Support group for parents of children taking music exams!

(995 Posts)
Wafflenose Mon 14-Nov-11 22:03:28

Hello, I'm feeling excited, nervous and wobbly because my daughter is taking her first music exam in three weeks. I'm a music teacher and am very used to getting children through the exams, keeping the parents informed, helping to focus practice, etc, but this is my first experience with my own child doing an exam and for some reason it's more scary than putting other people's children in! I think she will be OK (and the other thirteen I have entered this term) but I'm not!! Any tips for the 'other side' (parents rather than music teachers) for how to keep us both calm on the day would be gratefully received! Does it get easier as they become more experienced? Am thinking not...

She is taking part in the local music festival tomorrow, to gain performance experience. She's wildly excited, and I've got the jitters!!

Oeufman Mon 14-Nov-11 22:35:39

Sorry - don't think it gets any easier. I sit outside the room waiting for the parts he finds challenging in his pieces, and exhaling as he finishes each piece. He always comes out chilled and saying "it was okay!"

Watching him perform in orchestra is very relaxing - though I do wish he would smile! When playing solo, the fact he refuses to place music on the piano and does it all from memory un-nerves me slightly!

Wafflenose Mon 14-Nov-11 22:46:53

Thanks for replying! I did think that it wouldn't get easier as time went on, but it's nice to know I'm not alone. She has just joined the school orchestra so I'm sure that will help (especially with rhythm, and performing experience generally) and I look forward to hearing them play at Christmas! I take it from your post that he plays the piano - and an orchestral instrument as well?

RaspberryLemonPavlova Tue 15-Nov-11 00:58:54

I have found sitting through exams has got a bit easier, 3DCs through 9 exams on 4 instruments so far. I think the fact you aren't in the room helps. Nos DS1 is at secondary he just goes off like a normal school day, clutching his trumpet and arrives back in the evening job done.

Solo playing at festivals/performances - thats a different matter. I love the orchestra playing too though.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Tue 15-Nov-11 01:07:34

As for tips. I'm sure you tell your parents the same things. I know the way to the Exam Centre in advance (have been in 3 different ones), where I can park and how long it will take to get there. I make sure we arrive in good time. I take water. Depending on the instrument I have checked reeds etc myself. I double check all the music. Last time I was there the next candidate had forgotten their music! I think that if I have helped DCs to arrive calm and well prepared they are well placed to do their bit!

Depending on the child I shut up or talk brightly. You will know your child best.

Good luck at the Festival - let us know how she gets on.

startail Tue 15-Nov-11 01:23:30

DD is generally very calm about singing exams, I get a bit nervous.
I get very nervous when she is performing solos, never enjoy the show till she's done her bit.

Oeufman Tue 15-Nov-11 07:55:46

Hi Wafflenose, yes DS is grade 8 piano and grade 5 cello. He is a very young looking 14, so the examiner was always quite surprised at the level he was being examined for, and usually checks with DS (last one asked him if he was sure!).
He loves the piano exams, but despises cello ones - though loves orchestra! Performance wise I have such a fear he will freeze - and with his insistence on no music that would be disastrous! I know I drive him mad as I get nervous (though we do have a good laugh about it) :0
We always make sure we are early and he is relaxed etc. Are the exams at your home? One thing we heard can phase kids is sitting exams on a grand piano if they have only played an upright.

Wafflenose Tue 15-Nov-11 09:22:29

Wow Raspberry, what a musical family! I look forward to mine being old enough to go off and do it at school and come back without jangling my nerves so much!

Star, I think kids who do singing exams are so brave! I have done a few as an adult and found them scary!

Oeufman - Grade 8 piano - wow! He's better than me!

I will be in the room for part of the exam because I'm accompanying her - while she is little I prefer to teach her myself because lessons are so expensive, and it's working at the moment. I know that when she gets older she will probably argue with me and it will be time to pass her on to another teacher! I think they will get a surprise when she plays too - she is 6.1 and doing Grade 1 recorder (TG) and one of her pieces is in 6/8 and uses the high register up to top G. She is honestly going to be fine, but I'm still scared for her! She absolutely insisted she wanted to do the exam, so we have arranged for her to play in church a couple of times, and in the festival as a sort of warm up. Two of the festival classes are today - will let you know how she does!!

Wafflenose Tue 15-Nov-11 09:24:11

forgot to add, no the exams aren't at my house, they're at the school I work at. DD goes to another school, so it's a new place to get used to, but at least she won't have to play the grand piano!

RaspberryLemonPavlova Tue 15-Nov-11 09:47:45

I think piano players have to get used to different pianos anyway. The trouble with the exam is that, unless you are very lucky, they can't go and practice on the exam piano beforehand. (Our exam centres are in churches mostly). On the plus side you don't have to carry heavy/large instruments about. I think it helps if they can play different pianos occasionally when they have the opportunity - friends and relatives houses, at school etc. We have a digital piano, with weighted keys, and I find they transfer to different pianos quite easily.

My DCs piano teacher turns her piano into a 'grand piano' with a stand to hold the music a bit higher, so they get used to looking at the music differently.

I like festivals, except the part when DC are actually playing! Hope you have a positive and constructive adjudicator.

It sound like you have a talented 6 year old, lots of luck.

Wafflenose Tue 15-Nov-11 10:25:02

Thank you! Am now giggling about the mental picture of a piano-playing child trying to carry their large, heavy instrument around, or pull it to the exam centre on a lead! All this stress is making me silly. Will report back this afternoon!

Wafflenose Tue 15-Nov-11 14:48:12

Am very proud and very excited to be able to say that I have taken a very excited little girl back to school! She won both the 8 & Under and 10 & Under solo recorder cups with two distinctions, and received two cups and two medals! I'm now less nervous about her exam and think she is going to cope OK under pressure. So happy for her!

RaspberryLemonPavlova Tue 15-Nov-11 17:55:45

Well done your little girl!!

Am really pleased for you both.

relaxitllbeok Tue 15-Nov-11 18:38:47

Glad you're feeling more relaxed now OP! My strategy is "think of it as something between him, his music teacher and the examiner, and really nothing to do with me" and that works pretty well so far (my DS is taking his second exam this week) but is not readily applicable to you...

He seems OK with them so far, too. One thing I really like is that his school has regular informal concerts which are very much about the joint enjoyment of music. I try to encourage the attitude that exams, marks, prizes etc. are really not important compared with doing your best so that you can enjoy making music and so that other people enjoy listening to you and playing music with you - all these enjoyments go up the more you work. I think this is (a) true and (b) likely to encourage a relaxed approach to exams. Here's hoping.

Wafflenose Tue 15-Nov-11 19:32:55

Thank you both! She is high as a kite but really, really tired so I've put her to bed early and said no reading in bed tonight!

Sounds like a good strategy, relax. You're right, it doesn't apply to me too much - but now I feel it will be relatively relaxing to go and play her pieces with her to a total stranger for her exam. Today there were about 20 people watching, including adjudicators, other children, a few parents and a couple of my colleagues! I was in a shaky state by the time I'd finished playing, but the adjudicator called DD "cool as a cucumber", "a natural performer" and a "whippersnapper". She is playing in assembly on Thursday morning, and in a non-competitive festival class on Thursday evening, which should be nice and relaxing! Absolutely agree with the whole enjoyment and effort thing - we always recognise effort, and winning something totally unexpected today is just a wonderful bonus.

What exam is your DS doing this time relax? I look forward to hearing about how he gets on.

Any other music exam entrants this term?

Oeufman Tue 15-Nov-11 22:01:56

Wow - well done to little waffle! Delighted. We have no exams this term - next term yes! He is doing a big Chopin piece at the moment, but is also attacking the original Simpsons theme which is apparently quite difficult!

Have to confess he has a bit of an advantage when playing unknown pianos - we own quite a large piano shop and his Dad (a piano tuner) insists he plays various instruments. He is also getting quite adept at moving them also :0

Wafflenose Tue 15-Nov-11 22:19:57

Very impressed about the Chopin and moving pianos around Oeuf!

Little Waffle started teaching herself piano out of a book also, at half term. I don't have time to teach her properly myself (she has a 3 year old sister and I work 3 days a week) but I sort of supervise. Recorder wins hands down at the moment though! Had the shock of my life this afternoon. We only did the festival for the experience and a bit of fun!

Colleger Wed 16-Nov-11 16:18:37

Waffle, I'm interested in putting my son in for a festival but we've never done it before. He's 10 and is nearing grade 7 bassoon and can play two grade 7 pieces but the rest are around grade 6 level. Did you apply for one age group and then she got the prize because she was the best in both? I've also noticed some festivals have a mixed woodwind section which seems odd as some woodwind are harder to play than others so if son went up against a grade 6 clarinettist (example, not sure if it's harder) then would he be at the advantage or do they just pick the best performance?

Regarding exams, I find the practice in the build up stressful but am totally relieved when the day of the exam arrives as I am thoroughly sick of three pieces, scales and the practice stress. Certain grades probably carry more stress as they are seen as bench-marks so grade 5 and 8.

Colleger Wed 16-Nov-11 16:19:32

There is also a forum for music on ABRSM.

RaspberryLemonPavlova Wed 16-Nov-11 20:31:18

I don't know if all festivals are the same, but in our local festival you would enter him for 10 and under woodwind. Then it depends on what the adjuticator is looking for, they know the intricacies of the different instruments. You could also enter him for 12 and under etc if you wished, at the grade level he is playing he is probably on a par. I presume that is what the OP did with her 2 classes. IME the higher grade doesn't necessarily always beat other grades. We also have an open class with a minimum Grade 6 standard which he could also enter.

Wafflenose Wed 16-Nov-11 22:25:47

Hi, have been working all day, so checking in now!

Yes it would be 10 and under woodwind, and the next one up if you wanted to. It's the best performance which wins at ours, not the hardest piece or anything to do with relative ease of playing an instrument. If he's Grade 6-7 he could certainly try a higher class. DD entered two different solo classes and unexpectedly won them both. As Raspberry pointed out, some classes have minimum requirements. I entered DD for a bit of fun and as much performing experience as possible. She was only eligible for U8s, U10s and the Parent & Child duet class, which is tomorrow. There is an U13 class, which I thought would be a bit silly, but she says she wants to try next year! I don't think so!! There are also various duet classes which she might be able to do with friends in the future, and a beginners' piano class which she might try next time if she keeps it up.

I joined the ABRSM boards about a year before DD was born, but don't post much there any more.

Colleger Wed 16-Nov-11 23:50:56

What grade is she on the recorder? I heard a performance from a Year 7 pupil at Purcell the other day and it made me realise just how beautiful the recorder can be.

So would it be best to play a lower grade amazingly well? If he played a grade 4 piece in U10's would he be allowed to do this if he was also playing grade 6+ in an open competition as it would feel like cheating in the younger group iykwim.

Wafflenose Thu 17-Nov-11 09:59:38

She turned six last month and is heading towards grade 2. I have entered her for grade 1 this term because I know how unreliable young children can be and at least it is well within her comfort zone!

There is an incredibly amazing piano/violin player at the school I work at, a similar age to your own DS. He played professional level repertoire brilliantly at the festival, but WAS beaten by someone who played something a bit easier but really well. It would be fine to play an easier piece in U10s and a harder piece in the next class up. This is what we did, although with no expectation of winning anything at all! I did feel a bit bad for those year 5 and 6 kids being beaten by a year 1 after she'd already won her own class, BUT she had the harder pieces AND was the only one not to make a major slip, so fair's fair!

Wafflenose Thu 17-Nov-11 10:05:05

meant to add, if he's age eligible, it would not be cheating anyone at all.

SouthernandCross Tue 22-Nov-11 08:40:47

Have just found this thread. I wish I had found it before!
My two eldest DD's sat their Grade 1 and Grade 3 piano exams on Saturday, and now we start the long wait for results. They seemed to do okay although I fear both girls have been overly positive about how they did so I'm afraid they might both be disappointed. Both are convinced they will get distinctions, whereas I'd be happy with a pass!
Has anyone else had children sit in this last round of exams?

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