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Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: PianoStartsAt33] #2791896
12/16/18 10:03 AM
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Currently, I'm listening to Christmas around Europe, starting in Helsinki (but now in Leipzig), courtesy of BBC Radio 3 www.bbc.co.uk/radio3 and I'm in an expansive mood, full of Christmas cheer and goodwill toward all men (and women) wink so I have time to put a few thoughts together....

As this thread is about classical-based and comprehensive exams systems like the ABRSM and its copies in other countries, I'd like to summarize what I think about the one system I know better than anyone else in ABF (- I'm pretty sure I'm the only one here who has done all the ABRSM grade exams from 1 to 8 without skipping any of them, plus diploma).
Especially as one or two others have confused the issue by throwing in locally-based 'testing systems' administered by local teachers which bear no comparison to the national/international exam boards, and made assumptions based on them which don't apply to the others.

So, I'll quote directly from the ABRSM website:

We believe in the importance of all-round musicianship and this forms the basis of our exams.

To become an all-round musician students need a range of interlocking skills – in performance, technique, notation, and listening and musical perception – as well as knowledge, understanding and creativity.

....our mission has stayed the same: to nurture a love for music, and to inspire achievement in it. At ABRSM, we believe that everyone, wherever they’re from, should have access to high-quality music-learning.


What is the ABRSM for?

In partnership with the Royal Schools of Music, we support music-making and learning across the globe. We offer pathways and resources for learners and teachers that help build musical skills and encourage progress.

Our core activity is providing graded music exams, assessments and diplomas. An ABRSM grade has a worldwide currency and our exams are designed to motivate learners at all levels and ages, providing realistic goals and tangible rewards for their achievements.


What do their exams do?

Focusing on all-round musicianship:

ABRSM exams are music exams rather than instrumental or singing exams. Examiners assess the quality of the music-making, not how it's achieved. For this reason, we don't restrict examiners to assessing only their own instrument but require them to examine all instruments.

We've designed our graded music exams to motivate instrumental and singing students of all ages and a wide range of abilities. They're available at eight levels – Grades 1 to 8


What is required of candidates?:

To succeed in our exams, candidates need a combination of skills and understanding. Broadly, we assess:

Performance skills through pieces or songs
Technical skills through scales and arpeggios
Notation skills through a sight-reading test
Listening skills and musical perception through aural tests


How are candidates marked?

“Candidates whose performances are found by the examiners to be up to standard receive certificates from the Board; above the level of a satisfactory 'pass', certificates of merit may be granted; and for really exceptional candidates, certificates of distinction. The Board does not, however, court popularity by multiplying awards and easy honours, and has consistently set its face against any award which might obscure the fact that a pupil in passing an examination has merely left behind one more milestone on the journey of musical progress.”

Over 650,000 candidates now sit ABRSM exams each year in more than 90 countries around the globe.
BUT:

Bear in mind...

Music exams don't suit everyone, and exam syllabuses aren't intended to provide a complete curriculum or choice of repertoire to the exclusion of all other music. We believe that all musicians should explore a wide range of music to stimulate their interest and refresh their outlook.


So, what I'd say is:

Don't even think about ABRSM (not just its exams, but also its syllabus) if:
If you want to learn & play only what you like.
If your focus isn't classical.
If you dislike structure.
If you aren't interested in basic stuff, and the fundamentals.
If you prefer to pick and choose and mix, rather than follow a prescribed 'program' of learning.

Everyone else may benefit from a structured music education system which has stood the test of time - whether or not you choose to do the exams.


"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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Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: DFSRN] #2791908
12/16/18 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by DFSRN
Dear Richf, I feel like I am paying for a service from an expert. For me, I personally do not feel exchanging money has made a difference in the student teacher relationship. I am not sure why it could, a person is purchasing a service and the person is providing it. Just my thoughts.


You are paying someone (I have no idea how to define expert) to pass you or fail you. If one enjoys taking examinations, then it works great. But beyond that, it is totally, utterly meaningless. If one needs to have their music judged then why pay for it? There are numerous people who would gladly do it for free. However, it makes for good conversation, e.g. "I'm so worried about taking the Grade 6", or "I perform so poorly, I feel awful", or "I passed!".

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: AZNpiano] #2791911
12/16/18 10:56 AM
12/16/18 10:56 AM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
Originally Posted by 90125
I don't think those music grades have anything comparable in the modern Occidental society. They could be compared to graduates of some religious schools still existing in some Oriental societies. But the better comparison would be to the monks in the religious orders existing in the medieval times in the Western Europe. On the face of it they were literate, they could both read and write. But their literacy was narrowly focused on copying the sacred texts only.

ABRSM would be a "strict silent order", where the monks were allowed to open their mouths they could only do so to pray or sing from the allowed canon.

RCM would be a "evangelical order", where the monks were allowed to speak quite freely with the surrounding pagans so long as their speech obtained imprimatur from the supervising authority.

LMAO


I might be a bit more diplomatic, but yeah. smile

No analogy is perfect. I would HOPE that medical certification is different than ABSRM musical "certification." If you mess up a performance, no one dies!

What I'm critiquing are the over-the-top (in my opinion) rejections of the entire approach based on assertions piled upon assertions leading to sweeping generalizations, and political biases (OMG money is involved so it's just a capitalist plot).

We have a lot of certification processes in "Occidental" society, and I think that that is no accident (double pun intended). ABRSM has been around since the 19th century because it satisfies real needs that people have expressed, and they are willing to subject themselves to its disciplines (and pay money). Those disciplines offer many people real value, no matter how much some people may question motives or rationales. The system has survived because a lot of people do NOT think it's a scam, i.e. they see value in its approaches. Any system can be abused, or not used well. Welcome to life.

Want another "credentialing" system? Recreational diving. A variety of credentialing agencies have been around for a half century or so. Sound familiar? It's not rocket science to learn how to dive. You could easily do it yourself, but you won't be able to dive with any dive shop if you don't have the flashy "credential." I'm finishing my open water certification today and tomorrow, actually. I'm typing this from Bonaire! You read a book, you take some really easy multiple choice tests, and you have some practical training on equipment in the water. It's a good system that prepares people to do something fun at low risk. And you pay money to take the course. To teach the courses, the people who work at the dive shops also have to have certifications. Just a scam? I don't think so.

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: Piano*Dad] #2791921
12/16/18 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Any system can be abused, or not used well. Welcome to life.

Want another "credentialing" system? Recreational diving. A variety of credentialing agencies have been around for a half century or so. Sound familiar? It's not rocket science to learn how to dive. You could easily do it yourself, but you won't be able to dive with any dive shop if you don't have the flashy "credential." I'm finishing my open water certification today and tomorrow, actually. I'm typing this from Bonaire! You read a book, you take some really easy multiple choice tests, and you have some practical training on equipment in the water. It's a good system that prepares people to do something fun at low risk. And you pay money to take the course. To teach the courses, the people who work at the dive shops also have to have certifications. Just a scam? I don't think so.

The first time I went diving was in the Great Barrier Reef off Australia, many years ago.

I'd never dived before, and our group just went out on a boat with our instructors to the outer reef, completed a medical questionnaire, then put on the gear, got checked while submerged at a shallow depth holding on to a rope (that we had no trouble using the apparatus and didn't panic and were able to equalize the pressure in our ears)......and then set off following our instructors, to explore the reef to a depth of 20 meters. Less than half an hour from being geared up (for the first time) to the dive.

Is it worth me going for the PADI certificate? No - I don't dive often enough to warrant it, let alone to keep it up.

I've climbed Everest and many other high mountains around the world, but have no 'outdoor', let alone mountaineering certification of any sort. But if you want to be an instructor or guide, you need it (UIAGM etc). But I'm just a recreational climber and mountaineer, doing it for fun. Why would I need to acquire any accreditation?

Similarly for piano - if you just want to play what you enjoy playing for fun, don't bother with exams or certificates.


"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."
Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: bennevis] #2791934
12/16/18 12:05 PM
12/16/18 12:05 PM
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Quote
Is it worth me going for the PADI certificate? No - I don't do it often enough to warrant it, let alone to keep it up.


But you don't make the claim that PADI certification is a worthless scam. If you want to dive, there is value in understanding "no stop time" and decompression issues. In knowing how to clear your mask underwater, and how to remove and reenter your equipment at depth. But I'll bet you dove with certified instructors.

This value isn't just for people who want to become regular or professional divers. I enjoyed the learning process, and I valued the structure. I didn't have to reinvent any proverbial wheels.

Do you need it for a simple (and single) "resort dive." Of course not. I too did those quickie "try diving" experiences. I loved it. That's why I decided to learn the basics more formally.

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: PianoStartsAt33] #2791941
12/16/18 12:23 PM
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The exams are not a scam. They deliver exactly what they promise, a grade. Some people want grades and have no problem paying for them and others may not find it worthwhile. As for a course methodology, there are many to choose from without exams, or one can choose any methodology that works for them, which are enumerable in nature.

So to answer the OP's question: The ABRSM and RCM are for pass or fail grades.

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: AZNpiano] #2791955
12/16/18 12:44 PM
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AZN Piano, I agree a degree would be more beneficial if competing against candidates for jobs. However, I am taking the stance, some people may not major in music, even it is is their passion, because (I am referring to the U.S.) people may be looking for a return on investment in their education. My piano teacher now (age 27) with a MS in music is looking to go back to school for an engineering degree. That is not to say a music major would never get a well paying jobs with benefits, however, it is highly competitive. Compared to majoring in music, a person gets a degree in software engineering and has passed a high level of one of the exams discussed, may be very advantageous to a person who only has a degree in music. For instance, my nephew has a BS and MS in Computer Engineering from MIT, and minored in Japanese. This minor may give him an edge over someone with only a MS degree. If he majored in Japanese, he would not be as marketable. He plays computer games in Japanese and has interned there, so there was a motive to study this language.


Deb
"A goal properly set is halfway reached." Zig Ziglar
Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: Piano*Dad] #2791960
12/16/18 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
Quote
Is it worth me going for the PADI certificate? No - I don't do it often enough to warrant it, let alone to keep it up.


But you don't make the claim that PADI certification is a worthless scam. If you want to dive, there is value in understanding "no stop time" and decompression issues. In knowing how to clear your mask underwater, and how to remove and reenter your equipment at depth. But I'll bet you dove with certified instructors.

This value isn't just for people who want to become regular or professional divers. I enjoyed the learning process, and I valued the structure. I didn't have to reinvent any proverbial wheels.

Do you need it for a simple (and single) "resort dive." Of course not. I too did those quickie "try diving" experiences. I loved it. That's why I decided to learn the basics more formally.

Exactly.

I enjoyed my first dive (20 minutes) - so much so that I actually went again, for a 45 minute dive to a slightly greater depth, right after the "introductory dive" with the same instructor. I've dived a few times since then in various places around the world - always with an instructor. Each time, I learnt a bit more about diving, but it's remained something I do only very occasionally, every few years when I'm on holiday.

I was sent the complete blurb about how to get a PADI certificate following those first two dives, but I never thought seriously about taking it up. But it's certainly not worthless, for those who want to dive regularly.

WIth piano lessons, a lot more 'training' is involved, over a much, much longer period of time, just to reach a decent level - one that gets the student within striking distance of the easier rep by certain composers. If the student is up for it, and wants to develop his skills (both musical and technical) in a logical step by step manner, following the syllabus by an international exam board has a lot to recommend it. Success breeds success in terms of the exams, because they are a real measure of progress. Musical skills, once acquired, are never lost though they may go rusty - just like skiing and cycling. Technical skills might be harder to regain but again, are never completely lost, and the more thorough a grounding the student had previously and the higher a level he reached, the easier they are to regain.

Of course, he would need a good teacher to actually reach that level.......


"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."
Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: AZNpiano] #2791962
12/16/18 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by AZNpiano
I do send students to be tested. These are students who need that extra deadline to meet, or else they won't practice. My super flaky adult students probably should be tested, but they are also EXTREMELY lazy; they checked themselves out of the equation when I inquired.

Some people forget the fact that exams and exam boards do not make good students. Good teachers do.


As an adult student who pays for lessons, if I did not practice or take it seriously I would stop lessons because I would be just wasting money and lessons are not cheap. The director where I take my lessons said, adults generally last one year. She has been in business 20 years and 2 years was the max time an adult took lessons. If playing the piano well was easy, everyone would do it. Becoming good at something is not by accident, generally people work hard at it.

I agree, because someone is highly qualified does not make them a teacher. I know people who are excellent at their job, but can't relate what they know in understandable terms to teach others.


Deb
"A goal properly set is halfway reached." Zig Ziglar
Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: PianoStartsAt33] #2791967
12/16/18 01:01 PM
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Bennevis,

I share that view of ABSRM or its similar competitors. Step by step guidelines, with measurable outcomes, offer a great way (for some people) to acquire skills most easily.

I think the PADI diving system is more comparable than you think. Becoming "open water certified" isn't the end of the diving instruction process. It's actually only the first step on the ladder. There are many more steps. Some are parallel, and some are sequential, i.e. the learning is hierarchical as with an instrument.

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: Richrf] #2791971
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Richrf, I may have misunderstood, I was thinking you discussed it changes the relationship when money is involved regarding a student-teacher relationship. Expert may be subjective, but for the sake of conversation someone who holds degree in music I would consider an expert compared to the general population. A dictionary definition is
"a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area."

As piano is a hobby for me, taking a test so far I have no plan to and if I did it would be theory. I find I am better at the academic then the skill part of the piano. I always think I want to do my best, however at this time in my life I would not stress over it because it would not make a difference in my life (other than personal accomplishment) if I passed or not, I would just have to take it over. On the other hand, defending my dissertation was a huge stress, because it impacted my future. In addition, that type of degree was expensive.

thanks for your comments.


Deb
"A goal properly set is halfway reached." Zig Ziglar
Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: Piano*Dad] #2791980
12/16/18 01:19 PM
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Piano*Dad, I'm glad you wrote in again.
Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
I might be a bit more diplomatic, but yeah. smile ....

....What I'm critiquing are the over-the-top (in my opinion) rejections of the entire approach based on assertions piled upon assertions leading to sweeping generalizations, and political biases (OMG money is involved so it's just a capitalist plot).


Agreed. That part is sort of useless. It gets annoying, is best ignored, but can get under one's skin, and so you erupted. laugh

However - some important points:
Quote
No analogy is perfect. I would HOPE that medical certification is different than ABSRM musical "certification." .......


We have a lot of certification processes in "Occidental" society,a.......

Want another "credentialing" system? .......

You are writing only about certification or exams. This is NOT what it is about. In fact, a student can go through the entire RCM system with a teacher without ever doing a single exam, and many do. The consideration is what is taught, and how.

Please try to understand what I am trying to explain, because I am familiar with this.

RCM etc. has a syllabus going along grades with a list of repertoire, etudes, scales & chords, and then music theory, history, etc. There is a list of pieces for each grade, and a book that has some of these pieces - many students use only that book. Theoretically the essential things that need be learned to get a well-rounded background in music is covered. In practice, it depends on what is taught, how, within this framework. I'd like very much to know whether this point makes sense. I have tried to stress this several times.

I was caught out by this. For the grades where I passed exams with flying colours, I have gone back to square one because I now know the essential skills that I would have needed, that didn't come into it. Yes, I've mentioned exams, but only because those exams would reflect what I learned, and I did not learn fundamental things I needed. A teacher who aims to give his student needed skills thoroughly can take the same framework (list of pieces etc.) and teach them differently. The teaching choices of the teacher is an essential component, an integral component.

I've discussed theory with a teacher who was in an ABRSM environment. He or she passed all the exams as a student, and later taught them. S/he discovered that what had been learned personally was rather superficial. For teaching, meanwhile, what can happen is that grade 4 sneaks by and it's "omg, this is the grade for theory exams" and then the stuff is crammed.

The framework .... and that is what these are ..... does not guarantee comprehensive teaching of what is needed to learn to play music on an instrument, and become independent through the acquisition of skills. Only the teaching can do so. For a good teacher who actually aims to teach, these frameworks can give a lot of freedom of choice, whereas a method book may impose how things are learned. For a poorish teacher, there may not be enough guidelines, or the temptation of reputation through high grades may lead to abuse of the system.

the TEACHING by the TEACHER is an essential component for the LEARNING part. Exams are barely in the picture.

Was I able to be more clear? smile

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: bennevis] #2791981
12/16/18 01:22 PM
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"Similarly for piano - if you just want to play what you enjoy playing for fun, don't bother with exams or certificates."

I agree, unless the person may want to use it as you mentioned on a resume. It may help with some job selections are you stated before. I used to publish for a hobby, now piano has taken that over. I do not have an English degree, just from years of writing for publication I became proficient. However, listing those pubs on a resume shows I have the ability to write and publish. In addition, I have a 2 year degree in Information Systems, I did this for fun with my dad. This would not get me a job in computers, but on my resume it shows I have working knowledge about the topic. Just like someone who plays golf and maybe won some tournaments and applies for position at some large sporting good company, listing your hobby on the resume may be beneficial.

I just play for fun and I am happy I found this forum to discuss what I love doing.


Deb
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Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: JoBert] #2791982
12/16/18 01:22 PM
12/16/18 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by JoBert
I must admit that the first time I heard that such a graded exam system for music education, like ABRSM and the others, even exists was about three years ago when I joined Pianoworld - decades after my own piano schooling.

Since then I have wondered if that was just a peculiarity of my own schooling (maybe my teacher didn't know / didn't want these exams and just didn't tell me about them?) or if this is simply different in Germany.
[...]
Maybe we have some German members here who know more? I'm quite curious.

German member here.

I too had never heard of ABRSM before joining Piano World; and I did study music at a university (not a music conservatory).

But it's not because Germany doesn't care about grades. It's that in Germany there are different standards. One popular, also with music studying institutions, is the Jugend Musiziert standard ("Youth makes music").
There is apparently a committee who decides how pieces are to be rated. The ratings to from 1 (very easy) to 6 (very difficult).
People who want to enter a music academy have to play at least three pieces from different times. It is expected that by the end of their studies, they can perform pieces one Jugend Musiziert grade above the pieces they performed for their entry exam.
The question is: How difficult should the entry exam pieces be? Answer: I don't know. Some people say it's better to play pieces of a lower grade (3 or 4) well, than blunder through a grade 5 piece. Supposedly, examiners for entry exams try to evaluate if the potential student can improve.

But my music studies were more than 20 years ago. Maybe things have changed since then.
And maybe there are other factors in play; like maybe if a potential student is already a private student of a particular teacher at a music academy, this student has better chances to get taken than an "outsider". But this is conspiracy theory territory.


My grand piano is a Yamaha C2 SG.
Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: DFSRN] #2791987
12/16/18 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by DFSRN
Richrf, I may have misunderstood, I was thinking you discussed it changes the relationship when money is involved regarding a student-teacher relationship. Expert may be subjective, but for the sake of conversation someone who holds degree in music I would consider an expert compared to the general population. A dictionary definition is
"a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area."


thanks for your comments.


Hi,

In my experiences, money always changes the nature of a relationship in many ways. When it has to do with a career (subsistence), even more so. That is one of the reasons I try to avoid mixing hobbies with money.

In regards to what an expert might be when it comes to the arts, that is an entirely different subject, and probably more of a philosophical question. Experience moves in all directions, endlessly.

Thanks for your comments

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: Piano*Dad] #2791991
12/16/18 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Piano*Dad
I share that view of ABSRM or its similar competitors. Step by step guidelines, with measurable outcomes, offer a great way (for some people) to acquire skills most easily.


There ARE NO "step by step" guidelines, unless the teacher gives them. There is a broad framework, a list. It is precisely the SKILLS that can go missing!

The frameworks assume that the teacher will give the underlying skills, but for varying reasons that doesn't necessarily happen.

I have stressed, and Bennevis confirmed, that B had an excellent, dedicated teacher, who aimed to give him what he needed - and he has stated that is subsequent teachers were also good. It happens that that teacher used ABRSM. Undoubtedly, used the right way, this framework was very handy in organizing things. But the very important thing is what and how these things are taught.

I don't know what you teach. Imagine an outline of titles, and some hack just skimming over the lot of it, but enough for passing some exams if exams are being aimed for. As opposed to what you do expertly.

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: DFSRN] #2791994
12/16/18 01:41 PM
12/16/18 01:41 PM
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In the Ozarks of Missouri
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Originally Posted by DFSRN
"Similarly for piano - if you just want to play what you enjoy playing for fun, don't bother with exams or certificates."

I agree, unless the person may want to use it as you mentioned on a resume. It may help with some job selections are you stated before. I used to publish for a hobby, now piano has taken that over. I do not have an English degree, just from years of writing for publication I became proficient. However, listing those pubs on a resume shows I have the ability to write and publish. In addition, I have a 2 year degree in Information Systems, I did this for fun with my dad. This would not get me a job in computers, but on my resume it shows I have working knowledge about the topic. Just like someone who plays golf and maybe won some tournaments and applies for position at some large sporting good company, listing your hobby on the resume may be beneficial.

I just play for fun and I am happy I found this forum to discuss what I love doing.


Deb, well stated and true. On a resume, you never really know what "line" will be the one to get you an interview.


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Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: PianoStartsAt33] #2792070
12/16/18 05:15 PM
12/16/18 05:15 PM
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Posts: 11,044
Williamsburg, VA
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Quote
Was I able to be more clear? smile


You were quite clear the first time, actually. I don't know that anyone has disagreed. I think your contentions about the importance of teaching are correct, and this is true inside ANY system. Not a surprise. I agree that the ABRSM framework is just a framework. The teacher fills it in. That's why teaching yourself is often problematic in so many ways. This wasn't the issue that I raised, so I felt no need to weigh in on your particular POV.

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: PianoStartsAt33] #2792133
12/16/18 07:47 PM
12/16/18 07:47 PM
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Canada
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Thank you, Piano*Dad. I think everyone's on the same page now.

I lost almost 5 years of study due to these issues, which is why it was important to point these things out.

Re: A quiestion on ABRSM, RCM etc.: what is it for? [Re: Richrf] #2792141
12/16/18 07:58 PM
12/16/18 07:58 PM
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Virginia
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Richrf, I am a somewhat confused about your statement. Even for a hobby, say golf, fishing, tennis or any sort of lessons, those industries or people are in the position to provide instruction either group or private and charge for it. I understand people make a living providing instruction, I understand when I hire them or attend the piano school that hires them, this a student - instructor relationship. I am not clear how money (or fee for services) changes that relationship because that is the way the system works for piano lessons. I really don't think anything about it, I pay by the semester and take my lessons.

Respectfully,


Deb
"A goal properly set is halfway reached." Zig Ziglar
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