Wednesday, September 05, 2007

(Pre)Judge Not

Photo of butterfly on russian sage amid red salviaThe final event of Tarentum's 2007 Summer Concert Series was a karaoke contest held last Wednesday, August 29. I was asked to be one of the five judges for the event. The other four judges were: Drew Jonczak, Tim Dugan, Diane Brooks, and Jeff Killian. Bucky Lojak was the DJ for the contest.

I was concerned about the format of the contest. I wanted to be especially sure that I was not going to be called upon to offer bitingly sarcastic public comments about the individual contestants. Some of my friends were (rightly) concerned that I was going to be subjected to some awful performances, so they encouraged me not to be a judge. But once I verified that the format would be one in which I would not have to tell the contestants why I rated them as I did, I decided to go ahead and be a judge.

There is always a risk of pre-judging experiences that one might have. I remember one of the comments someone made to me when they heard the lineup of Tarentum's summer concerts; it expressed the belief that this year's concerts would not be as good as last year's. I asked the commenter if he had heard any of the people being brought in, and got a negative answer. So what was the basis for the opinion? No answer. I was not able to attend all of this summer's concerts, but I can honestly say that I did not regret attending every one that I did.

Including the Karaoke Contest.

I was surprised by a lot in the contest. Of course my friends were right; I did hear some performances that were painful, but I also heard many that were quite good. The judges were all over the map in terms of how we responded to different performances. I was surprised by songs I had never heard, and by songs I had not expected to enjoy. When one contestant announced that she was going to sing "My Heart Will Go On" I was set to groan at hearing the Celine Dion song again but I was surprised when I discovered that I liked the performance.

At the end of the first round, we selected the top three contestants and invited them to do a second song. Although I had liked each of those we selected together, I would not have picked any of them for the top three if I had been the sole judge. And this time I was surprised by how much more I was entertained by each of the second songs the contestants chose.

The winner of the contest was Kevin Brown, who performed an energetic and engaging rendition of "Keep your hands to yourself."

It is very easy to predict that some things will happen that won't be enjoyable. But the surprises are really nice, and I am glad I was willing to be where I could experience them as well.

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