Music education levels in Spain and their equivalency to the US system

Edited: January 25, 2021, 5:25 PM · What would be the equivalent of a Masters Degree or an Artists Diploma, respectively, at a typical Spanish music conservatory?

While I am fluent in Spanish, their websites are pretty confusing to me because it appears that their different levels of study are categorized completely differently than in the US. Besides the Reina Sofia in Madrid, which clearly differentiates between their undergrads and grad students the same way they do in the US, everywhere else seems to approach it in terms of different 'grades"?

Any clarification on which levels someone would apply to if they are searching for a degree equivalent to a Masters or Artist Diploma level, respectively, would be extremely helpful!

If anyone answering also has knowledge on which Spanish conservatories stand out in terms of reputation, besides the Reina Sofia, it would also be helpful. Thanks!

Replies (4)

January 25, 2021, 9:29 PM · Are you sure the places you're looking at aren't community music schools or something like that? Spain might use ABRSM or something like it; that's usually where "grades" come into play.

Edited: January 26, 2021, 1:53 AM · In Spain we typically have 3 levels in formal music education:

Basic level (Grado elemental): From year 1 to 4.

Intermediate level (Grado medio, sometimes also called grado profesional): From year 5 to year 10 (6 grades). There’s a big difference between the first intermediate grades and the last ones. Finishing this makes you qualified to teach from year 1 to 10. There’s a big difference between grade 5 (in which you just have started professional repertoire) and grade 10 (in which you must have a good technique).

Professional level (Grado superior): From year 11 to year 14 (2 grades, 2 years long each). This is the grade for professional musicians and performers. Most teachers also have this. It has the same status as studying a university grade.

I never followed formal education, but as a reference for the violin, I can say I played Vivaldi A minor and my teacher told me I would be somewhere in between the 4th and the 5th grade. As for piano (so that you can also compare) I’d be around grade 10 and I’m currently playing the Tempest sonata, Bach partita #2 and (hopefully) a prelude by Rachmaninoff. Grade 11/12 typically includes the Italian Concerto.

I have no idea of how the US grading system works, so I can’t compare them directly. Hope this helps a little bit.

January 26, 2021, 5:03 AM · That helps a lot, thanks!
Edited: January 26, 2021, 5:41 AM · You're welcome. I see now that I made a little mistake: it should say

There’s a big difference between grade 5 (in which you just have started intermediate repertoire)

For instance, and taking a random violin program from a Madrid conservatoire: 5th course includes Bach's double concerto and 10th course includes Bach sonatas and partitas or Sarasate gypsy air.

The first 10 grades are usually technique-oriented. Only in the last 4 grades one specializes in composing, directing, teaching, or mastering the instrument up to a soloist level.

That's why most amateurs usually fall somewhere in between 3rd and 7th grade. The ones who really enjoy classical music usually get to play more difficult pieces. Very few of them have the time and dedication to study the 11th and forward grades, although anyone who is serious about a music career should study all 14 grades.

Professional musicians who aspire to become soloists usually go out of Spain after those 14 grades to complete their formation. Teachers who want to teach at official and public conservatoires study all of the 14 grades too. But there are many teachers at private schools who have the first 10 grades and teach children or beginner adults.

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