Congratulations, everybody! It was a great competition, a fun weekend together, and everyone got home safely. Wow! What just happened?
Practice, practice, practice. Go on stage for 10 minutes and then it’s all over. But is it? The practice was good and the applause is always nice to hear, but are there more benefits to a competition than immediately meet the eye, or ear? Yes! Let’s consider…
To master something, you have to practice it. The trick to making progress is “good practice,” vs. “bad practice.” Whether you’re perfecting a tennis serve or a great sauce or ringing a perfectly tuned chord, good practice = (practice + goal) + assessment (repeat until satisfied). Imagine playing darts without a target: you’re throwing that dart somewhere, but are you winning, is your aim improving? Practicing without target and evaluation becomes boring pointless. (Self-assessment is possible, but it can be tricky, a topic for another time.) At a barbershop competition, peer assessment is provided quickly, clearly, and professionally. Plus, the next practice “target” is set up so that you can improve your game, or in this case, your singing.
Competition also provides an opportunity to sharpen our understanding of Barbershop singing (i.e., seeing and hearing what makes a great performance). For example: Choir 1’s tenor section went off-pitch — we thought we could hear it, and their Singing score confirmed it. Or: Choir 2 sang a great song but it didn’t touch us, and their Music score was low. Right again! Choir 3, on the other hand, had the smoothest, cleanest phrases and smiles on their faces and they thrilled us with their music and it was clear they should get First Place. These things are easy to see and hear and become easier (with practice!). Even the solutions become clear when you have the luxury of seeing and hearing the problem, and thinking about it without any performance pressure.
Back home, the Afterglow is fading and we have a list of Things to Do (as a result of our coaching sessions with the judges). Oh Boy! We want to do tackle them all, Immediately!! Instead, let’s take one target at a time. Let’s set a goal for each practice and work on THAT until we begin to hear it, or feel it in our music. How about breath management? Breathe deeply, let that belly expand… see you at rehearsal. Let’s have some fun and take our “game” to new heights…and higher scores.