V.com weekend vote: Have you participated in graded music exams in your area (as either a teacher or a student)?

March 26, 2015, 11:15 PM · Many students find motivation in taking graded repertory exams, though these are not as commonplace in the United States as they are elsewhere.

Music Exams

Here is a list of some of the most common music exams, and where they take place:

There are other music exams, and some are more localized. I welcome your additions to this list!

Have you participated in a music examination program (or more than one)? Are they motivating for you or for your students? Are they a waste of time that interferes with other learning? Please share your thoughts on the subject!

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March 27, 2015 at 09:03 AM · I took all ABRSM exams except Grades 1 and VI in the '50s, meeting the 2nd movement of the Purcell G minor sonata, which remains one of my favourite sonatas (3rd movement in particular), both on violin and viola (In the 2nd movement, I prefer to jump up an octave, rather than have the tune continued on the piano, as Watson Forbes's published arrangement does), in Grade V. Things seem to have changed since then. The Canadian RCM syllabus, in particular, looks considerably more difficult than the ALCM I passed in 1961.

There were, of course, no Suzuki books at that time, so the motivation to participate in graded exams was higher.

March 27, 2015 at 01:35 PM · I actually don't know if they're available in my area. I don't think they're a waste of time for those who enjoy or are motivated by that sort of thing, but I'm not one of those people. If I never had to take another exam again in my life, I'd be perfectly happy!

March 27, 2015 at 06:15 PM · I took violin grades 1 and 2 and grade 1 music theory a couple years after I started playing. At the time, they were a good challenge for me and I learned some very core, basic skills from the subjects I had to learn that I've used over and over (particularly the Aural section).

Looking back, I think that the exams helped me a lot more years after I took them than they did at the time. For example, they were the first experience I ever had playing selected material for a judge. I played well, and the positive experience created a good bridge in my mind for the first time I auditioned for youth symphony. I think it helped that my teacher was not one to try to help me calm my nerves. She was relaxed and very matter-of-fact. As just a young kid, I actually assumed that the exams would be as easy as recitals were. They were - probably because I didn't get stressed out about them. With that experience behind me, I was confident and knew most of what to expect when I took my first audition. The one thing I ran into there was a little bit of extra adrenaline (which was unexpected). But I was mentally prepared, and that helped a lot.

Right now, I'm teaching my little sister, and we're beginning to prepare for grade 1. When she takes the exam, I will probably play her piano accompaniment. Then I'd like to take the grade 5 Practical exam (prerequisite for instrumental grades 6+), and try grade 8, which is my current level. I think my sister will get many of the same benefits I got at her age, and I'm curious to see what else I can learn myself.

March 27, 2015 at 07:06 PM · I actually just discovered the ABRSM exams - they are offered in the US close to me but I don't think it is widely practiced here in the US? At least it wasn't when I was a kid. Is the ASTA program similar? Any opinions on which one would be better to go through or is more widely used in the US?

March 27, 2015 at 08:05 PM · Back in the 60s-70s there was a sort of measured exam in NY, but I don't know what it was called; it was somehow tied to All-State, but not directly. I remember (SO well) failing sight reading the first time I tried it. My teacher was furious--at herself, because we had never practiced reading. So, for the next year I had to sight read every etude I was assigned, with her marking rhythm with chords on the piano. It was tough, but I've never had any problem with reading since, so it was worth it.

March 27, 2015 at 08:54 PM · Your questions assume all responders actually know if such exams are offered in a given locale.

March 27, 2015 at 09:21 PM · I hope that my questions bring more awareness to people and inspire them to find out about these exams if they don't know!

March 28, 2015 at 12:08 PM · What's the best way to find out if these exams are offered where we live?

March 28, 2015 at 03:05 PM · It took me about 45 years to get from Grade 3 (ABRSM) to grade 8 (Trinity and Guildhall), with steadily declining scores -but I'm sure this is not a record!

March 30, 2015 at 09:12 PM · In my childhood my father also entered me for the local age-ranged solo and chamber music competitions. In the North London one I sometimes got the silver medal, but in the one for the whole of London I was generally beaten to it. Dad cultivated the victors on my behalf and that's how I got some of my childhood friends. Much later, one of them and I performed the violin and viola solo parts of the slow movement of the Sinfonia Concertante with our Borough Youth Orchestra.

Not about Grades, I know, but such competitions are also worth considering if they exist in people's areas.

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