Some years ago I wrote an independent study on the North Dakota District and State Band Contest System for my Master's in Music Education, and during the course of this endeavor I did a lot of research on contests. In general, I feel that directors who "do not believe" in contests never approach the musical standards of those who do.
I feel music contests:
1) Raise the music stands of directors and students
2) Motivate the students to higher achievement
3) Widen the horizons of students musically and socially
4) Develop a "sense of loyalty" to the school music program
5) Arouse the interest of the school and community to the music program
6) "Sell" the music program to the general public
7) Develop a sense of pride in the school music program
Critics of the contest system have stated students are hurt by poor ratings, too much time is spent preparing for contests, there are not enough constructive comments by judges, there is not enough time to hear other solos and groups, it is expensive to participate in contests, and in some cases a teacher's job depends on high contest ratings.
In spite of contest critics, I firmly believe the advantages highly outweigh the disadvantages. I feel the contest is a high motivating force for a soloist, member of a small group, or a large band or chorus to strive for the highest possible musical performance.
It has been my experience that music contests have been the single largest motivating force for directors and students to achieve higher musical performances. Competition is one of the strongest human drives and stimulates progress in any field. I believe contests have had a decided effect on raising the standards of music performance in high schools.