Competition Lessons: How to be a Winner

mindset Jun 09, 2021

I recently submitted an entry to the International Clarinet Association's Young Artist Competition. I have no idea how competitive my recordings were, but I know I was not in the top 3. Even though I didn't win, I learned some valuable lessons on what it takes to win that I think are worth sharing.

Back in March, I got an email from the ICA that the competition deadline had been extended to May 15th, and I realized that this year or next year would be the last year I am considered a "Young Artist" for this competition. I had been itching to do more performing and due to COVID it wasn't required to record with a piano accompanist so I thought this just might be the perfect year to give it a shot.

Of course, deciding on March 18th to do a competition with a May 15th deadline was not ideal, but I told myself I would learn the music and if I could come up with something decent by the deadline I would give it shot. Unfortunately for me, the music was some of the hardest music I have ever played!

The requirements were:
Introduction et Rondo, Widor
Sonata pour Clarinette Solo--movement 1 and 4, Gotkovsky
Bling Bling, McAllister

You can hear the recording that I submitted by clicking here 

Now I put in a good effort, but I think the big takeaway as to why I didn't win is very simply that I didn't want it enough.

I had this same realization at the last couple auditions that I did: in order to win an audition or a competition, you have to be all in!

I don't think that I am passionate enough about playing in a band or orchestra to be all in on an audition, and though I am passionate about the solo music for this competition, I still wasn't all in.

I recorded with less than 2 month of preparation and I had the mindset of just seeing what would happen. I was apathetic towards the results, and though I practiced a good deal for it, I wasn't practicing with the goal of winning. And even in recording, I probably could have done more takes and got better results.

So next time you are wanting to win something, remember that you have to be all in to win. If you want to be competitive, your preparation from day 1 needs to be deliberate and competitive. Anything less than that won't produce winning results.


With that being said, are you ready for the even bigger lesson on how to be a winner?

Let me tell you a secret...

I got exactly what I wanted out of this competition experience.

Sure it would have been great to win, but my goal was to give it a shot, and I did!

Winning shouldn't always be the only goal!

My goal was to learn the music and see what happens, and I achieved that goal. 

What I said earlier, "you have to be all in to win", is only true if you want to win.

There is a plethora of other things you can get out of an audition or competition experience besides winning!

Here are a few things I got out of this:

  • I practiced more hours and more consistently than I have in a long time.
  • I learned some really hard music in a short amount of time.
  • I successfully utilized circular breathing in a piece of music for the first time.
  • I continued to iron out some finger issues.
  • I learned how to not be disappointed by not winning.

The real moral of the story is to be clear about your goals and expectations, do the work to achieve those, and no matter the outcome you will get more out of going for it rather than letting the fear of "not winning/failure" paralyze you.

Happy Practicing!


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I can't wait to see where your clarinet journey takes you!