American Concert Pianist, Steinway Artist, Susan Merdinger

On "winning" and "losing"... pre-reflections on the Grammy Awards!

So this is the weekend of the Grammy Awards. It was my second year as a voting member of NARAS, and I had two entries- my Soiree Solo Piano CD, and French Fantasy, A Piano Duet CD, recorded with my husband, Steven Greene. I cannot tell you how much I would have loved a nomination- as did so many other musicians like myself- both famous, and not-so-famous, signed with big labels, or indies.. All during this process of promotion and networking and hoping to garner votes and support for my entires yielded some unexpected benefits, even though I was ultimately not successful this year in earning a nomination.
But, here is what I learned: There are SO many fine musicians out there that most people have never heard of - and everyone owes it to themselves to listen to new artists on a regular basis. Second, those of us who did not get nominations are in VERY good company- so we must not lose hope or faith in our talents, but rather simply realize it is a numbers game, and that we are amongst hundreds of superb musicians who did not get any nominations at all. For example, in the Solo Classical Instrumental, there were entires by Lang Lang, Martha Argerich, Garrick Ohlsson, Van Cliburn Competition medalists, and so on and so forth. There are only 5 spots for nominees in each category, and these pianists didn't win- just like me! So, is it simply a case of "Misery loves company" or is there something more here that we can take away from this? 

Certainly, a main thing I think we must always recognize is that these awards are BIG business. Many of the Grammy Awards Winners and nominees will benefit financially and get a career- boost by being able to have this award to their credit. But, NOT having a Grammy Award to one's credit certainly doesn't diminish one's stature as an artist and it certainly doesn't mean you cannot have or have not had a great career.  In fact, the great majority of music entered in the Grammy's is of such high quality, and music is indeed a subjective art - so the notion of there being a "best" is somewhat crazy and unrealistic. Musicians know this, but the public still wants and needs to witness their appointed favorite artists being "crowned" as "the Best". This is actually a good thing for the music industry as a whole- because it support the cause of music and brings it to the forefront of people's minds.

The Grammy Awards is really no different than any other competition- people can argue that the voting process is imperfect or unfair, or favors the big-labels, or whatever excuse you can think of- and whether or not this is true, the fact remains that not everyone can win a prize in a competition, otherwise what would be the point? Just as in a sports competition or game, it's never any fun if there is a tie or a draw or no winner declared at all. Audiences love SPORT, and that's what the Grammy's are, in a sense. And that's not a bad thing either- because it is important that music and musicians have their time in the limelight and that we, as a society support the arts as much as we do sports and athletic endeavors. 

Overall, the Grammy Awards are a very positive influence on the promotion of music in our country. One might even wish there were more such events for musicians throughout the year. Why do we musicians only get ONE big night to celebrate our fellow musicians and our "Winners"?
On the downside, we still must acknowledge that music really is not a sport- it is findamentally different in so many ways, no matter how much we try to make it into a sport. It is not about who plays more notes fastest, or who sings loudest and highest. All these quantifiable qualities are NOT what music is all about. Rather, it is hoped that the all the musicians have that extra-special quality of sound, of expression, of creativity and originality, all of which are characteristics that are un-quantifiable. True, sometimes a competition ends up selecting the most technically perfect, sometimes it ends up selecting the most "popular" or well-known entrants due to "name recognition". And, yet, we hope for this above all- that the competition selects the true "Stand-outs" in their field of entries.

Each year is a new challenge, each year is a new chance. So, will I plan on entering again- even though I didn't win anything this year? You bet I will. Because "if you are not in it, you cannot win it." Additionally, since this is a competition for Recorded music, we must realize that we musicians are creating  lasting legacies for future generations of musicians. THAT is really special! And there is no reason why a musician should ever stop competing, as long as they recognize that a music competition is simply SPORT, and look at it as a fun experience and way to meet great people and discover new music!

Best of luck to all the nominees!

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