Festivals offer a wide variety of resources to the young musician if they are willing to take advantage of what is available to them. The most obvious thing about festivals is the opportunity to network with all the other students who are performing. The hundreds of other kids walking around are great to make connections with and begin establishing yourself with other future musicians. It also provides you with other young musicians to listen to – to find out the different levels of musicianship and where you place with your peers as far as ability.
If you’ve been watching the other groups, you already have an easy way to make introductions. Take a moment to note the positive things that stood out to you about various performers and take the time to introduce yourself and let them know what you appreciated about their performance.
Most festivals also offer clinics which are usually very beneficial and I recommend taking advantage of these opportunities. You never know when you might run across someone who will inspire you, motivate you, or even help you.
Another thing about festivals is that they give you more experience performing. It never hurts to get out on stage in front of people to play. The judges also can be very helpful because they tell you what you can improve on and what you do well. It helps you grow aware of areas you need to work on that you might not have known about before. If there are additional categories that you can participate in, be sure to enter (only if you’ll be prepared, of course).
As far as preparing for a festival, it is important that you have good programming (good pieces of music) – you usually pick three pieces, one should be a ballad, and your set should be under 30 minutes.
To prepare on an individual level – prepare your part of the music, and if you have a solo, work on the changes, or the written solo – whichever you play. When you do solo, play with confidence and with a full sound. Make sure your body language is also confident.
To prepare with your group, make sure you rehearse your pieces regularly. Strive to have good intonation and to play together with good time and a good “pocket.” You will most likely do festivals with your school, but there are some out there that you can form your own groups and participate in. Festivals are a really great experience for the student musician particularly because they are designed as an educational experience for the students participating.