Seconds count;Career development

14th May 1999 at 01:00
What's wrong with coming second? Nothing. Not as good as first, obviously, but sometimes a person needs putting in their place, their second place, and they can recognise it's the right place too. Equal second? Better than third, still something to be proud of. Equal second with a five-year-old girl, when you're a lad of 15? How's that for a put-down?

I have just seen a child prodigy perform. It was one of those music festivals with a celebrity adjudicator who sits at a huge table in the middle of a hall full of anxious parents. They clap like mad at the end of each piece, especially when something's gone wrong in the middle. The prodigy did not go wrong. She played a minute cello and sat on a tiny chair. She played flawlessly. It was wonderful and eerie. I felt I'd seen Mozart perform. This kid was to the cello as Torvill and Dean were to ice, as Louis Armstrong was to the blues. One day she'll be famous.

Her rivals were all 10 years older. They included a girl who played with feeling but drifted slightly in the middle. And the lad.

There's a genius in many a classroom. The art for us teacher-adjudicators is how to cope with it. This adjudicator got it right, awarding the first prize to the older girl for sensitive, if not perfect, musicianship, and the equal second prize to the prodigy and the lad. One day she told the little girl, one day... And the lad. Was he put out? Not at all. This cool dude knew that he was in the same league as a Torvill and Dean in the making, a Mozart, a new Louis Armstrong. He was as good as the best. And it doesn't come better than that.

Richard Hoyes teaches at Farnham College, Surrey

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today