When I arrive at work the students are already crowding in and around the studio’s: Audition time has started and instead of teaching I am sitting behind a jury table. At the Pop and Jazz Department of the ArtEZ University of the Arts in Arnhem (The Netherlands) all the auditions are public, so the classrooms not only breathe the sweat of the candidates but also the excitement of the audience. For me the biggest challenge is to formulate my judgement with as much integrity and objectivity as possible. For instance: How do you assess someone who has worked very hard but whose level of performance is not yet really convincing? Do you reward the effort and commitment or is it only the result that counts? And what if you really don’t like the repertoire choice of the student? Fortunately I am not the only jury member, which sometimes leads to interesting discussions with colleagues and, to be honest, sometimes also to irritation and misunderstanding.
Sometimes during auditions I wonder who is actually judging whom? The large table in front of the stage and the piles of forms leave no doubt that we as teachers determine what goes into the student file. In doing so, one and the same grade can evoke very different reactions. One student may be overjoyed with a seven (on a scale of ten) and another deeply saddened with the same grade. Even teachers sometimes have their own idea of what a good grade is. For example, I experienced once that a teacher asked for a re-vote because he had planned a nine as a final grade for ‘his’ student and he was not satisfied with the 8.5 that came out of the vote as an average. What I mean is that it is not only the teachers who judge the students, but that on both sides of the jury table one judges themselves. If the grade is not high enough then all too often not only the student but also the teacher feels that he has failed. The reverse occurs when the student performs much better than expected and the teacher rewards not only the student but also himself by giving an extra high grade. This certainly does not mean that teachers do not take their jury duty seriously, on the contrary. But the work is done by humans and that is good to keep in mind. As my mother always said; “A No you already have, a Yes you can get.” So if you are rejected at an entrance audition, then it is certainly worth trying again elsewhere!
This Column appeared first in ZING Magazine