I've Never Been a Competitive Player ...Except With Myself
I've never been a competitive musician. I play for the delight of it. That I was good back in the day — really good — was not due to anything other than thoroughly enjoying playing. Thinking about it, though, I guess, in one sense, I am competitive: it's me against myself — can I do it better?
Competitive players annoy me, especially when, whether they play poorly or they play well, they sport an arrogance. Now, some say that, as a flutist ('flautist' for the sticklers, though I hate what sounds, to me, like an affectation), that I'm arrogant. They point out that I'll listen to a performance and address the sound of the instrument and the performers aptitude and tenchique. But it's not criticism. In fact, it's actually an analysis — comes from having taught flute, because, as a teacher of the instrument, you have to analyze where you can help that student improve. In actuality, though, I'm measuring the actual performance against what I know to be optimal to superior. As I do that, I'm thinking of my own playing, reminding myself to check for and, if found, address any such errors.
There's a saying: big fish in a small pond. I run into that a lot in the flute world — flutists who flaunt the fact that they're “principal flautist for [no-name, regional, tawdry] orchestra” or “winner of the [ploy to get contestant entry fee] award”. A quick listen to temporarily available [and I do mean VERY temporary, because they disappear off the Net within hours] audio/video recordings of them playing or their orchestra playing in concert demonstrates that, yup, big, very stinky fish in very small puddle. Yet, there's their professionally shot advertising layouts, designed to hook in ignorant students, and neophyte parents of students, or reel in participants to their “master” classes, workshops, or even self-sponsored concerts in hopes of gaining a bit of lucre.