MY first competitive music festival was at Ilkley - 11 years old and entering a solo violin, a duet and quartet classes.

What excitement, nerves, euphoria for the winners and the hustle and bustle between classes, the whispered, urgent last instructions- ‘hold the violin up!’

Although victorious in two out of three attempts, the most important thing for me were the comments from the adjudicator, which are as clear in my mind today as they were 50 years ago.

I later found out that the adjudicator was from one of the most eminent musical families in Europe and an expert particularly in Baroque music.

After presenting my version of a Handel Sonata, he had very little praise to offer, rather he seemed a little despairing at the standard of playing on offer, offering a few home truths on various aspects of technique and musicianship, but descending heavily on what he perceived as a total lack of understanding of Baroque style, in particular, ornamentation.

“Read one of my books”, was the advice on offer. He was right and I was getting a free lesson from an expert, rather more qualified than my own teacher.

Although current practise favours more kindly, supportive comments as a rule, I have to say that this was a defining experience for me.

Moving on to later life as a teacher, I looked forward to having that fresh voice assessing students performances, reinforcing or adding to my own teaching – ‘intonation slipped a bit around bars nine to16, could there have been a bigger dynamic range ? – try to get that vibrato working a bit more’. This alongside lots of encouragement, warranted or not!

Phase three as a parent/ teacher, I still value the opportunities the festivals provide for young musicians to perform, get that valuable stage experience in front of an audience, try out party pieces to be played later in exams, concerts.

Also, meeting other young musicians and maybe measuring up where you stand in the pecking order.

Most of all though, my biggest memory of competitive music festivals has been the unstinting warmth and encouragement for the participants, that comes from the volunteers who run the festivals. Their own love of music is clear and they are helping to uphold the arts in a society which desperately needs it. What wonderful memories, what glorious work.