From time to time over the years, I have watched various series of "reality television" music competitions. It all started a decade ago with the now defunct Australian Idol series and now we are offered two reasonably indistinguishable programs; "Australia's Got Talent" and "The X Factor". There is also a new show coming from America called "The Voice". Many people strongly advocate for these shows, arguing that they are great vehicles for promoting music and performance. Perhaps elements of those arguments are true, but on the whole, I don't agree. As a key feature of the "reality" formula, there is too much emphasis on "schaudenfreude" (enjoying the misfortune of others) and I question the lack of musical originality or creativity. Also, as a teacher of singing, I am bothered by the emphasis placed on girls singing like boys (chest voice belt) and boys singing like girls (high falsetto). However, I could put all of my musical, technical and philosophical objections aside if I wasn't continually distracted by one key question that keeps coming to mind when watching such shows: "Where is the fun?

It seems to me that, sadly, such reality music competitions suck the idea of fun out of the experience of learning and participating in music. I'm not saying that a person can't or shouldn't take a serious approach to their music study, or try to establish a serious career in the music industry, but if there isn't an element of pure enjoyment of music simply for the sake of making music and having fun with it, then why bother?

Experiences such as music examinations, music competitions and music performances have an important role to play in the development of any person who has an interest in exploring music. They can help to bring focus to music that is being studied, offer opportunities to share music with others, promote musical understanding and inspire individuals to be truly creative. But I would suggest that the most successful experiences take place when the core element of fun is factored into the process of preparation, rehearsal and performance. Fun is the real X Factor in music. Fun is the hook that will keep you coming back to music, keep you wanting to play and learn more about music, keep you wanting to share music and experience music with others. Fun cannot be judged or quantified or compared or pretended. Fun in the making, playing and sharing of music is the kind of reality that is rarely seen on "reality television" music shows.

As the GRC opened its School of Rock and the many new music programs and initiatives that are under way, a sense of fun is underpinning all that we do!

So, if you are having music lessons at the GRC, or competing in the local Eisteddfod, or about to appear in a concert, remember to enjoy the experience and find the fun in music!

1 September 2011

Paul Scott-Williams

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