I've been invited to judge a few music competitions over the years. I love it. Which is bizarre, since they are about as far removed from my comfort zone as a performer as I can get... I don't think I can think of anything worse, to be honest.
However, as a judge I'm not only 'safe' I'm also in a position to be able to give the sort of useful feedback, smiling face and positive support that I would wish for, were I to be the brave soul on the stage (and oh my god are they brave).
Most recently, I was invited to be a judge of Shatin College's 'Young Musician's Festival'. It was wonderful and I was full of awe of the (apparently) unshakable nerves of these young performers.
We heard students from the age of 11 to 18 including violin, clarinet, marimba (!) and bands. The event was really slickly run, and was the finale of 2 entire days of heats (including hundreds of hopefuls. This is seriously musical school).
Having judged a few secondary school competitions now, there were some of the standard 'issues' (and I that term very reservedly) - not acknowledging the audience or accompanists, jumping straight in rather than settling down and the most common (and completely understandable one) - looking like you are facing a firing squad.
However there were some truly wonderful things too: excellent music choices that suited a teenager (rather than the completely emotionally unsuitable works that I have occassionally heard), taking time within the music to pause - always wonderful to hear, and of course, some genuinely musical playing.
The overall winner was a Year 13 student, Weng Yan Chow who blew everyone away with her playing of Copland's 'Cat and Mouse' which I'd never heard before. A great example of the right music for her age group. She was an athlete, a comedienne and an impecable performer. It was a privilege to hear and see her play. She was a worthy winner and I am sure will go on to wow many people in the future.