These are the numbers of each rating given at a recent festival held by my local music teacher’s association. This does not take into account how many of those superiors actually received a “Superior +” (which, by the way is a very important distinction if you are a young pianist who frequents these events). It could be that the vast majority of the students entered into this festival were highly prepared and musical performers, but I wonder if that’s really the case. Grade inflation is not unique to piano festivals sometimes I wonder if this is helpful to our students or actually hurtful.
What is the purpose of the festival? To give every student a pat on the back and make them feel good about their performance? Perhaps. But what about the student who hasn’t prepared and practiced as they should but still receives a Superior rating? Does the superior rating undermine all the time the teacher spent telling the student they haven’t prepared enough?
Here is a judging sheet from the last festival in which I had a student participate:
I was proud of my student for doing so well, but I was very disappointed in the judge. I don’t believe that any performance is perfect. And I also would have loved for my student to receive more specific comments on her performance. Maybe we caught the judge at a bad time.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on festival scoring. Do you think inflated scores hurt our students? Or do students need the encouragement of receiving a high score? What can we do to change the current system?
Spring Seals, NCTM, teaches 60 piano students ranging from age 3 to 70 in Fort Worth, Texas. She also serves as the Director of Certification for TMTA. She is passionate about helping teachers become more effective in their studios through professional development, new resources, and fresh ideas.