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#942291 - 08/10/08 03:44 PM What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
Scrapgirl3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/08
Posts: 27
Loc: Maryland
These may be really basic questions but I don't know what they are... I'm not a teacher, just a mother of an 8 year old who has been playing for 9 months. The teacher comes to our house to give lessons. The teacher is not independent, but part of a company/school. They do have a recital once a year in May. The company's philosophy is that the kids have fun and stick with it and I believe it even says on their website that they don't believe in competing. My daughter has never had another teacher or been exposed to other players since she gets lessons in our house. The teacher tells me my daughter is doing great and is "gifted musically", but how am I to know if this is true or not? The teacher has been teaching for several years and also does teach several children in our neighborhood/school district. She has never mentioned a certificate program to me. Should I be asking about this or not worrying about it yet? My daughter loves to play and I do like this teacher a lot. She is good with my daughter and goes out of her way to find songs to keep my daughter having fun, such as High School Musical songs and when she found out the second grade was performing a musical, she went out and found the marches and songs from that to teach my daughter since she expressed an interest. I'm looking at her books now, she has just finished a Chordtime Piano book- Ragtime and Marches- level 2B and she can play all the songs in it fairly easily. Thanks for any input or advice!

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#942292 - 08/10/08 05:35 PM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4534
Certificates are generally characteristic
of piano instruction in the UK and Commonwealth
countries: students get formally tested
at successive formal grade levels and
get a certification for a successful
score. Certification-based programs are
available in the US, but you'd have a
hard time finding someone to administer
them, because private teachers here
pride themselves on their independence
and individual teaching style
and don't like formal grading systems
and tests. So you can essentially forget
about certificate programs here.

Competitions are just that: students in
a piano playing contest with judges and
so forth. These are generally for more
serious students, those aiming at being
piano performance majors in college. Most
students would never enter a competition,
so this is another thing you can forget about.

Annual recitals are typical of piano lessons,
and most students will have them. These
are not contests and are not judged; they
are just a chance for the student to perform
in front of people.

The fact that the teacher is not independent
and is from a company is not a negative
thing. Some teeachers prefer it this way:
the company provides the basic materials
and pays a straight salary, eliminating
the need to run a business--and this
apparently does not prevent the teacher
from injecting independent material
into the teaching process if that is
advantageous to the student.

#942293 - 08/10/08 11:43 PM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
dumdumdiddle Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 1269
Loc: California
Teachers that are members of MTNA (Music Teachers National Association) have access to an entire array of programs that they can offer their students. There are usually recitals, festivals, theory exams, certification events, and other adjudicated events. Some of the programs are very competitive and some not but are great motivating tools for the piano student.

I encourage my students to participate in as many programs as they would like. It gives them a goal to strive for and a feeling of accomplishment when they've finished.

Check out the website for your state to find out more:
Music School Owner
Early Childhood Music Teacher/Group Piano Teacher/Private Piano Teacher
Member of MTAC and Guild

#942294 - 08/11/08 07:34 AM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
AZNpiano Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 6917
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally posted by Scrapgirl3:
She has never mentioned a certificate program to me. Should I be asking about this or not worrying about it yet? [/b]
It depends on your goals for your daughter. Would you like your daugher to make rapid progress and play more advanced works, or would you rather have your daughter enjoy piano and just simply "have fun"? There's nothing wrong with either choice--just a difference of goals.

It sounds like your daughter's teacher is already doing a good job. If you don't wish to go the examination/competition route, I'd say keep doing what you're doing. There are always drawbacks if you go the examination/comopetition route, such as being compared to other students, getting negative feedback from the evaluators, or suffering a memory lapse in the middle of a performance. These problems come with the territory. Some students enjoy the edge; some find it absolutely frightening. Is your daughter ready for that?

Of couse there's a range of options between the two extremes. Some certificate programs are aimed at pleasing all the kids, so they'll get positive feedback no matter how poorly they play. There are also festivals in which every participant gets a ribbon, and there are no judges to separate good playing from bad playing. You can explore these options by contacting your local MTNA chapter or whatever music teachers' associations you have in your area. They should provide you with plenty of options.

Good luck!!
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

#942295 - 08/11/08 11:27 AM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
John v.d.Brook Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7639
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Hi Scrapgirl3,

I'm wondering if you, like my wife, like to sew?

Just to add a bit to what has already been posted, there are a couple of certificate programs available in the US, which offer parents feedback on their student's progress and indirectly, on their teacher.

One of them is the program offered by the National Guild of Piano Teachers. These are called the National Piano Playing Auditions and students receive a fairly comprehensive report card of their playing. A major drawback of this program is that it lacks a theory component, although I understand one is in the works. Just so you know my bias, I am a Guild member and my students participate each year. The Guild awards certification to teachers whose students consistently achieve superior results. I am one of the 100 or so such teachers out of the roughly 10,000 participating teachers, thus I am rather slanted in my enthusiasm for the program.

The other program you might be interested in is a derivative of the UK and Canadian programs, and is titled: National Music Certificate Program

The program tracks the Canadian program 100%, and is very close to the program in the UK. All are considered excellent by any standard.

My general feeling is that teachers who expend the added effort to engage students in these more formal programs are most likely teaching to a higher level. If this is of interest to you, or you have a higher set of study goals for your child, you should inquire about these with your current teacher.
"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

#942296 - 08/11/08 05:44 PM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
ProdigalPianist Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 1049
Loc: Phoenix Metro, AZ
The higher you aim the higher you hit. The higher the aim of your teacher and those around you, the higher your aim.

I am not a teacher. I took piano lessons as a kid and am taking again as an adult.

I, personally, don't agree with those who say piano is more 'fun' if you don't have serious goals or high standards. I think it's the opposite. The better you get, the more music you can play, the more fun you have.

If your standards are low, it's not as much fun because you are left out of a whole lot of music which is too hard for you to play.

In my view I wasted the first 6 years of piano lessons with mediocre teachers with low expectations.

When I started again as an adult, I sought out the most advanced teacher with the highest standards I could find, who was willing to take me as a student. (and I could afford)
Adult Amateur Pianist

My only domestic quality is that I live in a house.

#942297 - 08/11/08 09:19 PM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
-Frycek Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/06/05
Posts: 5921
Loc: SC Mountains
I would be suspicious of this teacher. Is she trying to give your daughter a solid foundation in musicianship or just helping her to entertain herself by allowing her to play pieces she likes? For example, is she giving your daughter scales? Has she taught your daughter effective methods of practicing? Does she help your daughter to set goals? Do the pieces your daughter undertakes seem varied in character and progressively a bit more challenging? I was the victim during my most important developmental years of an easy going, "fun" teacher who actually taught me very little. I finally wised up when I was about 15. The purpose of grades and certificates isn't competition. The purpose is to enable the student to acquire the assumed fundamentals of pianism in a systematic and thorough way.
Slow down and do it right.

#942298 - 08/11/08 09:42 PM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
lalakeys Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/05/06
Posts: 286
Loc: Chicago 'burbs
It sounds to me like your daughter has achieved quite a lot in just 9 months of study--the pieces in Faber & Faber's "Chord Time" Ragtime & Marches book are fairly complex and require a basic knowledge of I, IV, and V7 chords. Plus, she enjoys playing and has a good rapport with the teacher.

If I were you, I would continue with this teacher for another school year. You might want to tell the teacher that you would welcome additional performance opportunities (maybe you could host a home recital or "piano party" with a few of the students). Also, ask the teacher whether your daughter can learn scales and technical exercises. But finding a teacher who can inspire and encourage a child to WANT to play the piano can be difficult--and it sounds like you've found one!
Private piano & voice teacher for over 20 years; currently also working as a pipe organist for 3 area churches; sing in a Chicago-area acappella chamber choir

#942299 - 08/12/08 08:38 AM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
Piano*Dad Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/12/05
Posts: 10770
Loc: Williamsburg, VA
There are so many paths one can choose that can lead to musical success.

John speaks highly of Guild. I did the Guild process as a high school senior, so I too understand that process a bit. Dumdumdiddle identifies the virtues of MTNA participation. Both of these offer an external discipline and a prescribed pathway. They simplify, in a sense, the road to success.

And yet, one does not absolutely need that firm external hand on the tiller in order to steer properly. My son is not half bad, and he has not followed any prescribed path beyond the musical goals set down by a private teacher.

I think the key is to find what works for you and for your daughter, while keeping an open mind about other pathways. If you continue to think about alternatives, you'll be able make an informed decision about whether or not a switch of teachers or of approaches is likely to pass a cost/benefit test.

As others have noted quite effectively, the thing that seems to link these paths to success is that they all involve setting goals that stretch a child. They are achievement based. They set up music as more than a pastime. It is an intellectual and artistic discipline that happens to be fun. Beginning from that view leads in a different direction from an approach that sets up fun as the overriding goal.

#942300 - 08/13/08 07:50 PM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
pianoexcellence Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/14/07
Posts: 753
Loc: Abbotsford, BC, Canada
Originally posted by Piano*Dad:
one does not absolutely need that firm external hand on the tiller in order to steer properly. [/b]
Most do not, but some really do.

In Canada we use RCM which works well because graduates end up with a decent credential. Also, the pattern of preparation and performance gives a nice "ebb to the flow" so to speak. Many students come back with "exam high"

It also makes teaching easier, which is why a lot of teachers require these exams.
Music is the surest path to excellence

Jeremy BA, ARCT, RMT
Pianoexcellence Tuning and Repairs

#942301 - 08/14/08 09:25 AM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
Scrapgirl3 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/22/08
Posts: 27
Loc: Maryland
Thanks for all the replies. I will definately ask her next week about scales and such. She does have a "Dozen a Day" book that she is warming up with (but not every day!). I'm trying to achieve the balance between fun so she sticks with it, and seriousness so she will advance. The piano teacher has told me that after about another year or so she won't be able to teach her anymore and my daughter will need to move on to someone else. So, I think I will stick with this for awhile and see how the next few months go. There are several students of this same teacher in my neighborhood and the parents/kids are all friends so maybe we could try to organize a Christmas recital or something like that.

#942302 - 08/14/08 06:53 PM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
musiclady Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/19/05
Posts: 431
Loc: Toronto, Canada
I require almost all of my students to take exams, not only because of the high of having accomplished something (I am working though the RCM program myself and love the days when new certificates come in the mail!) but if students don't do exams, they may be at a disadvantage in their more advanced studies for example, if and when they decide to apply to special music programs, often they look for evidence that you can handle the practice requirements. The exams also help fill in gaps in musical knowledge.

Clarinet and Piano Teacher based out of Toronto, Canada.Web: http://donmillsmusicstudio.weebly.com

#942303 - 08/14/08 07:01 PM Re: What are "certificate programs" and competitions?
AZNpiano Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 6917
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally posted by Scrapgirl3:
The piano teacher has told me that after about another year or so she won't be able to teach her anymore and my daughter will need to move on to someone else. [/b]
Wow! Such integrity! Your daughter's teacher needs to be commended.
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member


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