Looking the Other Way

Wanting to win can be a powerful influence. It can make you want to look the other way.

You could look the other way on student health, institutional failures, ethical oversights. You can look the other way in small ways and massive ways. You can look the other way intentionally or not, benignly or malignantly.

Wanting to win is that powerful. There are daily news updates about the man whose unconscionable behavior was overlooked by people who wanted to win. They might not believe they overlooked it intentionally, but the drive to win blinded them. And while athletic competition is the most likely place to see this kind of oversight, it’s equally present in all other competitive fields: politics, business, and, yes, music.

It’s why I am so glad that virtually all of my choral experiences festival experiences have been non-competitive. In a non-competitive festival, such as MSVMA choral festivals or the World Choir Games, every choir can achieve the highest rating by meeting objective criteria. Of course, special honors can be given to the most-outstanding choirs heard, but there are no ranking lists, no “winners.”

I’m glad that the motivation to win is not on my mind or on the mind of my students, because I know that I, like everyone else, am susceptible to the failures that come when pursuing a win.

I don’t want to look the other way and fail my students. That kind of failure is not worth success in any other realm of life.