February 7, 2016

The High Stakes of Performance

This weekend the U.S. will be broadcasting the Super Bowl: a high stakes football game. Although not was highly showcased, pianists also have their own high stakes competitions.

Even at a young age, Tomoko experienced competition as she waited with other piano students for lesson instruction. She would hear the playing through the walls and feel the need to play better. Tomoko did not compete professionally at that time, not does she encourage youngsters to complete at a young age. "They need to build a strong foundation first."

Tomoko's first important competition was her application to the University of Tokyo. She chose the University of Tokyo because it was the best university for music: “Always strive for the best” The university had 500 applicants, and accepted only eighteen students. The audition process took four days. All students had to arrive at 8:30am and were given a number; Tomoko was assigned #21. The applicants first were asked to play a short selection; Tomoko was the last person in the morning set. At the end of the day, the list of first cuts was posted, and Tomoko made that list. On the second day the remaining 74 applicants did music dictation; Tomoko had studied dictation in high school so that exercise was easy. Another post indicated that Tomoko passed, among 34 others. On the third day, applicants took exams on academic subjects to ensure that they were academically prepared. The final set of applicants were interviewed, and Tomoko was one of the fortunate eighteen accepted. 

As she was beginning her professional career, Tomoko competed in a number of performance competitions, from getting into the university to professional venues, including:

1965 Young Artist Award sponsored by the Fresno Philharmonic and Junior League of Fresno
1965 San Francisco Symphony Foundation winner
1967 Long-Thibaud International Piano Competition in Paris
1968 Queen Elizabeth International Competition in Brussels

Tomoko's daughter Beata competed professionally as an adult ice dancer, all the way to the Olympics. Tomoko was able to give her competitive advice. Like sports competition, piano performance competition involves technical skill, discipline, and psychology.Detail to attention is needed to be prepared before and during competition. In addition, judges can also add pressure and challenge competitors. "Be proud of yourself. Don't talk, but act professional."

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