just a fun thing to do. That doesn't have to be exclusive of competition obviously, but making something competitive does change the nature of the activity, or at least our relationship with it.

I imagine that at different points in her life competitions will be either more or less important, so I don't expect that the answer for this particular opportunity will be the answer for every one going forward.

She's also extremely excited/interested in getting trophies (she has a participation trophy from a gymnastics class she is in and loves it), and perhaps this would be a chance for her to "earn" one, though I suspect that everyone gets one I suspect that those who do well in their group get different ones.

So what are the pros and cons of having a young child participate in this sort of opportunity?

  • My experience is that kids are better at mentally distinguishing (and thus being more healthy at both) "competition" and "fun" than their parents. :-) – Jeff Y Dec 23 '15 at 14:58
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Music festivals are different from other sorts of competitions because there's really no head to head aspect. You go on when it's your turn, do your best, then you watch other performers and hope they do their best. When I participated as a child, I often had my own piece, and accompanied a friend or sibling or two on their pieces.

I remember feeling disappointed a few times in my own preparation, but I don't recall ever feeling unfairly judged. I remember seeing the winning performances, feeling they deserved to win, and aspiring to do better myself next time.

I don't recall any extra negatives from the competition aspect of it, although I was never close to being in contention for the top spot, which would likely change things. Mostly the negatives are the same as for any public performance: getting over the jitters, and public humiliation if you screw up. Both of those are really unavoidable obstacles if you're going to pursue music to any meaningful degree.

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