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#2240743 - 03/03/14 03:16 PM CM question
pianoist d'amore Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/10
Posts: 184
Loc: El Macero, CA, USA
Hi, I hope there will be some MTAC teachers on this board to help with my questions. My 1st grader son who just turned 7 has been learning piano from his private teacher since 5 1/2. We are in California. I told his teacher of our desire to enroll him in the CM program. She agreed and enrolled him in level 1. My question is essentially about how to determine which level to enroll your CM students in?

My son's teacher said that her students always do one level per grade (one of her students won a first prize in an international competition playing Rachmaninoff but was only in level 7). My son's two repertoire pieces are March by Kabalevsky (Op. 39 No. 10) and Mazurka for Chopin by Rollin. I do not have access to CM repertoire list, but on the book his teacher gave us the second piece is marked for level 4-5. When my son finished his exam, he came out and said that the judge thought his second piece was too hard for level 1.

My son was not motivated to learn these pieces at the beginning, but he did cram for the exam and learn both pieces during the two weeks prior to the CM exam. In the end, he did well in his CM and was selected to play in branch honor recital.

But the whole CM experience was quite painful for us. We hate to be pushing him to practice everyday when he doesn't want to do it. I wouldn't send him to his piano teacher if he's not talented (I think the fact that he nails down the Mazurka in two weeks at his age speaks itself). He used to be so very interested in piano - I remember we went to SF Davies Symphony Hall listening to Andras Schiff playing Bach when he was only 5, and he sat through the whole concert. We brought the sheet music and he could follow along. His favorite composers were Bach and Shostakovich. He wanted to learn Mechanical Doll, but his teacher refused to teach him that piece saying it's not his level. Then, a couple months later, he was given the Mazurka piece which seems harder than Mechanical Doll.

I'm sorry if I've been whining too much. As a parent, it's kind of heartbroken to see a child who used to be so interested and talented at piano losing his interests. I am not sure if this is an age or stage thing, or if his CM curriculum indeed doesn't tailor to his needs well. His teacher seems to think this is all normal and that kids go through stages. She encourages us to push him through practice and says that once he can play more advanced expressive pieces, he'll be more interested. I'd love to hear your thoughts and advice. Thank you!

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#2240804 - 03/03/14 04:54 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 493
Just a couple thoughts from a parent...

The easiest solution is to no longer do the testing and let him enjoy learning piano.

My son was not motivated to learn these pieces at the beginning, but he did cram for the exam and learn both pieces during the two weeks prior to the CM exam.

Do you think he gained anything from cramming?

We hate to be pushing him to practice everyday when he doesn't want to do it.

All piano students should practice daily. I give my daughter 2 days off a week but she would benefit from more (it's a time issue, she is heavily focused in her sport so this is a compromise she has made with herself and teacher).

I wouldn't send him to his piano teacher if he's not talented.

What good is talent in a 7 year old when he has no joy in it?

(I think the fact that he nails down the Mazurka in two weeks at his age speaks itself).

I am good at my job. My coworker is known for saying - with enough training and time a chimp can learn to do it though!

My advice sums up to "Talk to his teacher". It is good advice I received here and i am happy to pass it along. smile

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#2240806 - 03/03/14 04:56 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
Cram his two piece two weeks before exam is a bad idea. Whose idea is this?
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#2240828 - 03/03/14 05:28 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
Cardinal201 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/19/12
Posts: 100
I'm not a teacher, just a fellow parent who can sympathize with your story. My 6 year old started piano lessons last fall, has progressed relatively quickly, and we also live in CA. My son's teacher does not enroll her students in CM testing until at least grade 6. However, she does enter any student who wishes (even her youngest, which is my child) in competitions and festivals. At first I thought this was a bit strange, but my son's experience thus far (he has learned so much from his teacher, has been rather successful in the adjudicated events he has entered, and most importantly, has continued to love music and enjoy playing the piano) helped me realize that this policy has been a good one for him, as it appears to be with his teacher's other students as well.

A very helpful teacher on this forum, AZNpiano, once told me that CM testing (at least the the theory portion) is geared toward the average student. Another thoughtful parent, 3times2, asked me to consider whether my goal was to instill a lifelong love of music in my child or for him to pass some tests. If your son has lost his former passion, I would encourage you to ask yourself the same question.

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#2240835 - 03/03/14 05:34 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
I believe that the test itself is not a bad thing. What was bad is the approach to the test. Cram two piece two weeks before CM test is a very very bad idea. I wonder whose idea is this?
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#2240880 - 03/03/14 06:52 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
MaggieGirl Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/18/11
Posts: 493
I am curious as to why the CM test is important to you. My daughter's teacher said she would much rather her focus be on ABRSM because it is internationally recognized.

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#2240881 - 03/03/14 06:54 PM Re: CM question [Re: ezpiano.org]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12215
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
I believe that the test itself is not a bad thing. What was bad is the approach to the test. Cram two piece two weeks before CM test is a very very bad idea. I wonder whose idea is this?


Yes, I would never have a student do something like this by learning their pieces in 2 weeks. Whose idea was this? Did the teacher initiate it? Did she explain that it would be just for getting his feet wet? I can't imagine what the rationale was.

I'm sure if he had 2 months to learn those pieces he would have had a better experience.

You should voice your concerns with the teacher but not within earshot of your son. If at all possible, let her know you wish you speak with her and arrange to have your son wait in the car and use his lesson time to discuss this (as opposed to coming at the end of the lesson and using the next student's lesson time). Or call the teacher and speak with her when she's not teaching.

We can only guess as to what really is going on here.
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#2240914 - 03/03/14 08:00 PM Re: CM question [Re: MaggieGirl]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: MaggieGirl
I am curious as to why the CM test is important to you. My daughter's teacher said she would much rather her focus be on ABRSM because it is internationally recognized.

Wow. Just wow.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2240918 - 03/03/14 08:04 PM Re: CM question [Re: ezpiano.org]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
I believe that the test itself is not a bad thing. What was bad is the approach to the test. Cram two piece two weeks before CM test is a very very bad idea. I wonder whose idea is this?

At this low level, if the pieces are clearly below the student's playing ability, 2 weeks is AMPLE time. I have four or five students who can pull that off easily, and they're not even my best students.

But, again, I don't usually let my lower level students take CM. It's for the average students who need the extra, external goal to motivate them.
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#2240923 - 03/03/14 08:11 PM Re: CM question [Re: AZNpiano]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
I believe that the test itself is not a bad thing. What was bad is the approach to the test. Cram two piece two weeks before CM test is a very very bad idea. I wonder whose idea is this?

At this low level, if the pieces are clearly below the student's playing ability, 2 weeks is AMPLE time. I have four or five students who can pull that off easily, and they're not even my best students.

But, again, I don't usually let my lower level students take CM. It's for the average students who need the extra, external goal to motivate them.


Both March by Kabalevsky (Op. 39 No. 10) and Mazurka for Chopin by Rollin are not Level 1's repertoire, so, this student should need more than two weeks.
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#2240928 - 03/03/14 08:18 PM Re: CM question [Re: ezpiano.org]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Both March by Kabalevsky (Op. 39 No. 10) and Mazurka for Chopin by Rollin are not Level 1's repertoire, so, this student should need more than two weeks.

I was getting to that...

The Kabalevsky is the student's required syllabus piece, and it is listed under the repertoire list for CM Level 1. It's a little on the harder side of level 1, but not terribly difficult.

The Rollin piece is the "free choice" second piece, and I must say it is a terrible choice for a 7-year-old boy. It's obviously way over level 1, and it's not something that most boys would enjoy.

I go to a lot of these evaluations and festivals and competitions. I always hear poorly-chosen repertoire. Many kids are playing stuff way over their heads, and they plow through the pieces like sight reading.
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#2240929 - 03/03/14 08:21 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
One information here that I am having doubt. In my branch, only Level 5 and up would be considered for Branch Honor. This student is only Level 1 and he is considered for Branch Honor, I am not sure if I believe it or not.
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#2240932 - 03/03/14 08:23 PM Re: CM question [Re: ezpiano.org]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
One information here that I am having doubt. In my branch, only Level 5 and up would be considered for Branch Honor. This student is only Level 1 and he is considered for Branch Honor, I am not sure if I believe it or not.

You seriously need to get out more.

Some branches let their PREP students have branch honors. I kid you not. Lots of 5+ ratings for those kids!!
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2240935 - 03/03/14 08:24 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: ANZ
The Rollin piece is the "free choice" second piece, and I must say it is a terrible choice for a 7-year-old boy. It's obviously way over level 1, and it's not something that most boys would enjoy.


It was listed under "Dancing On the Keys, Book1" at page 112, Level 4. This piece is too hard for a 7YO to master in 2 weeks.
_________________________
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Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#2240938 - 03/03/14 08:25 PM Re: CM question [Re: AZNpiano]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
One information here that I am having doubt. In my branch, only Level 5 and up would be considered for Branch Honor. This student is only Level 1 and he is considered for Branch Honor, I am not sure if I believe it or not.

You seriously need to get out more.

Some branches let their PREP students have branch honors. I kid you not. Lots of 5+ ratings for those kids!!


What is the point for Prep students have branch honors? And what is the point of having branch honors when everyone is getting it?
_________________________
http://ezpiano.org
Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#2241308 - 03/04/14 02:19 PM Re: CM question [Re: ezpiano.org]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
What is the point for Prep students have branch honors? And what is the point of having branch honors when everyone is getting it?

Branches can set whatever criteria they wish for their own Branch Honors Recital. The bigger branches obviously can't accommodate 400 honor students in a recital, so they have to draw the line somewhere to cut off deserving students. Some branches use the "level 5 and above" criterion to encourage younger students to keep taking CM for the next X number of years.

Or you get these overzealous parents/teachers who force 1st graders to take level 5 so they can get that elusive Branch "Honors" recognition. It's really a double-edged sword, so to speak. There is nothing wrong with the test itself; it's how parents and teachers approach it that's potentially the problem.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2241353 - 03/04/14 03:38 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
musicpassion Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1153
Loc: California, USA
This isn't a CM or testing problem, it's a teacher problem. She picked pieces that were too hard and didn't plan enough preparation time.

But far worse than that: this teacher seems to be killing the love of music instead of inspiring. It is true that some students object when they realize they need to practice everyday, and it takes time to develop that self-discipline. Certainly at times it requires reinforcement from parents.

When your son is in lessons with his teacher, does the teacher show a joy in music? Excitement? Does your son respond in a positive way during lessons?

If your son is hating piano lessons, and practicing, then I'd suggest you consider a new teacher.
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Pianist and Piano Teacher

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#2241414 - 03/04/14 05:50 PM Re: CM question [Re: musicpassion]
Morodiene Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12215
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
This isn't a CM or testing problem, it's a teacher problem. She picked pieces that were too hard and didn't plan enough preparation time.

But far worse than that: this teacher seems to be killing the love of music instead of inspiring. It is true that some students object when they realize they need to practice everyday, and it takes time to develop that self-discipline. Certainly at times it requires reinforcement from parents.

When your son is in lessons with his teacher, does the teacher show a joy in music? Excitement? Does your son respond in a positive way during lessons?

If your son is hating piano lessons, and practicing, then I'd suggest you consider a new teacher.
Let us keep in mind that the parents prompted the teacher to enroll him in CM. I'm guessing since we haven't heard back from the OP with more details that they had asked and it turned out to be very close to the actual testing time and so the teacher tried to oblige them.
_________________________
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#2241425 - 03/04/14 06:20 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
PianoStudent88 Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 3206
Loc: Maine
I understood from the OP's post that the pieces were provided in plenty of time, but Son didn't start practicing them seriously until only 2 weeks were left. Should Teacher have withdrawn Son from CM earlier if the pieces weren't prepared more than 2 weeks ahead? I recall teachers posting questions asking about scenarios like this, and that teachers can feel it puts them in a difficult position.
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#2241538 - 03/04/14 10:12 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
pianoist d'amore Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/10
Posts: 184
Loc: El Macero, CA, USA
Thanks, everyone, for the reply! PianoStudent88 was correct - the pieces were assigned about 1-2 months prior to the CM test, but we were out of town for a couple weeks, so my son didn't really get much time practicing on it until it's close to the CM exam. Also, he maintains 6-8 repertoire pieces in his memory. We didn't know that the Mazurka piece was the 2nd CM piece till it's close to the exam. He played BWV 116 much better (and Bach is his favorite composer), so we thought he'd be playing the Bach piece. In the last 2 weeks, his teacher sent two of his advanced high school students to our home tutoring my son. It worked out well. I don't necessarily think the Mazurka piece is too far beyond my son's ability, but he definitely need more time on it.

We are in a small town. There aren't many piano teachers around. In fact, his teacher treated him pretty seriously - her studio was closed for enrollment and has a 5-year waitlist, but she made an exception to accept my son as his youngest student when he was 5 1/2. Most of the time, she accepts intermediate to advanced students by audition. Last time she accepted a young beginner student (who was 6 at the time), she taught her for 7 years and she played in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, etc., and won a few international competitions. So her expectation for my son was pretty high too, and I think that's why she picked Rollin's Mazurka for Chopin for a 7-year-old who only has learned piano for 1.5 years (actually she played all the pieces in that book and my son picked this one as his favorite one to learn).

My son still loves piano and really enjoys performing on stage. We watched movie Frozen and he said the theme song "Let It Go" was his favorite, and started trying it out on his piano. We are season ticket holders of SF Symphony. He LOVES Andras Schiff. Mechanical Doll and Fur Elise are still on his wishlist. He's not gonna stop learning until he can play Ocean Etude (which his tutors sometimes play for him after practice as a reward and his eyes would pop out ;p). It's just his piano homework is really killing his interests.

However, I do trust his teacher and agree with her that piano study has to be very disciplined and cover all areas. To answer the question re: CM vs. ABRSM, from what I've heard, CM is much more comprehensive than ABRSM. My son's everyday homework covers theory, technique, ear training, sightreading, improvisation, some Faber pieces (that are way too easy for him and not sure why those are assigned) besides his main pieces. He needs to play through every piece in every Faber book (lesson, performance, gold star performance). That is BORING even to my ear.

I am thinking about pulling him off CM exam or having him take it every other year jumping levels. I will see what his teacher says. Thanks all for your inputs!


Edited by pianoist d'amore (03/04/14 10:44 PM)

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#2241541 - 03/04/14 10:20 PM Re: CM question [Re: Morodiene]
pianoist d'amore Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/10
Posts: 184
Loc: El Macero, CA, USA
Originally Posted By: Morodiene
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
This isn't a CM or testing problem, it's a teacher problem. She picked pieces that were too hard and didn't plan enough preparation time.

But far worse than that: this teacher seems to be killing the love of music instead of inspiring. It is true that some students object when they realize they need to practice everyday, and it takes time to develop that self-discipline. Certainly at times it requires reinforcement from parents.

When your son is in lessons with his teacher, does the teacher show a joy in music? Excitement? Does your son respond in a positive way during lessons?

If your son is hating piano lessons, and practicing, then I'd suggest you consider a new teacher.
Let us keep in mind that the parents prompted the teacher to enroll him in CM. I'm guessing since we haven't heard back from the OP with more details that they had asked and it turned out to be very close to the actual testing time and so the teacher tried to oblige them.


We asked about CM 1.5 years ago when my son started his first lesson. His teacher said she would enroll him when he's in grade school since the theory test requires reading and writing.

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#2241542 - 03/04/14 10:22 PM Re: CM question [Re: AZNpiano]
pianoist d'amore Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/10
Posts: 184
Loc: El Macero, CA, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
What is the point for Prep students have branch honors? And what is the point of having branch honors when everyone is getting it?

Branches can set whatever criteria they wish for their own Branch Honors Recital. The bigger branches obviously can't accommodate 400 honor students in a recital, so they have to draw the line somewhere to cut off deserving students. Some branches use the "level 5 and above" criterion to encourage younger students to keep taking CM for the next X number of years.

Or you get these overzealous parents/teachers who force 1st graders to take level 5 so they can get that elusive Branch "Honors" recognition. It's really a double-edged sword, so to speak. There is nothing wrong with the test itself; it's how parents and teachers approach it that's potentially the problem.


From what we've heard, any level 1 and above student playing well in the branch honor recital may be selected to play in the State Convention in LA this summer. Actually, my son practices much harder this week on the Kabalevsky piece - since going to LA means a side trip to Disneyland, which is more than enough to motivate him.


Edited by pianoist d'amore (03/04/14 10:22 PM)

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#2241547 - 03/04/14 10:27 PM Re: CM question [Re: ezpiano.org]
pianoist d'amore Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/24/10
Posts: 184
Loc: El Macero, CA, USA
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: ANZ
The Rollin piece is the "free choice" second piece, and I must say it is a terrible choice for a 7-year-old boy. It's obviously way over level 1, and it's not something that most boys would enjoy.


It was listed under "Dancing On the Keys, Book1" at page 112, Level 4. This piece is too hard for a 7YO to master in 2 weeks.


As I've mentioned, the Rollin piece was my son's own pick from the book. He really likes Chopin style (secondary to Bach). Which repertoire list book are you referring to? That's essentially my question. Is there anyway I can access the full list to see which piece is which CM level? Thank you so much!

BTW, my son continues working on that piece. He will probably play it in the Contemporary Festival. It just takes time to polish a piece like this, but I don't see why a 7-year-old boy cannot play it if he can get all the notes and pedals together in 2 weeks.


Edited by pianoist d'amore (03/04/14 10:31 PM)

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#2241551 - 03/04/14 10:35 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
http://www.mtac.org/store/

You can buy it online, $44
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Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
@ http://bit.ly/Ready123

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#2241552 - 03/04/14 10:36 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
ezpiano.org Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
Which Faber level he is in now?
_________________________
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Piano lessons in Irvine, CA
Watch the introduction video on YouTube
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#2241588 - 03/04/14 11:53 PM Re: CM question [Re: pianoist d'amore]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5593
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: pianoist d'amore
From what we've heard, any level 1 and above student playing well in the branch honor recital may be selected to play in the State Convention in LA this summer. Actually, my son practices much harder this week on the Kabalevsky piece - since going to LA means a side trip to Disneyland, which is more than enough to motivate him.

Just to clarify--

Level 1 students are not chosen for Convention based on the performance at the Branch Honors Recital. You are mistaken. Level 1 students are eligible for only the New Materials Recital, so the Kabalevsky piece does not qualify for any Convention recitals.

On top of that, the Rollin piece has to be published within the past 10 years, and the evaluator has to deem the piece worthy of 5- and above, and the student has to meet all the other requirements (repertoire, sight reading, and technique are all at Good and above, and theory score is 80% and above).
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