I love adjudicating. I love the travel; the chance to evaluate the results of keen and dedicated work by students and teachers; the opportunity to say encouraging things (along with perhaps a few corny jokes); watch proud parents; get to know the kids who play more than once; find the best coffee in town; check out the local bookstore; agonize over award choices; breathe the spring air (it’s almost always spring); explore a town that’s new to me, or one I’ve been to many times before.

I just finished adjudicating, from home, a very fine music festival in south-eastern BC. It was a rather different experience, as you can see. But minus the coffee shops and the evening walks (often snatched from a crazy schedule) a couple of things remained the same.

The kids were great. I couldn’t see them as well as I would have in person — I couldn’t watch them walk to the piano, or notice who welcomed them back to their seats afterwards. I couldn’t enjoy the buzz of the audience, or the kibitzing with my secretary. But the dedication that went into their performances was clear; and, behind the scenes, the determination of their teachers, the encouragement of their parents and friends. They still dressed up to perform. Many of them still bowed after they played.

When I recorded my video adjudications, I couldn’t adjust what I said based on the expression on their faces. I couldn’t ask them questions. But I could pretend they were there in front of me. Though I probably won’t find out what they thought of it all, perhaps “being in the Festival” was one kind-of-normal thing in a difficult year.

Adjudicating another competition a few months ago, I had the opportunity of brief Zoom meetings with each performer afterwards. Then too, I was moved by their dedication, and the directness of their response when I asked “how are you doing?” Sometimes it was clear that “not good” was the answer.

It’s our young people who may have suffered most from this calamity, a year old and still not done. May those of us who can, find ways to help them get their lives back.

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