Daughter No. 2 sat on the bench and stared straight ahead, trying not to let her emotions show. I wasn’t so stoical.
We were in the lower level of the Home and Family Arts Building at the Indiana State Fair, surrounded by contemporary artwork from across the state. In front of us was a grand piano. What should have been a relatively quiet room, however, was a cacophony of over-amplified singing by a trio one floor up.
My daughter was scheduled to play piano for 30 minutes — one of the honors awarded finalists in the Young Hoosier State Piano Competition. However, the music from above was overpowering. A volunteer at the building’s information desk told me the trio wasn’t even on the day’s docket. He added that the show was supposed to be over about 2:30 p.m., the time my daughter was slated to play.
When that time came and went, I walked up the steps and caught two of the singers taking a break behind the stage while the third crooned on. I asked when the group would be done, explaining that my daughter was slated to play piano downstairs, and that the ongoing show was amplified to the point that no one would be able to hear my 13-year-old’s performance.
The male singer shrugged his shoulders, a sure sign he didn’t give a damn, and told me they were going to perform for another 20 minutes. And, he added, if I had any complaints, I should talk to the building director, not him. In a word, he was an ass.
The building director offered little help, claiming that the person in charge of the piano competition was told this was not a good time to have any of the contestants play their 30-minute stints. Maybe that was the case. I don’t know. It seemed like everyone wanted to point a finger at someone else, and nobody really cared about the kid downstairs who had earned the right to play for the crowd without the audio molestation of grownups with a sound system on steroids.
In the end, Daughter No. 2 played. The first part of her set was effectively drowned out by the trio. The remainder was overpowered by an emcee during a talent contest that immediately followed the singing. Unfortunately, the piano music seemed like a hindrance to everything else taking place at the time. That wasn’t the case with piano performances the previous weekend, when a mix of classical and popular music could be heard throughout the entire building.
I lost a bit of faith in the Indiana State Fair today because of the incident. The same thing happened last week, after I viewed the antiques entered in the fair’s Open Division. Less-than-stellar judging included a piece of milk glass that won fourth place in the division for China: Decorated Plate.
China. Porcelain. Milk glass. Graniteware. It’s all the same stuff, right? When the so-called experts can’t tell them apart, there’s a problem.
What would greatly improve the display of antiques in the Open Division contest is a bit of information that helps non-collectors understand what they’re looking at and why those items are special. A poster or even comments by the judges would be a welcome addition. For the antiques shown this year, there wasn’t the first iota of information about any of the items or the categories they fit into.
Maybe no one cares. Not about education. Not about getting judges who can tell the difference between china and glassware. Not even about the young pianist who came to play in a quiet room with art-lined walls and found a bunch of adults who, through their own music, shouted down her talents.
I expect better at the Indiana State Fair. A lot better.