Hong Kong Schools Music Festival. It is an invitation only job, and it occurs every year for the month of March. My first time was in 2005, and the second was in 2011. The picture above is from 2005. This event has been happening since the 1940's, and is quite large. All of the adjudicators are invited from overseas, and all of the participants have to be Hong Kong residents. I worked almost every day for a month, judging 2-3 sessions per day. Each session would have between 40-60 performers, who all played the exact same piano piece each session. The pieces varied of course in level.
The proficiency tends to be very high. In one
of my sessions, a very small 5 year old girl played a short piece by
Beethoven. I wondered how she was going to reach the octaves, and a
couple of other stretches in the music. She was about 5th in my list
out of 50. I closed my eyes and just listened. I put every following
performance against hers, and by the end she was the winner!
Afterwards, I was confirmed in my decision when I met her family. Her
grandfather was her teacher, and her parents both played in the Hong
Fukushima nuclear accident).
Here I am receiving a token of appreciation for my services. I enjoyed
it even more that time, being familiar with how it works and with the
city. I felt even more comfortable communicating with the participants
and their families who were there watching. One morning as I walked out
of the Luk Kwok Hotel to begin my day, I was greeted by a bellman by
name! I felt like I was Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Well, not
exactly I guess, but it certainly did help me to feel more at home.
One thing that made this second trip more interesting for me is that I decided to do another "Stranger Days" book.
I asked strangers I would see on my commutes to write or draw in a
blank journal. I would ask, "Excuse me, would you mind writing or
drawing in this book?" I did this with people on the train, ferry,
restaurants, walkways, etc... It helped me feel more of a connection to
the people I might not otherwise have gotten.
I also connected to people through bicycling on this trip.
I took my folding bicycle with me and used it to commute to some of my
sessions, and met up with "internet friends" I had contacted before my
trip. On my days off, I would meet with those people, and go for bicycle
rides through the city, the New Territories, and the southern part of
the island. Those are special experiences I will never forget.
thing I learned that a man should do if he finds himself in Hong
Kong is have a suit tailor made for himself. I wasn't able to do that
on my first trip, but I made sure to be able to do it for the second one. I bet you can guess that the suit you see me wearing in the
picture above is tailor made in Hong Kong. It was quite an enjoyable
process being fitted for it, and the anticipation of trying it on when
it is finished is worth the wait. So far I haven't grown out of it!