It is difficult to turn on the TV these days without being confronted with yet another talent competition with one ecstatic winner and a larger number of disappointed losers.
Is there another way of encouraging talent without being so divisive and, too often, destructive?
Polo Piatti launched The Pitch last week as a new venture to nurture musical ability without turning it into a competition. There was an open invitation to singer-songwriters of whatever background to perform a few songs for up to 20 minutes each. At the end of the session, once all had finished, a small panel of professionals would then give individual feedback to the artist, with advice and encouragement on how they might proceed to develop their own careers and talents.
At this point I have to admit I was one of the four professionals as working with journalists is part and parcel of any artists life, but we also had a promoter, a professional musician of international standing and a music industry agent, as well as Polo Piatti himself.
The field was as varied as we had expected. A large number of acts showed serious interested, 12 acts were registered and eventually nine performed at the Opus. As expected five of these sang their own compositions accompanying themselves on guitar – and for one of them on the bass ukulele. One solo singer sang with an accompanying guitar, there was one Opera singer, one unaccompanied singer in the folk style and finally a local band comprising of piano, cello, saxophone, guitar and drums – all of which made for an eclectic and highly engaging afternoon. The age range was also impressive from a 16-year-old to a 72-year-old – both singing their own songs to their own guitars.
How successful was this? As a first encounter trying to establish a new approach to encouraging talent it seemed very positive. The amount of networking – if you’ll forgive the jargon – was as important as the performances themselves, as musicians were able to draw on the many professional connections present in the theatre and hopefully use them as they continue to build their public careers.
Competition is not the only route into the scary world of professional music. There is a place for encouragement and gentle professional support from those who are already immersed in the realities of a life in music.
This could be the start of an important new initiative.
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