Competing at Classical Minds, by Alec Bainter
This year, I decided to enter the competition at the Classical Minds Guitar Festival. I prepared for the competition by having extended lessons with my teacher, Joe Williams, right before I left. The Saturday before the festival was especially helpful for my preparation: I had a lesson with Joe, and it also happened to be a day that the Texas Guitar Quartet was in Austin, so I got to play for my former teacher Jonathan Dotson. I played for them as if I were playing in the competition. I also practiced slowly and made sure that I was extremely confident with my pieces.
The easiest part of the competition was honestly the time that I was up performing. I was confident that I knew my pieces, and that I wasn’t going to make any mistakes. I have mostly worked out my stage-fright, and, thanks to the improvisation classes that I take, I have learned how to use my adrenaline. When you improvise, you have to know how to think quickly and recover from mistakes. I have also learned that you can’t be afraid of the audience. They are there to be entertained, and even though they may be judging you, you are the performer providing the entertainment.
The most difficult part of the competition was when the judges were about to announce who was moving on to the next round, especially after the preliminary round. After the semi-finals, I was actually thinking that I wasn’t going to make it. I was aware of the mistakes that I made, and I thought that there were too many. I had come to terms with the feeling that I wasn’t going to go on. Then they announced my name, and after that, I had no difficulties during the finals. I knew that I would play my best, and I would either win or I wouldn’t.
It is hard to pick out a highlight from the festival – everything was great! I don’t think I had a single bad experience. Valerie Hartzell really does an excellent job of putting Classical Minds together and if you didn’t go this year, you should try to go next year. The great concerts were my favorite things about the whole week. My favorite concert was Matt Palmer’s, perhaps just because of his closing piece, Sonata Mongoliana. I got to play in a masterclass for Valerie Hartzell, and I took four half-hour private lessons with Matt Palmer. The Guitar Orchestra was a lot of fun to participate in. Unfortunately, I couldn’t play in their concert because it was the same day as the finals.
I’d like to say a special thanks to Claudio Zangirolami. He and his family hosted me during the festival at their home. It was especially fun because Mr. Zangirolami is the owner of Texas Guitar Gallery, and he let me play a lot of his guitars. The Zangirolami family was also hosting one of the faculty, Andy Mitchell. We probably spent two hours talking after we got back to the house one night.
My all-time favorite thing that happened during week was meeting all of the people at the festival. The way I described it to my parents, was that everyone at the festival spoke my language. I could be an absolute guitar geek with any of them and they would guitar geek back!
Alec Bainter (Austin, Texas) recently participated in the 2013 Classical Minds Guitar Competition (Houston), where he took first place in the High School Division.