Wow, this “two competitions per year” thing is a big change from our early days in Lustre quartet. Back in the beginning, our quartet time was focused on learning two competition songs to be performed in April, and working on show material and other performances for the rest of the year. There was a distinct rhythm to the year. Summer and Fall were spent learning new repertoire music and beginning the basics of contest preparation through solid skills development. November and December were dedicated to Christmas music preparation and performances, with continual work on contest music interspersed throughout. January began “contest preparation” season in earnest. Rehearsals in January and February would tend to focus more and more on those two contest songs, with repertoire songs given a lower priority as “warm up” material or something to do when we were tired of drilling the contest music. By the time March rolled around, we would be fully in the swing of contest music, honing our craft and putting on the best barbershop performance that we knew how to do. Then we’d go to contest in April, and have the time of our lives as the high point of our barbershop year. After contest we would take a bit of a break, then have a planning / goal setting meeting to gear up for the year that lies ahead, and start the cycle all over again.
In April of 2011, that familiar cycle had a delightful change-up – we won our Regional contest in April 2011, which meant that we were invited to the SAI International Quartet Competition in October 2011. For the first time in six years, our summer and fall were no longer dedicated to learning repertoire, performing at events and shows, and building foundational skills. Instead of taking May to rest and regroup, we found ourselves getting right back into the full rehearsal schedule. We found ourselves immediately back in contest mode, preparing for the biggest performance event of our careers. All four of us were new to the International Quartet stage, and so the October 2011 contest was a BIG DEAL.
We went to the International Contest in Houston in October 2011 and had the time of our lives! What a thrill it was to represent our Region amongst such talent from around the world. Our first International contest experience was one we will always remember and nothing will ever quite match it.
When we returned from Houston – guess what? – it was time to start looking at the Spring Regional contest! We had just a few weeks to prepare for and enjoy the holiday season of music and performances, but then it was right back on track with Regional preparation in January. April 2012 came and we delivered another fun and fulfilling performance on the contest stage. We did not win the regional championship this year, but our high score did qualify us to return to SAI International Quartet contest in October 2012 as a Wildcard competitor. So again, instead of a full year of prep for the next contest, we found ourselves again looking at a six month prep season. Summer was again this year filled with coaching, rehearsing, honing, preparing for the October contest.
What we have discovered these last 18 months or so is that life as an “International level quartet” is exhilarating, exciting, and rewarding beyond measure. It’s a distinct honor and privilege to represent our Region 19 and our hobby in this way. But it also is a lot of hard work, dedication, time, energy, (money!), and commitment. None of the four of us would trade it in for an “easier” quartet experience. There may be a day sometime in the future where the other parts of our lives ask us to make the quartet a different priority than we do today, changing the allotment of time and energy that we can commit to our Lustre experience. But for now, we are content with our new quartet rhythm. We are learning how to plan our personal vacations around the contest cycle. We are figuring out how to fit in new repertoire music to our rehearsal schedules. We are thrilled that we’ve been offered performance opportunities throughout the year and we are becoming adept at fitting our contest prep around our performances. It’s a totally different rhythm, and it’s one we like a lot!