We all have moments from high school that we remember with perfect clarity. Moments that are still so close to you that you remember everything about it-the smell, the outfit you were wearing, and the feelings that corsed through your hormone-addled body. Hopefully, some of those moments were times of triumph or joy, but often they are moments of failure, embarrassment or stinging disappointment. I have been on both sides of those feelings and know vividly what each feels like.
Tonight I was responsible for deciding some of those moments for a good many teenagers and I am not sure how I feel about it.
I was asked to be a judge at a vocal competition for high schoolers.
It is a huge deal for these kids.
It’s a big deal to me as well.
It is a lot of responsibility.
A lot of self-worth can be tied up in a trophy and I am not sure how well that sits with me.
Every time I am asked to judge something like this I take it very seriously because I know how much it means to them. I truly enjoy doing it. I have worked hard to be qualified to judge someone vocally and I love working with the kids.
I also needed this responsibility right now.
I have been overwhelmed with life suck. I know that it is necessary and so I am really trying to stay positive and upbeat, but I have been having a hard few days and have been a shut in this week. Getting out of the house to go somewhere that I need to actually bathe and brush my hair was very, very needed.
The fact that I got paid is just a bonus.
Sure, there are frustrations when you judge a competition of this sort. Some of the performances are so godawful that all you can write is “You have a very pretty dress on and your hair looks nice”, they are THAT bad.
After you are done siting through two long hours writing so fast and furious on judging forms that your hand feels like it is falling off, you have to go in a little room and determine who wins and who loses.
Luckily, most of the winners were apparent to us.
Sometimes when the winners are announced, there is some confusion in the audience as far as placement. That is not an anomaly. Audience favorites are often not the people that are selected by the judges. For example, in the male placement tonight, there was one singer that was so adorable I wanted to put him in my purse and take him home. His voice was more suited for musical theater, but he had such a playful and outgoing presence that the audience loved him. He did well on his piece (I attempt from love’s sickness. Not an easy piece to sing) but we picked another boy that did not quite have his presence and popularity of the other boy, but his training and sound were just better.
Plus, there was no way that the adorable kid would not have oodles of accolades in his high school career. He was a grade younger and I don’t know if I can describe it, but it was a gut instinct that the other kid NEEDED it more. I wouldn’t have awarded it to him just on that alone, but it cinched my decision for me.
I feel good about how the evening went, but I admit to having a moment of self doubt.
The third place trophy in the female vocal division.
It was between two young singers, both were ok, neither remarkable (Truthfully, no one in the competition was remarkable) and both were of similar skill.
One of the girls sang a flashier piece than the other. It was the song that landed me a full-ride vocal scholarship to college and honestly? I think that it colored my judgment against her. I feel I was a little more critical of the piece than the others.
I cast my vote for the other girl and while the judges agreed with me, I also think that they may have been just following my lead as I had more classical experience than the other judges, but I’m not sure.
I walked back into the auditorium feeling fine about it.
I saw the face of the girl I voted against when they announced and she realized that she hadn’t placed.
She was devastated.
I felt a bit like six shades of suck.
I have failures from high school that I can still remember because they have stayed with me. They were excruciating. Sure, it doesn’t sting as much now that years have passed, but I have certainly played and replayed the moments time and time again and critiqued what I did wrong, and what I would do differently if I had a do-over.
I still stand by my decision and know that guess what? SOMEONE had to lose, but seeing that moment was hard for me. I know that she is utterly confused and probably bewildered at the decision we came to. I have been right there where she was at that moment and I really wish that I hadn’t been one of those responsible for handing it to her.
I know I’ll get over it.
I really hope that she does.