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#1982579 - 11/04/12 11:37 AM Question for the teachers: grade exams
rlinkt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/12
Posts: 292
Loc: CA
My 8-yr old has been taking lessons for a little over 3 years, and is making good progress on her playing skills, OK progress with theory, and not so much with ear training. To some extent, the lack of balance is a choice. Given the limited time availability per day, and the way she is picking up new material, right now it does seem to be the best choice to focus her time on the actual playing.

Overall I am very happy with her current teacher. The one concern that I have is that she is not a believer in the grade level exams. I have not been bothered by that so far. Now that I am familiar with this wonderful resource on the web, I thought I would solicit the opinions of the folks here about the importance of taking the tests beyond just the student's musical development. Do you think it is important?

Also, does the teacher need to be a member of the entity that administers the tests?


Edited by rlinkt (11/04/12 12:34 PM)

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#1982589 - 11/04/12 12:09 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1250
Loc: California
Is your teacher a member of MTAC? That's the only way she could participate in their leveled exam program called Certificate of Merit.

Here's the link to more info on CM : https://www.mtac.org/programs/cm/index.shtml

Evaluations are in the spring but the deadline to sign up is Nov 15.

In CM, students (at the lower levels) perform 2 memorized pieces, scales/chords, do a short sight reading and ear training segment, and a written theory test. Levels are from Prep to 9/Advanced).

It's a wonderful program for students and for teachers. It helps me make sure I'm covering all aspects of piano and it's motivating for students as they progress each year to a new level.
_________________________
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#1982612 - 11/04/12 01:03 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1242
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
We piano teachers are split on this issue. Personally I'm pleased you have found a teacher who does not believe in testing. You might ask her why sometime.

But you are also raising bigger questions about testing, measurement, education, and society that only you can answer on behalf of your daughter.

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#1982654 - 11/04/12 02:58 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
kayvee Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/29/12
Posts: 135
Loc: Santa Barbara
There is no right answer.

It depends on the teacher. It depends on the parent. Most importantly, it depends on the student.

It has its benefits. It has its flaws.

I know some who were very thankful to go through them. I know many more who now hate the piano because of them. Some who are thankful are wonderful pianist, while some are just plain awful. Some who hated them can barely play, but others are quite good.

There is no right answer.

If you do like the idea of what the tests do but don't want to put your daughter in testing, you could always ask the teacher to look at what is required at each level and make sure she can do at least that (so, for example, her ear-training doesn't fall too far behind).
_________________________
A linguistics major who loves piano and knows too much theory/history without knowing how to play it as well as he wants to be able to.

Let's hope that changes. Taught piano for almost two years and currently working on:
"Going back to the basics..."

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#1982750 - 11/04/12 07:31 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 439
As a parent, I'd consider them once my daughter is in late middle school. I think by that time, they may need a reason to give their peers for practice time (I have a test coming up...). Also, it adds something for college resumes down the road. They don't have to be super stars, but to show that they can commit, is a positive.

As I understand it (I could be off the mark), the testing my daughter's teacher uses is ABRSM and she doesn't have to take all the earlier tests.

I would be more proactive if she didn't already experience a testing environment. But she has tested and competed in stressful situations so I'm not worried so much about testing at this age.

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#1982771 - 11/04/12 08:16 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: Peter K. Mose]
rlinkt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/12
Posts: 292
Loc: CA
Thanks everyone for the thoughtful responses.

My daughter's teacher is not a member of MTAC or ABRSM. I need to talk to her to see if she is at least willing to support the process. Personally, I do not think that my daughter cares much about the exams, at least now, but I won't be surprised if in another 3-4 years, it does matter to her.

Originally Posted By: MaggieGirl
As a parent, I'd consider them once my daughter is in late middle school. I think by that time, they may need a reason to give their peers for practice time (I have a test coming up...). Also, it adds something for college resumes down the road. They don't have to be super stars, but to show that they can commit, is a positive.


These are two very interesting observations. To some extent my consideration of this question was spurred by your second point. Two of our friends, whose daughters also learn piano, brought up exactly this point. As much as I really do not want to get fixated on stuff like this, its hard to avoid thinking about it once its been planted into your head. Your first point is really insightful. Glad that you brought it up.

Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
We piano teachers are split on this issue. Personally I'm pleased you have found a teacher who does not believe in testing. You might ask her why sometime.

I have indeed discussed this with her teacher. I have played guitar all my life, and never taken an exam. So I can't say that I am completely disagree with her stand on this topic. But she is not thinking about the college admission process confused


Edited by rlinkt (11/04/12 08:21 PM)

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#1982793 - 11/04/12 09:37 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11181
Loc: Canada
What purpose do you think exams would serve? Would you like your daughter to have ear training, and if so, have you mentioned this to her teacher? If her teacher does not believe in these tests, has she explained her views on them, and on teaching music to you?

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#1982804 - 11/04/12 10:24 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
I'm a big believer in exams for piano, but it's definitely not for everyone. Both the parents and the student need to be super dedicated, and the teacher needs to know what she's doing. The deal-breaker is the student. If the student is not cooperative and obedient, then you can forget about testing.

Some students found me because they want to take the CM test. In my experience, their previous piano studies have been so shoddy, including a complete lack of knowledge in theory, sight reading, and [gasp!] ear training, that six or seven years of piano lessons is tantamount to CM Level 1. I kid you not. Whenever I get a transfer from a non-MTAC teacher, a giant red flag is raised.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1983248 - 11/05/12 11:34 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1242
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Let's celebrate an 8yo California girl pursuing music for its own sake with an agreeable piano teacher. But it sounds as if her guitar-playing mom might enjoy taking some belated exams now in guitar and theory and ear training.

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#1983333 - 11/06/12 07:53 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: Peter K. Mose]
Ann in Kentucky Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2643
Loc: Kentucky
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Let's celebrate an 8yo California girl pursuing music for its own sake with an agreeable piano teacher.


I'm all for celebrating music study for the enjoyment of it.

That reminds me: Last week at the end of his lesson an 8 year old boy was grinning widely. I thought he was about to laugh. I asked "Is something funny?" He said "I just like playing piano."

That made my day.


Edited by Ann in Kentucky (11/06/12 09:11 AM)
_________________________
piano teacher

"She played upon her music box
a fancy air by chance,
And straightaway all her polka dots
began a lively dance."
-- Peter Newell

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#1983558 - 11/06/12 07:49 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
Beth_Frances Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 170
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
My piano teacher from 3-18 was *strongly* against exams, from the point of view that you end up spending a lot of time polishing 3-5 pieces, when you could have worked on 20-50 pieces in the same time, not polishing, but working on sightreading (which isn't going to progress significantly working on 3-5 pieces for 6-12 months) and getting a feel for different styles and composers.

Unfortunately though, some students wouldn't progress at all if they didn't have exams to work towards. That deadline is the only thing that can get them to the piano away from lessons. Kids (and parents!) also like to compete against one another, and be able to say what grade they have accomplished.

Personally I believe in a 50/50 approach. Playing lots of pieces that can be learnt in 1-3 weeks as well as some harder ones, but also working towards an exam for about 3 months once per year, to give a marker of where we're at and something to work towards.

It's also largely a matter of temperament. If your child is competitive or loves to perform they may get a lot of fulfillment from doing exams. If they love playing piano without needing external motivation than they might be better off without them.
_________________________
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#1984264 - 11/08/12 04:56 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: Beth_Frances]
ezpiano.org Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 958
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: Beth_Frances


Personally I believe in a 50/50 approach. It's also largely a matter of temperament. If your child is competitive or loves to perform they may get a lot of fulfillment from doing exams. If they love playing piano without needing external motivation than they might be better off without them.


Same ideas here. Among my students and parents, I give them choice of doing exam or not, and final decision is made by them, not me. Students are the main factor here. If students are not willing to cooperate, there is nothing the parents or the teacher can do.
_________________________
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Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
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#1984421 - 11/08/12 11:57 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
rlinkt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/12
Posts: 292
Loc: CA
Thanks again for all the input. Given the feedback I asked my daughter what she wants to do. Looks like she is inclined towards taking the exams.

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#1984433 - 11/09/12 12:47 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: rlinkt
Thanks again for all the input. Given the feedback I asked my daughter what she wants to do. Looks like she is inclined towards taking the exams.

Well, it's too late to do CM for the 2012-2013 year. The registration deadline is coming up in a week.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1984436 - 11/09/12 01:02 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: AZNpiano]
rlinkt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/12
Posts: 292
Loc: CA
She can start next year -- there isn't any particular rush. Also I need to ask her teacher to support the process, since she is not a member of CMTA.

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#1984468 - 11/09/12 02:53 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1242
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Originally Posted By: rlinkt
I asked my daughter what she wants to do. Looks like she is inclined towards taking the exams.


Sounds far-fetched to me. But I guess if mom wants her kid to do exams, even against the wishes of the teacher, then her kid will tell her mom she wants to do exams, even against the wishes of the teacher.

The world is a screwy place for us piano teachers.

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#1984511 - 11/09/12 06:49 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: Peter K. Mose]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3328
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
Originally Posted By: rlinkt
I asked my daughter what she wants to do. Looks like she is inclined towards taking the exams.


Sounds far-fetched to me. But I guess if mom wants her kid to do exams, even against the wishes of the teacher, then her kid will tell her mom she wants to do exams, even against the wishes of the teacher.

The world is a screwy place for us piano teachers.


Are exams really so dreadful?
_________________________
I am a competent teacher.


www.justfingers.co.uk
www.babysinging.co.uk

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#1984643 - 11/09/12 01:06 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 439
If the teacher doesn't do them - you have talked to the teacher and they already confirmed this, are telling the teacher that if she doesn't do it you will find another teacher?

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#1984647 - 11/09/12 01:10 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: Peter K. Mose]
ezpiano.org Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 958
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
even against the wishes of the teacher.


Speaking of wishes of a piano teacher...
I have student that is so good that I think he should do the exam, and the parents would not want to.
I also have student that is so bad that I think he should not do the exam, but the parents are pushing the student to do it.

If I am insisted in my wishes, I will lose all good and bad students.....
_________________________
http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#1984648 - 11/09/12 01:10 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: ten left thumbs]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Are exams really so dreadful?

It is only dreadful when the expectations of the parents, student, and teacher are mismatched. You can have the best parents and teacher, but if the student refuses to do the work, that's dreadful. You can have the best student and teacher, but if the parents are lazy and irresponsible--like being 2 hours late to exams?!--that's dreadful (yes, I've seen that happen!). And (maybe in this case) you can have the best parents and student, but the teacher is totally not on board. That's dreadful.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#1984649 - 11/09/12 01:13 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: AZNpiano]
ezpiano.org Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 958
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: ten left thumbs
Are exams really so dreadful?

It is only dreadful when the expectations of the parents, student, and teacher are mismatched. You can have the best parents and teacher, but if the student refuses to do the work, that's dreadful. You can have the best student and teacher, but if the parents are lazy and irresponsible--like being 2 hours late to exams?!--that's dreadful (yes, I've seen that happen!). And (maybe in this case) you can have the best parents and student, but the teacher is totally not on board. That's dreadful.


Thank you ANZ for saying what I am thinking.
_________________________
http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#1984798 - 11/09/12 09:40 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: MaggieGirl]
rlinkt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/12
Posts: 292
Loc: CA
Originally Posted By: MaggieGirl
If the teacher doesn't do them - you have talked to the teacher and they already confirmed this, are telling the teacher that if she doesn't do it you will find another teacher?

No. I know that she is not a believer in exams, and has perfectly good reasons for her stand. If she absolutely refuses, that would be unfortunate. But I wouldn't change teachers because of that -- she has been terrific for my daughter's musical development.

However if I did not think very highly of her, then I would be tempted to.


Edited by rlinkt (11/09/12 10:11 PM)

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#1984891 - 11/10/12 04:13 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: ezpiano.org]
ten left thumbs Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/22/09
Posts: 3328
Loc: Scotland
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org


Thank you ANZ for saying what I am thinking.


It just seems a little strange to me to disbelieve (on the back of perfectly valid reasons to dread) that a child might spontaneously be keen on doing an exam. Children have all sorts of reasons for wanting to do an exam, like they want the certificate, their friend did an exam...

I mean, there is no particular reason, from the child's point of view, to suspect that something dreadful will happen.
_________________________
I am a competent teacher.


www.justfingers.co.uk
www.babysinging.co.uk

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#1984892 - 11/10/12 04:15 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11181
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: rlinkt

No. I know that she is not a believer in exams, and has perfectly good reasons for her stand. If she absolutely refuses, that would be unfortunate. But I wouldn't change teachers because of that -- she has been terrific for my daughter's musical development.

However if I did not think very highly of her, then I would be tempted to.

I still find this confusing. Your daughter is doing well with this teacher, and she enjoys what she is doing. Her teacher does not seem to need to use exams to help her guide your daughter. Or at least, you don't seem to indicate that her teacher is lost in any way about where your daughter is. That is the purpose of exams, is it not - to help teachers know how to guide the student. So why is it unfortunate if she does not want to do exams? Is it not the judgment of the professional to know what tools she should and should not use?

I have seen no reasons given in this thread for having exams, but several reasons for not having them. That is, a parent gave college entrance as a reason. Even if it is for music study at the college level - my own child's admission was based on an audition and then a theory exam that was administered by the university. They are interested in knowing whether a student can play music with skill and understanding. From what you describe, that is what your daughter's teacher is giving her.

If on the other hand she is not teaching your daughter things that are usually featured on exams, such as ear training, and you think that if she got exams your daughter would get that skill, why not ask her about giving her ear training? That can be done without an exam.

To put matters into perspective, my own child was a late starter, and he opted out of exams so that his teacher would be able to concentrate entirely on working on what he needed to learn the most, without worrying about the agenda of the exams. This line of thinking made a lot of sense.

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#1984905 - 11/10/12 05:04 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
Peter K. Mose Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1242
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
Keystring has raised a worthy issue. Ten years from now, when little Janey from California wants to apply to a college or university, and her ambitious mom is hopeful that nonacademic music exams will enhance her chances of admission, that institution will instead want to hear her play, not view her past certificates of achievement.

For that matter, a written recommendation from a piano teacher would carry more value than an exam certificate.

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#1984983 - 11/10/12 09:54 AM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
ezpiano.org Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 958
Loc: Irvine, CA
Yes, I think ten years from now a lot of things will change. They used to have a Path B but from this year they get rid of Path B because it is not transparent enough for the college admission office to differentiate Path A and Path B.
I am pretty sure that a good teacher that provide solid foundation for well round balance piano education will help student to face any changes challenge in the future (ten years from now). I am afraid of some parents who taking piano lesson for the sake of taking test will produce students who cannot be creative in solution when real challenge comes.

Sorry, add on...
In another word, balance piano education can be done by taking test or not taking test. The keyword here is BALANCE.
A good piano teacher should balance everything from theory to performance to sight-reading and ear training. A good piano teacher should be able to notice which area is weak and trying to make it better etc.....


Edited by ezpiano.org (11/10/12 09:56 AM)
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#1985022 - 11/10/12 12:02 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
rlinkt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/08/12
Posts: 292
Loc: CA
The piano teachers may find this completely laughable, but the reality is universities today are looking for students who not only excel in their studies, but in other areas as well. I am talking about regular college admissions, not going to college to study music where I suspect she will be selected on her own merit rather than a CMTA certificate. These kids have to show excellence in non-academic areas, countless hours of social work, ... in their applications. From what I understand, just saying that she plays piano is not going to get her any brownie points -- at least based on today's admissions processes. The admissions process certainly won't be the same in 10 years, but not knowing what it will be, its better to think about it in the context of what is known today. Given how much time she spends on piano, she will not be on that school softball team or whatever the kids who are spending their time a different way will have to say in 10 years.

Anyway, for the doubters, I would say don't look at the music education that you are providing just from one perspective. Just as the teachers have to think about the other aspects of their profession, the parents also have to consider how to leverage their kids music education. May be college will become so expensive that nobody can send their kids to college, and none of this will matter.

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#1985044 - 11/10/12 01:12 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: Peter K. Mose]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5278
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
For that matter, a written recommendation from a piano teacher would carry more value than an exam certificate.

Why not both? Plus a list of music awards and exam scores from K-12? It certainly looks better than those folks who wait until 9th grade to take Level Advanced, pass it, and never touch piano again.
_________________________
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#1985080 - 11/10/12 03:38 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: rlinkt]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11181
Loc: Canada
rlinkt, it looks like you have isolated some goals that you have in mind for your child. it helps a teacher to know your goals, so that she can design her program around your (and hopefully the student's) goals.

I was writing in as a parent, not teacher, btw. My children are in their mid-twenties so the college considerations were like "yesterday". The one who entered music looked at the lifestyle and environment of soloists and eventually opted out. He optimizes computer networks and troubleshoots for companies, and finds that many of the skills gained through serious music study have helped: self discipline, independent thinking, recognition and playing with patterns, creativity (thinking outside the box).

We come from many countries and many walks of life. I don't know how close the US and Canadian college systems are. Financial unreachability and/or crushing student loans are probably similar. Enjoy your children's childhood - it goes by all too fast. smile

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#1987930 - 11/17/12 07:04 PM Re: Question for the teachers: grade exams [Re: keystring]
timtopham Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 110
Loc: Brunswick, VIC
Hi everyone,

I blogged about the whole issue of exams recently and have been receiving some very interesting comments. You might like to read about it here: "Why working to exams is anti-piano".
_________________________
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www.timtopham.com
Piano teacher, accompanist, presenter
Melbourne Australia

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