A scale for college entry level?

June 8, 2013 at 10:07 PM · College entry levels come up reasonably often here but without a scale to provide a guide. It occurred to me that the advancement repertoire listed by Sassmannshaus might be a useful scale as it includes not only pieces but also expected mastery.

Sassmannshaus graded repertoire.com

Obviously this will differ by school and by individual ability but perhaps there are minimum expectations?

EDIT: my original link was to a page with the repertoire (with orchestra, piano and solo) as well as the technical skills required on the same location. Unfortunately, (for this) Sassmansshaus has since separated all these making it much less useful for this purpose. Rats....

Replies (46)

June 8, 2013 at 10:38 PM · So I'm guessing one has to get past a level '6'..

June 8, 2013 at 10:46 PM ·

June 8, 2013 at 11:05 PM · Oops. Thanks Darrett - I've corrected my link with yours.

Shoot - my link went to a page with everythign on it - with orchestra, with piano and solo Obviously the web page has been updated to separate these. That kinds screws it up... :(

June 9, 2013 at 01:53 AM · I'm glad to see this list. It confirms my suspicion that Viotti No. 22 is too hard for me. :)

Seriously, though. It would be really useful to know where college programs typically "draw the line." I suspect around 6-7 also.

June 9, 2013 at 01:56 AM · He's gradually made the list more comprehensive - but oddly, he's taken out the required skill sets for each level. Thus, for example, on the original list he had at level 6: "All strokes in basic forms, variety of vibrato, scales and double stops with advanced speed" etc. Unless I'm missing it that is...

I find it pretty accurate - but still there are pieces on lower levels that I have trouble with and ones on higher ones that I think I could complete. Of course I may have some delusions too :)

June 9, 2013 at 02:06 AM · Looking at that list, from my limited vantage point (daughter just went through this process), and although I'm sure there are always exceptions, apart from the Khatchaturian (only 1 student), all of the kids I knew who were auditioning were doing concertos at Level 8 and above, with various solo Bach (usually the g minor sonata adagio and fugue or presto) and Paganini for etudes. This is not to say that another work (the list isn't comprehensive) at a so-called Level 7 wouldn't work, if played well, of course. The "played well" obviously applies to whatever is chosen.

June 9, 2013 at 02:15 AM · wow. Which schools did she apply to?

[I hope she got in :) ]

June 9, 2013 at 02:23 AM ·

June 9, 2013 at 02:29 AM ·

June 9, 2013 at 11:04 AM · thanks again Darrett. I seem to be a bit page-dense here...

I think I could reach that level in 2-3 years at the current level of progress (I'm pretty much a 6 now and nibbling at 7 on his scale). But is there any school that would accept a qualified mature student into their program? Or would the age barrier be prohibitive?

June 9, 2013 at 01:05 PM ·

June 9, 2013 at 01:25 PM · A written age limit might be grounds for a law suit - and jeopardize public funding. The only real test is if they actually have older students.

Ever seen one?

June 9, 2013 at 10:01 PM · Makes sense in theory - but if summer performance camp attendence is any indication, I'm not that hopeful. The fact is its a very unusual thing to do. But why should performance be any different than any other study?

June 10, 2013 at 08:39 PM · Elise, I think one of the things that music colleges expect students to be able to do is learn stuff quickly. I read somewhere that a music college might expect a piano student to completely learn two or three new Haydn Sonatas, for example, in a couple of weeks time. One of the things I bet "mature" (i.e., 50+) students will struggle with is memorization of new material at the rate expected by the program. The usual arguments that lead to ageism (as well as other forms of discrimination) are questions about "integration" of the student into a program that might involve quite a bit of collaborative work, and of whether the student will be happy or miserable -- is this purely the student's decision to make, or should the faculty steer students away who, upon being interviewed, show cause for concern in that area?

June 10, 2013 at 09:14 PM · Istn't that a bit like making rules that acceptance into the basketball program requires a height of 6ft or more? Effectively ensuring that almost all your class will be male?

IMO the thing to do is not stick ridgidly to the rules - some totally brilliant youngsters don't memorize well and some top virtuosos use sheet music for concertos. Great training programs are built round positives, where you seek your students strengths, not by exclusion by weakness.

I might not fare well in virtuosic playing, I would probably be in the lower 1/3rd at memorization (but its getting better- I've just completed the piece this topic started with) but I might knock the socks of a good 80% in expression. I'm happy to be judged and compared on my full slate - but not solely by my age.

June 10, 2013 at 09:36 PM ·

June 11, 2013 at 12:18 AM · thats promising Darrett! OK its off to Eastman I go... :D

Oh, there's a matter of an audition?? Isn't that discriminating against the violinistically handicapped? Hmmm...

June 11, 2013 at 01:22 AM ·

June 11, 2013 at 02:32 AM · I've been in training for 40 yrs :D

I do understand the challenge of doing a degree and I guess it would be much more difficult now in many ways than it was the first time round. But in some ways its easier. Learning facts, integrating information, writing, deadlines, speed reading - I have all these through my training and years as a scientist. Physically I'm in pretty good shape from all the dancing (which is why I can play for 2-3 hrs straight).

Anyone know if it makes more sense to go straight into a MA program? Are the entry requirements that much stiffer? I mean I have plenty of credit already :D

June 11, 2013 at 06:08 AM · Hi Elise. Let me suggest a strategy to you. First write down in as much specific detail as possible what you hope to accomplish in your studies and what you hope to do after you finish your degree. Having done that, I would get in touch with the director of admissions of several schools and talk it over with them. I would hope that this would lead to a school which would be a good fit and would value you highly as a student.

June 11, 2013 at 02:31 PM · Roy: its a plan, a good one too. One reason I am attracted to doing a degree course is because I'm fascinated by violin pedagogy - which is really why I read here. I love to work through the technical challenges of playing the instrument and sometimes I can apply some physiological principles to the solutions. For example, I think I have a unique perspective on what bow arm 'weight' is as distinct from 'pressure', or at least how to put it into body-mechanistic terms.

June 11, 2013 at 05:29 PM · Elise, You have a school that follows a fairly widely used system in your own town... why not check the Royal Conservatory syllabus? Or am I missing the jist of your question?

June 11, 2013 at 06:20 PM · Hi Christina,

The RCM is almost next door to the University music department - but (as I understand it) thats as close as they get! The RCM has a grade system of training and testing that culminates in an 'ACRT' which is equivalent to learning the instrument up to a teaching level.

The University (of Toronto) has a separate application method that is similar to elsewhere - certain grade achievements with an audition requirement. This mentions the RCM levels but does not depend on them (see below). The full application is fairly typical - its as follows:

To play the pieces (or parts of the pieces) that you have prepared.

To sight read a short piece on your instrument and/or sight sing a short piece, and to identify intervals, chords and cadences.

To answer questions to assess knowledge of repertoire your instrument, general repertoire and structural features of chosen audition repertoire.

To discuss your musical interests and career goals.

With respect to repertoire its:

Applicants to the Common First Year (includes Composition, Comprehensive and History & Theory), Music Education and CTEP - Bachelor of Music Degree Program perform repertoire at the RCM Grade 8 Level or above, unless specified differently within the instrument requirement.

Applicants to the Performance Program perform repertoire at the RCM Grade 10 level or above, unless specified differently within the instrument requirement.

Although the RCM is mentioned, its only for comparison. Required repertoire is specified as:

Applicants should prepare 4 contrasting movements/short pieces. Each of the following periods listed below must be represented: (memorization required for at least 2 pieces)




A work written after 1960, preferably Canadian. (You may wish to visit the Canadian Music Centre web site for ideas.(www.musiccentre.ca - opens in new window)

[Neat requirement for Canadian music!]

[to be continued..]

June 11, 2013 at 06:48 PM · so RCM examples of repertoire requirements for BM (general)


Accolay concerto

Bach Aminor

Haydn G major

Handel sonatas

Mozart somata

Dvorjak Sonatina

Shostakovixh Romance in C

Monte Csardas

Bach Air on a G string

Bach partita II giga

Examples for BM(performance) (grade 10 RCM) are (complete):

Bruch Gminor

Mozart IV

Viotti 22

Beethoven sonata

Provofief sonata 115

Shubert sonata A maj

Shuman sonata A min

Beethoven Romance in G

Bloch Nigun

Glasunov Meditation

Mozart rondo

Sarasate romanza andeluza

Tch Seranade melancholiuque

Wieniaski Legend

Barh sonata 1 presto or siciliana

partita 1 alamande, or sarabande etc


I don't know if anyone is interested in that - but maybe it provides a contrast to other schools requirements.

Basically I am workin on and beyond the rep for 8 and would hope to be at 10 in 2 years.

The question here though is even if I had all this would the school even let me apply at my age? And that I don't know. After all, you have to submit your application including date of birth so you have no way of knowing if you fail to get an audition if age was a factor.

But I think Roy's suggestion is the best - meet with the school registrar - that way you get everything out in the open.

EDIT: I just found this in the admissions policy:

"The University of Toronto considers applicants based on their academic background, regardless of age."

Which should settle the question, at least in theory.... ;)

June 13, 2013 at 01:00 AM · The "performance" requirements certainly are much more difficult than the "general." Accolay vs Viotti 22. Big difference.

June 13, 2013 at 09:16 AM · I glanced at the MA performance ones - there you have to play complete concertos such as Lalo or Mendelssohn Emin. Hey you have to be a concert level soloist on your way IN!

Noone seems to have come up with an actual example of a senior that was accepted into a music school... Maybe noone tried?

June 13, 2013 at 09:40 AM ·

June 14, 2013 at 09:14 PM · Elise -- I think your age and life experience could be a real asset, particularly if your main interest is pedagogy. In your place I would hope to design a program that would meet my specific needs, and also to find a teacher/mentor who would be expert in the teaching of pedagogy. I would also hope to work into some sort of teaching assistantship, not so much for financial reasons, but for the experience and also because such arrangements often evolve into teaching jobs down the road.

June 15, 2013 at 12:32 AM · Pedagogy is an interest - but my main one is still performing. And while a career as an orchestral soloist is obvioulsy not realistic I believe I can find a niche - in particular because I would not have to make a living at it ;)

I hired a pianist to practise my current pieces with a couple of days ago - only to find out that he was a PhD candidate in piano performance at the RCM! He was delightful and gave me alot of insight into how the degree programs work in Toronto - and mirrored your advice here that the key thing is to find a faculty member to work with and explore the options.

I would like to delve a bit into the mechanics of violin playing. We always say that its a darned illogical instrument - but that belies its form and long evolution. The violin is as it is - and the way we play it too - because thats the easiest and best way to make this kind of noise with this kind of facility. That means there is an 'evolved logic' to the instrument and the player that is worth exploring. With my physiology and research background I think I could contribute to such ideas....

June 15, 2013 at 12:47 AM · I think the violin is a "darned" logical instrument, with much interesting physics (and maths).

June 15, 2013 at 01:02 AM · Just because something is logical doesn't make it easy. :)

June 15, 2013 at 01:10 AM · Quite.

June 15, 2013 at 02:36 AM · fermats last theorem, a case in point...

but that was solved. I don't think the violin is going to be solved any time soon - a few master it, but noone seems to be able to really explain it :D

June 15, 2013 at 04:45 PM · The game of chess is being solved by retrograde analysis, but VERY slowly. I think the largest endgame tablebase is six pieces including both kings. (In other words the "correct" move in every possible position with six or fewer pieces is known.) However there are more possible chess games than there are atoms in the universe, so the tablebase will eventually exceed even theoretical limits on storage capacity. The size of a seven-piece tablebase would be about 100 TB.

And the violin is *more* complicated. Even chess is a discrete problem.

June 15, 2013 at 05:54 PM · perhaps with an 'insurmountable advantage' limit one could solve chess. Thus, once white (for only white can win a solved chess problem) is significantly ahead materially, combined with at least a comparable strategic position, you don't have to solve every permutation thereafter. This might reduce chess to a reachable problem.

Solving violin is not so bad for just the instrument - it becomes infinitely more complex once you add a human playing it as i don't know if you can generalize the infinite variety of physical permutations such as size, flexibility, strength, ballance (lets not even get into the mental capacities). It would, however, be an interesting excersize - figuring out the best way to play a violin by one prototype human.

June 15, 2013 at 06:05 PM ·

June 15, 2013 at 06:49 PM · I think one of the reasons why things like chess, violin playing, painting, and synthetic organic chemistry are enjoyable is precisely because they are not solved problems. We feel that we know enough about them to make inroads, but we also enjoy the ambiguities and the challenges large and small.

June 15, 2013 at 07:00 PM · How interesting - wouldn't it be great if we could catalogue all the body-types on V.com and correlate those to their setups and ways of playing.

To do it though you would really need a comprehensive list of options... mmm a research topic... ohoh, there's my PhD....

June 16, 2013 at 01:01 AM · We could debate what it even means to "solve" a problem. Discrete problems are often harder than continuous ones because you have to use combinatorial methods.

An "exact" (whatever that means) descriptive differential equation may "solve" a general class of posed problems but each specific case will still have to be calculated.

You could say that life is unsolved, yet we each, in our own way, are in the process of "solving" it every day.

June 16, 2013 at 01:14 AM · I think in context of the violin to solve it would be to define how best to play it in such a way that it would be predictive for any player.

this is the definition of the modeler rather than the mathematician. its not as satisfying as reducing to elemental equations but its really the only realistic solution for something that has so many (an infinite??) number of variables.

Perhaps a good example is riding a bike becaues there are certain things you have to do to keep it upright. however, solving that for every kind of human and every kind of terrain (mathematical solution) is absurd and yet solving it a model terms is not impossible.

June 16, 2013 at 01:53 AM · For me, the point of physics or mathematics is really to understand at a deeper level. So for instance Dirac's equation "explains" electrons at a fundamental level and actually tells much about them but that doesn't mean you can or even want to calculate every conceivable interaction.

In the bike example there are simple physical rules that do encapsulate the balance, such as conservation of angular momentum etc. but of course you can conceive of umpteen specific cases to calculate and it would indeed be a fool's errand to bother with that a priori.

An example with the violin. People tell me it is impossible to document all the possible fingerings but it just depends on the exact question. It is indeed possible to document the possible fingerings of all the interval patterns in a 12 note octave.

If you know your question precisely you may be able to solve it but if you don't you definitely can't ;-)

June 16, 2013 at 03:09 PM · Elise, that was good insight regarding modeling, I agree completely. Models, however, can get complicated. Consider the fields of robotics and aeronautics, just a couple of examples!

June 16, 2013 at 08:33 PM · I wish I could do graphics on here but here is ee's Principle on Ideas:

Usefulness [is proportional to] 1/complexity

...which is pretty short and hence quite useful.

June 16, 2013 at 09:56 PM · I think it was Einstein who said "things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler".

I am going to defend mathematicians/physicists here and say it is the engineers (and modelers?) who complicate things.

Case in point: Watch Sassmannshaus' video on smooth bow change. He talks about the physics essentially, that the bow weight comes off the string and "sneaks" back in after changing direction, no mess or fuss about which fingers do what or crescent bows etc.

When I saw that, I thought "yes, he makes sense".

June 17, 2013 at 02:24 AM · Eric - we may be using the terms mathematician and modeler differently (not unlikely). the way I'm using them is basically empirical vs deductive.

A mathematician describes a process by deriving a formula from first principles. A modeler uses experimental data to create a likeness of the process. The latter wants as much data as possible to improve the likeness, the former wants as little as possible so that it will not contaminate his equations!

one (ma) gives you a proven description of something that may be close to what you are after. The other (mo) gives you a near perfect description of the process that is full of assumptions. Eventually you hope the latter can break down the process into segements that can be described perfectly by the former. And then you have the problem solved.

Of course Mas hate Mos and vice versa...

June 17, 2013 at 06:02 AM · Thanks for expounding your concept some more, as now I better understand where you are coming from.

For me, while it is true that a mathematician (or theoretical physicist for that matter) derives something a priori based on axioms and equations that are already formulated, those axioms and equations are always themselves based on some observations and distill and encapsulate something very real, if esoteric.

In mathematics, group theory encapsulates symmetry and the theory of fields is distilled from experience with numbers and generalises their properties.

In physics, Dirac's equation (which I mentioned earlier), General relativity etc were all based on years and years of observations.

...they really are fundamental models, albeit often very succinctly put and of course lead to whole books of more complicated models.

Where I studied maths was divided into "Pure Mathematics" and "Applied Mathematics" and physics into "Theoretical" and "Experimental"....then there were those...ahem engineers :-)

I am sure our views intersect somewhere :-)

EDIT: Elise draws a sharp distinction between mathematicians and modelers whereas for me the distinction is rather between two types of model, mathematical and phenomenological.

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