P articipating as a Barlow Intern proved to be a rewarding experience. I have received few opportunities that offered such insight. Not only did the internship provide opportunities for skill building in several areas, but it also provided an immersive perspective on competitive musical competitions. It is an experience I value and recommend to any who are offered the opportunity.
After organizing hundreds of submissions, which included CD’s, scores and bios, I feel a heightened awareness of how my own compositions compare. Though I personally attempt to follow my ambitions and intuition within my music, avoiding comparison, I can now better objectively compare my compositions against others with whom I may be competing.
When submitting a piece to a competition, the submission stack can feel like a black hole of uncertainty. This is no longer the case for me. Though few portions of the judging process are certain and wholly objective, music being a subjective art, there are many aspects of music and presentation that I can now objectively consider before submitting a piece to any competition. I may submit a well-written piece, but it may not be what the competition is looking for in particular. From this, I learned my most valuable lesson about competitions: do not judge the quality of my work by whether or not it won a competition.
I saw judges agonize over pieces that lost, despite them having voted against it themselves. In the end, the judges have to make a choice, and the choice is not between what is good and what is bad. Ultimately, the judges are making the difficult choice between what is good and what is good. If I am lucky enough to someday submit a piece that resonates with a panel of judges in a way that influences their vote in my favor, then I should not think any higher of that piece than any other–mine or another’s. Without the experience of the Barlow internship, I could not have learned this lesson so clearly and powerfully.
H aving the opportunity to take part in the Barlow Endowment competition judging was invaluable. It was a privilege to be able to rub shoulders with musicians and composers of the highest caliber and to be able to learn from their experience and points of view.
Witnessing the judging process was truly enlightening. It was helpful to see what kinds of music immediately jumped out at the judges versus the things they quickly passed by. However, it was even more useful to hear the kinds of music that they considered, but that ultimately did not move forward in the competition. This helped me gauge the characteristics that take music from being good to being outstanding – which in this case meant that the piece literally stood out from among hundreds of other entries.
I learned for a piece to be successful, it needed to show a good balance between innovation, technical skill and compelling structure. With two of the three, it still had a chance of catching the judges’ attention, but the pieces that were most convincing had all three.
Having performers as judges was helpful. It brought home to me that composers don’t get commissioned by performers if they write music that performers don’t want to play.
Overall, this was a very worthwhile and unique experience. I don’t think I could have gained the same information and tools that I took away from it in any other way; I certainly could not have learned them as quickly. I am very appreciative of the generosity of the Barlow family, which has allowed me to have this opportunity.
T he Barlow internship this summer was a valuable and insightful experience. I was able to witness firsthand the process the judges go through in order to decide the winners of such a big, international competition, and I was able to get a better idea of what the judges are looking for when they decide whether a piece is competitive or not. In the final round, the composer that won was chosen for his unique sound, voice, style, and level of expression, as well as the craft of his compositions.
In addition to learning more about the judging process, I was also able to meet many new, important composers and performers. They were able to give me more information about the schools they teach at, and they gave me a lot of good advice on how to forge a career in composition and how to make it in the academic world. I definitely plan to enter this competition in future years. All in all, this internship has proven to be very valuable, and I have learned many new things.
A s a composition major, I have mixed feelings about composition competitions. So naturally the opportunity to sit in on a competition such as this and assist with it was intriguing to me. A look behind the scenes.
I came out with a shifted perspective. I was moved at how conscientious several of the judges were about who they were awarding money to, and what effect that award would have on the recipients. There was a lot of care put into those decisions. I couldn’t help but feel that it was a good thing to give these composers money to fund the work they are doing.
Sure it is not a perfect system. But doing this internship did help me to see the real good that undeniably comes from competitions such as this one.