A difficult question — to compete or not to compete? Parents and piano teachers often challenge their children and students to go beyond casual practice and studio recitals by participating in piano competitions. There is a considerable amount of evidence that piano competitions are beneficial to both children’s musical education and their overall development. Academics, coaches, and teachers agree that the healthy competitiveness fostered by piano competitions goes beyond musicianship to teach valuable life lessons, improve motivation, and promote creativity.

1. An Amplified Learning Experience

For a piano student, few environments offer as many opportunities for musical growth as a piano competition. Dr. Ruth Slenczynska, renowned musician, author, and judge, confirms that piano competitions of all levels are incredibly beneficial to participants. In her article “On Preparation for a Piano Competition,” Slenczynska notes that competitions give contestants the opportunity to perform on the finest pianos in front of well-informed and interested listeners. In addition, contestants often receive tailored feedback and advice from professionals. The learning environment created by a piano competition is truly valuable to the development of a student’s musicianship and teaches lessons that cannot be found through regular practice.

2. A Path to Success

In addition to valuable self-improvement, piano competitions can also provide more tangible rewards. The chance to take home an award or leave a lasting impression on a judge is certainly encouraging to any aspiring music student. Earning recognition at a competition often leads to scholarships, networking connections, and even careers.

3. Superior Musicianship

Bärli Nugent, Assistant Dean and Director of Chamber Music at the Julliard School, refers to the competition environment as a “framework for learning.” Preparing for a competition will involve much more focused practicing and will in turn teach your child how to take a deep dive and truly master every aspect of a piece of music. Competitors will also learn the ability to perform under pressure and how to acknowledge success or failure and learn from it. Any student who participates in a piano competition undergoes a comprehensive and transformative lesson on superior musicianship. Slencyznska notes that music students often work harder and more efficiently when preparing for a competition. For any student committed to improving their musicianship, a piano competition is an excellent opportunity to learn new skills and hone existing ones.

4. Personal Growth

Aside from providing opportunities to grow as a musician, piano competitions can also benefit a child’s general development. The nature of music competitions is such that not everyone can win first place, yet everyone involved can still learn valuable lessons. Mistakes, failures, and feedback teach students to “identify the problems, remedy the deficiencies, reset their goals, and grow from their experiences,” according to psychologist Dr. Sylvia Rimm. Understanding the importance of this problem-solving process is beneficial to the general development of any child.

5. Achieving Excellence

John M. Tauer and Judith M. Harackiewicz, in their 1999 paper “Winning isn’t Everything: Competition, Achievement Orientation, and Intrinsic Motivation,” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, found that children engaged in competitive activities display greater enjoyment and motivation than those engaged in non-competitive activities. Further, professors Edward Deci and Richard Ryan found that when children are highly motivated, they display higher levels of creativity, perseverance, and self-esteem. Put simply, a dose of competitiveness from participating in a piano competition can promote healthy habits and lead to excellence elsewhere in a child’s life.

Parents and teachers can be assured that pushing your young piano student to compete will greatly advance your child’s musical abilities and will also teach them lessons that will encourage excellence throughout their lives.

Click here to learn about the 2020 Steinway Virtual Piano Competition. Applications open October 1, 2020.

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