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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910587 11/10/19 09:50 PM
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And it just occurred to me...Gardiner is one of the Unexamined. It appears he was largely self-taught. Impressive, given the impact he's had.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910599 11/10/19 10:36 PM
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I think exams can be useful but making them the goal of learning can lead to problems. I have a friend who puts students in for exams but then skips a grade or two. She finds exams have their uses, but finds her students progress better if they're not always preparing for exams. It depends on the student how many exams they do.

I know a concert pianist whose first piano exam was for his Masters.

Some people thrive on exams, while others wither and end up not playing once they get the chance to stop.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910606 11/10/19 11:34 PM
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Come to think of it, I don't know if the two who are probably the best-known British classical musicians active today - Steven Isserlis and Nigel Kennedy - are ABRSM/RCM products. Are they?

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910658 11/11/19 05:30 AM
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We should not compare people who are piano prodigy and very early envisionned to make a pro carreer and adult beginners playing piano as a hobby. They are not in the same category and do not have the same objectives. It is like comparing lets say someone who needs a certificate to be a cook professionally and an amateur who is cooking for his own pleasure. He does not need to get a degree to have fun and cook well.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Sidokar #2910659 11/11/19 05:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
We should not compare people who are piano prodigy and very early envisionned to make a pro carreer and adult beginners playing piano as a hobby. They are not in the same category and do not have the same objectives. It is like comparing lets say someone who needs a certificate to be a cook professionally and an amateur who is cooking for his own pleasure. He does not need to get a degree to have fun and cook well.

This was my earlier point. I didn't need 3 yrs of school. I'm sure there are people who didn't need school at all. This doesn't indict the notion of schools being useful however. I fail to see how picking examples of musicians who don't need anything says anything about exams. I could easily be convinced that were Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart alive today, they wouldn't need a single exam. And?


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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
rmns2bseen #2910660 11/11/19 05:39 AM
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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Come to think of it, I don't know if the two who are probably the best-known British classical musicians active today - Steven Isserlis and Nigel Kennedy - are ABRSM/RCM products. Are they?

Yes.

In fact, it's difficult to find any British-born musician who grew up and studied music in the UK as kids who didn't do the exams, unless they were the children of immigrant musicians who had different ideas (and probably taught their children themselves). The ABRSM/Trinity syllabus is ubiquitous here and in many other countries, including the one I came from. That's why I think it's telling that the journalist didn't mention a single British musician in her article, other than an immigrant from ex-USSR. There are many classical musicians who moved to the UK and became British citizens, including András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida.

BTW, RCM is totally unknown in Britain - it's purely a North American (more specifically, Canadian) system, modeled on the ABRSM. But though RCM says it's 'North American', the truth is that very few in the US know about it, nor care for it. And the RCM is not ubiquitous in Canada like the ABRSM/Trinity is in the UK and several other countries. Even non-musicians here in the UK know about the grade exam system, and assume that if a kid has music lessons, he/she does the exams.

That's an utterly foreign concept in the US, where (as I discovered when I joined PW) "student recitals" are almost universal for piano teachers.


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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910662 11/11/19 05:51 AM
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In fact both ABRSM AND RCM are typically anglosaxon. In many countries there is no equivalent. If you want to study music you have to enter into a conservatory and follow courses, then you get graduated (with various exams). It is the quality of the teaching, the teachers and the rigor of the practice that makes you progress.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Sidokar #2910664 11/11/19 06:02 AM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
In fact both ABRSM AND RCM are typically anglosaxon. In many countries there is no equivalent. If you want to study music you have to enter into a conservatory and follow courses, then you get graduated (with various exams). It is the quality of the teaching, the teachers and the rigor of the practice that makes you progress.

Yes, although instead of anglosaxon, I'd probably say Commonwealth countries. Exams for music haven't taken root in other countries. Students in the US might do only recitals before they attend conservatories in the US. Or they might enter some competitions. There are local exams systems at the State-level, but not all students participate.

But this in itself is not necessarily a plus or a minus. It's a minus if it doesn't work. It's a plus if it works.


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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Tyrone Slothrop #2910665 11/11/19 06:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by Sidokar
In fact both ABRSM AND RCM are typically anglosaxon. In many countries there is no equivalent. If you want to study music you have to enter into a conservatory and follow courses, then you get graduated (with various exams). It is the quality of the teaching, the teachers and the rigor of the practice that makes you progress.

Yes, although instead of anglosaxon, I'd probably say Commonwealth countries. Exams for music haven't taken root in other countries. .


This is not quite correct. In many countries (such as mine) the exams are built into the publicly funded music school system that is meant to produce pro musicians as well as hobbyists. The idea is to offer the opportunities for cheap music study to a large proportion of children and then select the most suitable for studies to a professional level. Most children do at least take the first level exams. The difference to ABRSM is that there are way less grades and exams during the progression to a higher level.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
bennevis #2910669 11/11/19 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Come to think of it, I don't know if the two who are probably the best-known British classical musicians active today - Steven Isserlis and Nigel Kennedy - are ABRSM/RCM products. Are they?

Yes.

In fact, it's difficult to find any British-born musician who grew up and studied music in the UK as kids who didn't do the exams, unless they were the children of immigrant musicians...
...
If so, good for Isserlis and Kennedy on going on to Oberlin and Juilliard respectively. It sounds just a bit too conformist to me.

I might point out that another danger of an exam system like this is instilling a false sense of achievement.
Originally Posted by outo
...The idea is to offer the opportunities for cheap music study to a large proportion of children and then select the most suitable for studies to a professional level. ...
Something about that sounds too "Sovietish" for my tastes. Maybe it's just the word "select", like you would select those talented in engineering. I don't think music is quite the same, which is probably the root of my objection.


Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Sidokar #2910671 11/11/19 06:35 AM
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Originally Posted by Sidokar
In fact both ABRSM AND RCM are typically anglosaxon. In many countries there is no equivalent. If you want to study music you have to enter into a conservatory and follow courses, then you get graduated (with various exams). It is the quality of the teaching, the teachers and the rigor of the practice that makes you progress.

In many other countries, especially those in Eastern Europe and ex-Soviet bloc, there is basically 'nothing' for average or untalented kids and everything is geared towards producing world-class performers. Kids who show musical talent are picked out and given extensive (sometimes even brutal) training, towards that end.

Whereas the ABRSM in the UK was born out of amateur music-making dating from Victorian times, when all middle-class homes had upright pianos, and the children (or at least, the girls) played to entertain the family, friends and themselves. Never in public - it was all domestic. Playing duets and singing were also part of domestic music-making. It was considered to be part of general upbringing and a 'cultured education' that children learnt to play the piano. The ABRSM was set up to promote certain standards of musicianship as well as instrumental ability, which is why the exams were never just purely instrumental exams. That is a concept which probably sounds odd to people not brought up on it.

Those brought up on it (like myself) just think it's totally normal - and expected - that if you learn a musical instrument and have reached a certain standard (grade) you can also sight-sing (as well as sight-read), conduct, tell the difference between a minuet and a march etc, and beat time to it. Not just play the instrument to that standard. That's the legacy of the ABRSM, and personally, I've benefited immensely from it, as one of those untalented kids who couldn't ever have dreamt of ever playing anything on anything, and from an unmusical family.

From their website:
Sir Hubert Parry himself outlined the founding principles and aims of ABRSM: "For the most part the objects which approve themselves to us are not so much the award of well-deserved certificates… but to give people something definite to work for... and also to give people… opportunities to be intimately acquainted with the finest kinds of musical art, and to maintain standards of interpretation and an attitude of thoroughness in connection with music which will enable it to be most fruitful of good."

No mention at all of public performance, which must seem very odd to those in countries for which learning to play a music instrument is all about performing....

And it sounds terribly old-fashioned.......just like Parry's music wink . This is his most famous composition, sung annually (by the audience as well as the choirs) at the Last Night of the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XfbEOFLqPE

See what I mean? grin (But the British love it 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."
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910673 11/11/19 06:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...I could easily be convinced that were Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart alive today, they wouldn't need a single exam. And?
I could be easily convinced that a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart might be obliterated in such a system.
Originally Posted by bennevis
Those brought up on it (like myself) just think it's totally normal - and expected - that if you learn a musical instrument and have reached a certain standard (grade) you can also sight-sing, conduct, tell the difference between a minuet and a march etc, and beat time to it. Not just play the instrument to that standard. That's the legacy of the ABRSM, and personally, I've benefited immensely from it, as one of those untalented kids who couldn't ever have dreamt of ever playing anything on anything, and from an unmusical family.
And you can't think of any possible negative outcome from this? That sounds more like a sales pitch.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
bennevis #2910674 11/11/19 06:40 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Kids who show musical talent are picked out and given extensive (sometimes even brutal) training, towards that end.

My wife attended children's music school in Moscow Russia in the 80's, before the fall of the USSR. She was required to practice piano 4 hours per day at age 7. The teachers employed corporeal punishment. For example, my wife got very good at yanking her hands away from the keys when she made a mistake to avoid a fallboard being closed on her fingers. And she still tells how tears would come to her eyes from the pain when the teacher would grab her hands and mash her fingertips into the keys when her fingers would go flat on the keys and wouldn't curl (as if grasping an apple).


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across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
rmns2bseen #2910675 11/11/19 06:45 AM
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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...I could easily be convinced that were Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart alive today, they wouldn't need a single exam. And?
I could be easily convinced that a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart might be obliterated in such a system.

Imagine all those geniuses that have been obliterated by the public school system? The world might be a different place today with their lost contributions to mankind - contributions snuffed out before they were even made because they were forced to attend public schools with their regimented, pre-set curriculums and policies.


[Linked Image]
across the stone, deathless piano performances

"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
Tyrone Slothrop #2910676 11/11/19 06:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
...I could easily be convinced that were Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart alive today, they wouldn't need a single exam. And?
I could be easily convinced that a Bach, Beethoven or Mozart might be obliterated in such a system.

Imagine all those geniuses that have been obliterated by the public school system? The world might be a different place today with their lost contributions to mankind - contributions snuffed out before they were even made because they were forced to attend school with its regimented curriculums and policies.

That's sort of the point. That sort of regimentation is necessary for the sciences. Music isn't one of the sciences, and you could pretty much date the decline of the vitality of "serious music" from the time that it started being regarded as such a thing.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
rmns2bseen #2910677 11/11/19 07:12 AM
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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen

Originally Posted by bennevis
Those brought up on it (like myself) just think it's totally normal - and expected - that if you learn a musical instrument and have reached a certain standard (grade) you can also sight-sing, conduct, tell the difference between a minuet and a march etc, and beat time to it. Not just play the instrument to that standard. That's the legacy of the ABRSM, and personally, I've benefited immensely from it, as one of those untalented kids who couldn't ever have dreamt of ever playing anything on anything, and from an unmusical family.
And you can't think of any possible negative outcome from this?

Actually - no.

Seriously - I knew nothing about the world of music education outside of the ABRSM/Trinity grade system until I joined PW, because everyone I met who knew anything about classical music (not just pianists, violinists, singers etc) - in my home country and here in the UK - were all brought up on it.

WIth a 'standardized' system of music education, everyone involved in music knew what everyone else in music could do. When I was in high school, I enquired about joining the Chapel Choir. The choirmaster just asked me what grade I was (not whether I'd ever sung before, or whether I could sight-sing, or what instrument I played), and when I told him, he just nodded and told me to come to the next rehearsal, where he handed out the score of Bach's Jesu, meine Freude to everyone and told us to start singing it, after playing the first chord. And everyone just started singing (in SATB) - all of us sight-singing. Not flawlessly, and some kids were better sight-singers than others, but we were all singing. This:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVa3nR-2bVc

Much later on, I also got to conduct the choir once or twice when the choirmaster had to go up to the organ loft to take the place of the indisposed organ scholar. I never had any conducting (or singing) lessons in my life.

That's what I mean about the ABRSM syllabus being all-encompassing for the classical music student. Of any (or no) talent.....

Through the choir, I also met a violinist of the same standard as me. We teamed up to play through violin sonatas by Mozart and Beethoven etc. He could sight-read to the same standard as me, so there was never any problem about incompatibility of specific skills. Ditto when I teamed up with a fellow pianist to play duets.


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Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910679 11/11/19 07:22 AM
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Actually - no.

Seriously - I knew nothing about the world of music education outside of the ABRSM/Trinity grade system until I joined PW, because everyone I met who knew anything about classical music (not just pianists, violinists, singers etc) - in my home country and here in the UK - were all brought up on it. ...
Well, we'll leave it at that. The system was obviously of benefit to you, and many others, and that's wonderful (no sarcasm). We differ maybe in fine philosophical points, and in being comfortable with what we know and with what we're most familiar. It maybe the feeling of "mandatory" that irks me or something. And anyway the more I've been looking into it, the more I've read that the system is probably a little more flexible than I give it credit for. Caricature and distortion is something we're probably all susceptible to. Not that I'm keen on taking any exams any time soon. Anyway, as I said, to each his/her own.

Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
rmns2bseen #2910686 11/11/19 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by rmns2bseen
Originally Posted by bennevis
Actually - no.

Seriously - I knew nothing about the world of music education outside of the ABRSM/Trinity grade system until I joined PW, because everyone I met who knew anything about classical music (not just pianists, violinists, singers etc) - in my home country and here in the UK - were all brought up on it. ...
Well, we'll leave it at that. The system was obviously of benefit to you, and many others, and that's wonderful (no sarcasm). We differ maybe in fine philosophical points, and in being comfortable with what we know and with what we're most familiar. It maybe the feeling of "mandatory" that irks me or something. And anyway the more I've been looking into it, the more I've read that the system is probably a little more flexible than I give it credit for. Caricature and distortion is something we're probably all susceptible to. Not that I'm keen on taking any exams any time soon. Anyway, as I said, to each his/her own.

One flexible aspect might be that no one is required to take all the exams. With few exceptions, prior levels are not required for each successive levels. So a student might only take level/grade 8, and this does happen.

As in any sort of level or grading system, some will treat it like a competition and so there are people who try to compete for "earn grade 8 in a year from a cold start" recognition (by local newspapers, schools, or whatnot). But any system can be abused for almost any reason.


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"Discipline is more reliable than motivation." -by a contributor on Reddit r/piano
"Success is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration." -by some other wise person
"Pianoteq manages to keep it all together yet simultaneously also go in all directions; like a quantum particle entangled with an unknown and spooky parallel universe simply waiting to be discovered." -by Pete14
Re: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910691 11/11/19 08:21 AM
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Talking about how the really talented goes up the grade system, one might look at the career of Lauren Zhang who is from the US but stayed in the UK to continue her music studies, and subsequently won the BBC Young Musician Competition last year, aged 16.

She sailed through the ABRSM exams (I don't know how many of the grade exams she did - in both piano & violin) then straight on to the diplomas: LRSM x2 (piano and violin) at 12, FTCL (piano) at 13........followed by competitions in Germany and elsewhere.


"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: ABRSM Grade 4 Disaster
DisastrousBoy #2910694 11/11/19 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Tyrone Slothrop
One flexible aspect might be that no one is required to take all the exams. With few exceptions, prior levels are not required for each successive levels. So a student might only take level/grade 8, and this does happen. ...
Yeah, as I understand it (though I could be wrong) one of the requirements is passing the theory exam at Grade 5, I believe. Now that *is* a good idea, regardless, especially for non-keyboard players whose training is sometimes so absorbed in tone production that theory can be given short shift. I think keyboard players may often have a leg up when it comes to that area.

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