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Originally Posted by LXXXVIIIdentes
Laguna Greg

It is useful to identify a grade level - I know where to start in working with someone.


That's all very well and good. I just have not found this to be the case.

And just to be clear, are you saying that you would not or do not hold competitive auditions for a school orchestra concert master? I have a hard time believing you don't, so I thought I would ask. And are you also saying that you would not let a Grade 3 violinist audition for the job, if they wanted to and you hadn't heard them before?

A live audition is the standard among professionals. It's the one fixed requirement in the conservatories or universities where I have either attended or taught. I've heard numerous students who listed a very high level of exam placement who played like my left foot, and not just in this country. I've also met and worked with high-grade students who could only play 3 pieces, and really didn't know any theory or couldn't sight-read at all.

Most importantly, I don't know of any major conservatory or university that uses those syllabus grades to help students enter their schools. So you can get great remarks and high grades, win prizes and so forth on those exams, but you still have to play an audition and take entrance exams.

Additionally, working professionals don't care at all what exam grades you may have gotten. They only care what you play like at the audition, and what you can demonstrate right in front of them. The professional singers I've played for auditioned me, as I have the singers and instrumentalists I have hired to perform with me on occasion. I could have played at La Scala the night before, and it wouldn't matter. They would still want to hear me today.

And after all, isn't that where a musical education ultimately leads you? If your training doesn't prepare you for what you might do in the world, what good is it?

It makes me think of Lucas Debargue at the Tchaik last summer. Those kind of results blow the idea of the essential utility of a graded progression of training right out of the water.

While I think having a standard course syllabus can be a good and useful thing, I simply have not seen it used universally in a way that produces consistent results.

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Originally Posted by LXXXVIIIdentes
It is useful to identify a grade level - I know where to start in working with someone.

I sent you a PM the other day. For the other instrument which I did study under that system, it would be a mistake to think you could start me according to my acquired grade level. There is a lot missing, and I have started over from the very beginning a few months ago - my last assigned etude was slated "grade 7" - to give an idea. I am also wondering for how long you've been reading the teacher forum, i.e. whether some older stories may have not caught your eye. For example, there are teachers who get transfer students with wonderful records from exams and such, but they discover huge holes because these students were taught toward the exams.

When you say you know where to start someone, is this in one-on-one teaching, or in a group setting? (I have taught in both, and there is a big difference in what one can do and what one sees.)

I will keep repeating that a very big factor is the teacher, what that teacher does with any material, rather than the material itself. Excellent material, and even excellent programs, can be misused, while poorish material can be tweaked by an expert teacher.

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Originally Posted by laguna_greg

Additionally, working professionals don't care at all what exam grades you may have gotten. They only care what you play like at the audition, and what you can demonstrate right in front of them. The professional singers I've played for auditioned me, as I have the singers and instrumentalists I have hired to perform with me on occasion. I could have played at La Scala the night before, and it wouldn't matter. They would still want to hear me today.
And after all, isn't that where a musical education ultimately leads you? If your training doesn't prepare you for what you might do in the world, what good is it?

I think you are a little confused in your statements.
You are right saying that a standard syllabus is not a universal way to produce consistent results, but, you have to admit that it's more likely to have an all around musician from somebody who has to follow a syllabus which encompass various disciplines such as ear training, theory, technical drills and so on, compared to somebody who is a bench star for recitals.

Another thing that is missing there is that sometimes a progression in exams gives you an idea about how quickly a musician can learn a certain amount of repertoire.

While that is not a guarantee about the absolute quality of it and doesn't mean at all that such person is able to hit that "100" mark out of "100" with a fabulous interpretation, it does mean that such person, working more or less hard, is able to accomplish a certain task in a certain amount of time, and going back to what I quoted, in most cases, that is extremely important for orchestra musicians.

A guy who can learn to play one piece in a striking way in one year is a less fit candidate compared to a musician that can get 95% of it in a couple of week. Of course is not a rule, but a musician with a whole arsenal of sharpened tools has more chances to do the job quickly compared to a perfectionist used to work on a single recital piece at the time.

The time that "piece of papers" where ignored in behalf of skills are mostly gone. Now if you don't have an advanced degree you won't even get to the audition, too few seats, too many people.

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Originally Posted by Ataru074

I think you are a little confused in your statements.
You are right saying that a standard syllabus is not a universal way to produce consistent results, but, you have to admit that it's more likely to have an all around musician from somebody who has to follow a syllabus which encompass various disciplines such as ear training, theory, technical drills and so on, compared to somebody who is a bench star for recitals.

You are comparing two extremes as if this is the only thing that exists in the world of music lessons, as well as presenting an idealized version of the first. Laguna Greg does not sound at all confused in his statements. I'm hoping that his last post will be read carefully, and more than once.

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Originally Posted by Ataru074

I think you are a little confused in your statements.
You are right saying that a standard syllabus is not a universal way to produce consistent results, but, you have to admit that it's more likely to have an all around musician from somebody who has to follow a syllabus which encompass various disciplines such as ear training, theory, technical drills and so on, compared to somebody who is a bench star for recitals.

Another thing that is missing there is that sometimes a progression in exams gives you an idea about how quickly a musician can learn a certain amount of repertoire.

You guys are talking past each other. I understand you main points, but I also understand his:
Originally Posted by laguna_greg

While I think having a standard course syllabus can be a good and useful thing, I simply have not seen it used universally in a way that produces consistent results.

By "consistent" results perhaps he means that he would be more likely to hire a professional musician on the basis of playing than on any number of scores. That in the end audition results are going to trump any kind of grades or degrees.

I got my first job accompanying at around age 15, and I got it by sight-reading scores and then accompanying for people, on the spot.

Every important job I've gotten in my life was in this manner. Some kind of job was open, I auditioned, and I was what various people wanted.

No one ever asked me for a degree, or for test scores. I've often joked that my degree in performance is not worth more than emergency toilet paper.

Now, for people in academia the story is very different. There you can't get anywhere without "papers". So I'm just presenting one side of the story, where everything is on the basis of what you can do.

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This topic has gotten as far away from JT as any topic could, but it's probably too late to turn it back.

As I see it, we are now talking about two very different things:

1) What is a good musician? What does a good musician have to know to be successful?

2) HOW does a young person who aspires to becoming a good musician get to that goal?

Somewhere in this is the role of various systems in getting the jobs done.

But those are really three different subjects.

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Originally Posted by Ataru074

I think you are a little confused in your statements.
You are right saying that a standard syllabus is not a universal way to produce consistent results, but, you have to admit that it's more likely to have an all around musician from somebody who has to follow a syllabus


No, actually I don't. My first teacher, for example, did not use a syllabus of any kind. She had been a successful conductor with a going career before I met her, so she knew the professional standards that her students had to meet and the skills they had to have. And she knew the piano literature inside and out. She just made it up as she went along, and we all got a much more well rounded and deeper skill set than those students from teachers who followed a syllabus. I must also add that she was an exceptionally gifted teacher, and a considerably more developed musician and artist than her competition. But then again, that just proves my point about the relative utility of syllabi, and the need for really good teachers.

Originally Posted by Ataru074

Another thing that is missing there is that sometimes a progression in exams gives you an idea about how quickly a musician can learn a certain amount of repertoire.


Oh no, I don't agree with that at all. You know, I never had to do graded exams or auditions until I got into college. And today, I can prepare a full song recital for public performance in 3 weeks with a new singer. I can get a full solo recital ready in about a month or 6 weeks. I learned how to do that at school, and from the teachers there, not from graded exams. And the other people I know who do that kind of work got it from the same place.

Originally Posted by Ataru074

The time that "piece of papers" where ignored in behalf of skills are mostly gone. Now if you don't have an advanced degree you won't even get to the audition, too few seats, too many people.


I also disagree with that entirely. That's why I brought up the example of Lucas Debargue, the French guy who only had 4 years of formal lessons before he won 4th place last summer at the Tchaikovsky competition. You know, that guy had never played a concerto with an orchestra before! Many members of the jury thought he was hands down the best and most original player at the contest, as did the critics and the audience; he also won the Critics' Prize. And by his own admission, he was the least prepared in the long-term.

Now that's somebody who doesn't have ANY pieces of paper to help him!

I know that professional management relies on a live audition as well before taking on a new artist, unless you've just won a major contest AND management is automatically a part of the concert contract you get as a prize. I've helped singer friends prepare to audition for agents for years, and have gone and played their auditions a few times. Having a pedigree or a good reference might or might not get you in the door with an agent, but ultimately you'll have to sing or play for them and, if you suck, they won't represent you, and they won't want to hear you again. And they remember.

As I said, a course syllabus has its uses. They are few however, and they don't at all make up for bad teaching. I'm still convinced that it is more the skill and knowledge of the teacher that can ultimately turn out a good student. Sometimes a course syllabus in the hands of a bad teacher can make things a lot worse.

And as I said before, if this is the reality of where our profession leads, why are we trying to embrace values and goals that won't take our students there?


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I think we're all agreed that the thread has evolved (faster than Charles D. could ever have envisaged for homo sapiens grin), so let's continue evolving, and forget JT.

I've already mentioned that in my country of origin, no music teacher can teach without a teaching diploma of some sort. That probably applies in the UK too - certainly, all the music teachers I've ever met (whether in high school, or since then) have teaching diplomas, and all the British-trained ones have been through the grade exam system, whether ABRSM or Trinity. (In fact, all British-born musicians have been through the same exam system - including the well-known concert pianists currently touring the world). To avoid misunderstandings, I'm not talking about the music conservatoires, where many foreign teachers teach - and where many of their students aren't British.

Auditions are standard for performing jobs in orchestras, opera houses etc. There are many foreign musicians working in the classical British music scene - including all the conductors of major British orchestras, except Simon Rattle.

When it comes to young musicians and amateur musicians, the ABRSM system is so ubiquitous here that I've lost count of how many times I've been asked (by people who attended my recitals and lecture-recitals) for advice on how to restart their ABSRM piano exams. When a certain well-known politician decided to learn to play the piano a few years ago, his ABRSM Grade 1 exam results was public news grin (and everybody applauded him for doing it).

As for "what is a good musician", I'd say that apart from the obvious answers - he should have a good ear, musicality, technique and knowledge - he should also have a curiosity: a willingness to explore, not take anything for granted, and a constant urge to keep learning and continue bettering himself. Good musicians are never complacent.

Therefore, for a young person to achieve the goal of becoming a good musician, he needs to have the right attitude (though the right aptitude also helps grin), a great love of music, an insatiable appetite to learn, enjoy the practicing and the work he needs to do to keep improving and achieving, and a willingness to practice, practice, practice, practice - and, of course, a good teacher also helps thumb.


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Originally Posted by laguna_greg

As I said, a course syllabus has its uses. They are few however, and they don't at all make up for bad teaching. I'm still convinced that it is more the skill and knowledge of the teacher that can ultimately turn out a good student. Sometimes a course syllabus in the hands of a bad teacher can make things a lot worse.

Bingo!

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Originally Posted by Gary D.

I got my first job accompanying at around age 15, and I got it by sight-reading scores and then accompanying for people, on the spot.

Every important job I've gotten in my life was in this manner. Some kind of job was open, I auditioned, and I was what various people wanted.


Gary as always adds some real world common sense. Thanks for coming out of the woodwork on this one, much needed.

I just want to amplify one thing here.

I don't get jobs through an audition, those days are long over. Wish I could do some of them over knowing what I know now.

But I do get some calls to play, over people who are more skilled than I, because I'm easy to work with. The halo effect of showing up early, staying sober, laughing at the music director's stupid jokes, and generally being easy to get along with has worked to my benefit. This has been especially true in my favorite genre, the musical pit. Okay, I'd love to have gotten those gigs on pure skill, but ..... I'm not the best out there. But when the choice is between reasonably competent and a nice guy, and a monster player who's a jerk, I've been able to have some fun. Of course some gigs are over my head and the jerks can have them!


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Goof evening. I donn't see how anyone can argue against the principle of a syllabus. If you teach you necessarily have a syllabus.

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
My first teacher, for example, did not use a syllabus of any kind.


Are you sure? What is a syllabus, if not this:

Originally Posted by laguna_greg

the skill and knowledge of the teacher that can ultimately turn out a good student.


... coupled with this:
Originally Posted by laguna_greg
she knew the professional standards that her students had to meet and the skills they had to have.





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As for the French guy

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Lucas Debargue, the French guy


He is most definitely a product of the French conservatory system. And he is the student in a French conservatory of a Russian teacher who has published works on pedagogy.

What's more, since last summer he has a paper to show, quite a few.

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Also, greg I'd like to ask what you mean by this. How does a course syllabus make a bad teacher worse?

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Sometimes a course syllabus in the hands of a bad teacher can make things a lot worse.

Last edited by landorrano; 03/01/16 02:27 PM.
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Originally Posted by landorrano
Also, greg I'd like to ask what you mean by this. How does a course syllabus make a bad teacher worse?

Originally Posted by laguna_greg
Sometimes a course syllabus in the hands of a bad teacher can make things a lot worse.

I can answer that from my side. You teach it superficially only toward end results, maybe pushing two pieces per grade for the exams, not putting your attention to where the student's learning needs are, and instead going by what is literally in the list.

LG? smile

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Originally Posted by landorrano
Are you sure? What is a syllabus, if not this:

Originally Posted by laguna_greg

the skill and knowledge of the teacher that can ultimately turn out a good student.

A syllabus is a formal list usually created by an organization or some kind of body of what must be taught in a particular grade level, by all teachers following it, sometimes also setting out which material is to be used.

A teacher who makes his or her choices while interacting with a student might cover the same complement of skills and knowledge (or more) as is contained in a syllabus, but since he is not following a formal list written by someone else, no syllabus is involved. What LG described is not a syllabus.

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This sounds like politics to me, not a discussion about teaching.

Anyone who teaches has a syllabus, more or less clearly defined. Any method book is itself a kind of syllabus.

Originally Posted by keystring


(or more)


Nothing impeaches an instrumental teacher who follows a syllabus written in some way by the governement to do "more" than what is in the syllabus. I know many who do. In fact all of the music teachers that I have known do.

In the music education system here in France a "particular grade level" may last a number of years. In some cases kids advance in leaps and bounds. Also it is not rare that a kid has a difference in grade level between different aspects of the syllabus.

All music teachers worth their salt make hises or herses choices while interacting with a student. That has absolutely nothing to do with a syllabus or not a syllabus.










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Originally Posted by landorrano
This sounds like politics to me, not a discussion about teaching.

Anyone who teaches has a syllabus, more or less clearly defined. Any method book is itself a kind of syllabus.


I am a trained teacher with two degrees, one being a teaching degree. I earned a teaching certificate, and received subsequent post-graduate teacher training. The definition I gave you is what I learned within my teacher training and then practising of my profession. It is not "politics". I gave you the terminology as I understand it. I forget for the moment whether you are also a teacher, and if so, don't know what type of terminology you used where you are or studied, within the framework of teaching.

As I recall, Laguna Greg was comparing the education he received with that of a system such as ABRSM which has a definite syllabus. the RCM also has a syllabus. In fact, I have a copy of it in my possession. It is a printed book that sets out the skills, repertoire, and other things, to be covered at each grade level (and how many years that takes is moot), as well as a suggestion of teaching material (books).

That is what we were talking about.

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Originally Posted by keystring
You teach it superficially only toward end results, maybe pushing two pieces per grade for the exams, not putting your attention to where the student's learning needs are, and instead going by what is literally in the list.


That's just a poor teacher, I don't see what the existence of a syllabus has to do with that.

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What Laguna Greg describes reminds me of a number of teachers that I know or that I know of who work in the French "system". I know musicians who are in or have been in the French "system" and who speak of one or more of their teachers as Laguna Greg speaks of his.

In fact the young French-guy pianist that Laguna Greg mentioned speaks admirably of his teachers.

Originally Posted by keystring
It is a printed book that sets out the skills, repertoire, and other things, to be covered at each grade level (and how many years that takes is moot), as well as a suggestion of teaching material (books).

That is what we were talking about.


Sounds like an interesting document.


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Originally Posted by landorrano
Originally Posted by keystring
You teach it superficially only toward end results, maybe pushing two pieces per grade for the exams, not putting your attention to where the student's learning needs are, and instead going by what is literally in the list.


That's just a poor teacher, I don't see what the existence of a syllabus has to do with that.

I would like to make a point. If *I* make up a syllabus, based on what I teach and HOW I teach (which I have done), that syllabus is far more likely to work for me than following the syllabus of someone else, no matter how it works for someone else.

I have no argument with the goals I see given in various systems, but I might have huge problems with the order in which things are presented. And that includes grading of music, which I often do not agree with at all.

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