I'm all for contests. I think I've won maybe one out of a billion. LOL. It's true! And in those one billion minus one experiences, I think I learned much more than in the one contest I won. Still, I want to share with you something about one red medal.
All band members were expected to go to the solo and ensemble competition. These were the expectations of being in the "A" band at my 3000 student high school. In my senior year, I managed to earn my way up to fifth chair out of twenty-two. Nancy, who was my age, and in my opinion a better player, was in first chair.
Yeah know, I wasn't jealous of her--because she really was better.
But, I wanted to be worthy of my chair in the A band. So, when the big solo and ensemble competition came in February, I chose a slow, melodic peace. I'd always struggled with plowing through a bucket load of notes and making them sound like butterflies twittering, but I could transform the sound of my flute into colors of louds and softs filled with rich, thoughtful tones. Think of angels floating on clouds sailing long distances with a single breath of breeze.
I listened to the first chair girl practice her piece. Wow. She was magnificent. The judges would really be wowed by her.
The day of the competition came. Nancy and I were assigned performance rooms on opposite sides of the building and both scheduled about the same time.
The judges called my name.
I had chosen to memorize my piece, that way I could close my eyes and not see the judges. I nodded to my accompanist to start the piece. She played a chord. My first note rang like crystal. God had given me a really nice flute. The piece had such a low level of difficulty regarding notes, but a high level for telling the story. This probably was the only piece I wished would never end, because it was so lovely.
After my performance, I stepped out in the hall and waited for my score. The moderator opened the door with clipboard in hand. She marked a number by my name and went back in the room.
I hurried down to my friend's room to see the score I knew she would get. One was the highest possible, five was the lowest. I ran my finger down the list of names searching for hers, noting with excitement that I had received a one. If I had managed one, she surely had too. The monitor had recorded a two by my friend's name. She would receive a red medal.
I didn't know what to say. She must have been nervous during the performance. If I hugged her and said something like, "You deserved a one," would she look at my blue medal and be mad at me? At the time I thought so.
Nancy walked away sad.
Anyone could have said to her, "A two is a great score. You did your best. We're proud of you." In truth, it wouldn't have given her any happiness back. All she heard were the errors over and over and over in her mind.
Years later, I remember and still have no idea what would have been best to say. I have a great respect for her. Even though she was sad, and maybe even upset with me, she never bad mouthed the judges. Never said they were unfair. Never said if only, if only.
What brought this to mind today? I watched a Master Chef show. Love it. Tonight, though, one of the stellar home cooks mouthed off to the judges, big time.
Her dish wasn't the worst one. The judges made that clear when they tasted her food. She made mistakes, it tasted nasty, but had done so well with previous creations she could have been forgiven. There was another competitor whose food tasted even worse.
The judges conferenced, then said, "The home cook who we feel is the most teachable, the one we think we can work with to improve--" I knew right then, the mouthy one would be sent home. And I was right.
There was a reason my friend Nancy had a ton of blue medals and only one red one. There was a reason she kept first chair no matter who challenged her. Her blue metal character really showed.