Grade 8? Really?

(68 Posts)
pugsandseals Fri 07-Oct-16 11:29:07

Went to a school informal concert yesterday- aim, some chamber music on just a couple of rehearsals. Was shocked at how many young supposedly grade 8+ players there who looked completely out of their depth! Why is it that so many pushy parents are so keen to get their kids through the grades as early as possible at the expense of ensemble skills? Some of these kids are in National orchestras & bands but can't sight read or listen to each other for toffee! Appallingly low parental turn out too. As if to prove the point that ensemble is unimportant. Sorry for the rant, I just don't see how this can be the norm!

NotAMusician Fri 07-Oct-16 12:00:22

It's nothing wrong of parents. It's the design of the grade exam which can't test the music ability of the kids. When DS first played in camber music, he don't know how to cooperate with others, playing his part as a soloist. It is a learning process. He can now either lead or accompany.

pugsandseals Fri 07-Oct-16 12:19:36

Maybe my expectations are too high - when I was their age (14-18) I had regular weekly 3 hour rehearsals with a top youth orchestra. I didn't get grade 8 until I was 18, but my sight reading was great & I knew how to play in an ensemble of any size! DD played beautifully btw & was not phased at all by the situation, maybe it's just something in the upbringing? I also noticed that some of these top grade exam pupils were full of nerves yesterday - just didn't have the 'have a go' attitude I would expect from my own pupils

80schild Fri 07-Oct-16 12:28:38

Wholeheartedly agree. The main point of playing a musical instrument is to play with other people and to perform. Grade exams test so little of this actual skill. I often joke of re-writing the exam to include practical skills - however, I know ABRSM would never listen.

LozzaChops101 Fri 07-Oct-16 12:37:58

Grade fetishmism, ugh, pet hate. I was in school on a music scholarship and my piano teacher saw fit to jump me up from Grade 3 to Grade 7 in an academic year. Missed out on a heap of skills you (obviously) learn along the way, lost confidence because of all of that and have barely played since. I don't really see the point of grade exams, almost everyone I know personally now who makes a living through music, or even pursues it as a hobby outside of work, didn't have formal music education.

NotAMusician Fri 07-Oct-16 12:47:57

Grade exam is designed to test technical skill not musical skill unfortunately. People might praise a kid " Wow! you can play a grade 8 piece in such a young age!" rather than saying " Wow, you can play a (simply) music like a true musician".

nonicknameseemsavailable Fri 07-Oct-16 12:52:43

but the exams are similar with dancing or drama. In drama you CAN do group acting ones but on the whole they are individual exams. you could have grade 8 in a few different things but not have a clue how to interact with other people on a stage. In dancing the exams are all solo as far as I know.

They are different skills, if they can play the instrument to that standard then they can play the instrument. if however they plan to play with others then they would have to gain those skills in other ways.

GraciesMansion Fri 07-Oct-16 17:13:14

Dance exams are 'solo' but some of the marks are specifically awarded for musicality and performance. Yes, you can get through the grades by just learning the technical skills but you won't get distinctions. And exams count for nothing when applying for dance schools, they don't care what exams you've done.

pugsandseals Fri 07-Oct-16 21:23:50

So frustrating & saddening & all these 'grade slaves' are missing out on all the fun that music should be!

drummersmum Fri 07-Oct-16 22:26:53

But I'm surprised they were all grade 8+ and you seem to imply they had no ensemble experience? Joining a group whether small or big is one of the first things that happens once the child has knowledge of an instrument, either instigated by the parents or by the school itself. Schools usually encourage people from grade 5 to be part of their orchestra from day 1. It's odd.

Greenleave Fri 07-Oct-16 22:35:24

I am very curious that grade 8 and cant sight read for an ensemble and how pushy parents of these grade 8 dont turn up if they have been pushing hard, and also is it too quick to say they are not having fun? (And mine is only grade 3, I do have admiration to young players who are at higher grades, they must have either started earlier and/or practise more)

hanahsaunt Fri 07-Oct-16 22:44:30

People are different. Ds1 is remarkably musical and quite gifted. He's due to sit g7 after Christmas (he's 16) and both plays in ensembles weekly as well as holiday elite courses. His sight reading is rubbish. His playing is instinctive and does best playing by ear. It's not something everyone does even at a high level.

gillybeanz Fri 07-Oct-16 22:52:25

It's not the norm at my dd school, but I know exactly what you are talking about.
I don't blame the parents though, although I know some are pushy.
I blame the system once again, teachers being assessed on the progression of the child through the grade system. It's important yes but not the only measure of a competent musician.
How many times do we hear that if your dc practice for the average amount of time they'll progress a grade a year.
Don't get me going on choirs and the lack of sheet music to read. How do singers learn sight reading which is actually a requirement of the exam anyway.
Saying that pugs When the emphasis does go from exams and as a parent this is what you are used to, it throws you into a state of unease. grin
But yes, you are right

JunosRevenge Fri 07-Oct-16 22:53:37

Not necessarily fault of parents. It might be their instructors or school music teachers pushing them through exams. If parents are not musicians, they might not know any better...

gillybeanz Fri 07-Oct-16 22:55:38

Posted too soon grin
I also blame some private schools who ask for higher grades for their bursaries it's not necessary.
I suppose it's a vicious circle.

Helenluvsrob Sat 08-Oct-16 10:09:07

Absolutely agree. Exams are technical with a little musicality. There is a mentality amongst some parents that ensembles and fun music isn't important too. Spoke to a violinist in the summer and he's very frustrated with the " well that's grade 4 done can he have the grade 5 pieces now".

Mind you the best teachers we've had , the kids ( not us !) have to virtually plead to be entered for exams, and they only do one every few years usually skipping a few. Only our piano teacher is on a ridgid exam structure and even there lots of time and repertoire happens.

The other thing is when these kids get to uni ( studying or doing hobby music) they can't sight read for toffee. Yep. First study music students who don't sight read well. Scary. ( my elder 2 are not studying music but have choral scholarships - choristers and exchoristers have sightreading as their superpower, unfortunately it makes note bashing for weeks in uni ensembles very frustrating !).

BellaNigella Sat 08-Oct-16 10:33:42

Sight-reading and ensemble skills can be learnt - the more you do the better you get! Many children have little experience of chamber music and perhaps one needs to moderate expectations of a chamber concert after so little rehearsal? Playing with others is potentially such a huge joy, but some kids take more naturally to that than others.
That said ensemble skills are not explicitly tested in the auditions of national ensembles I am familiar with. But if those great players get in they will have the opportunity to improve their sightreading and ensemble skills no end!

Witchend Sat 08-Oct-16 10:45:22

Surely, as with all skills, some people are naturally good at different bits of the skill?
Dh is apparently brilliant on sight reading. He always got full marks on that in exams right the way up. He looked on it (and the aural) as free marks which he then made up for on scales
He can sit down having never seen a complicated piece of music and play it pretty well.

However I know other people who are equally as talented as him. If they've both worked at a piece they'd sound similar. However they don't do sight reading well.

And I can see it in my dc now they're all learning different instruments. One is also brilliant at sight reading. He's not grade 1 yet and both teachers comment regularly on this.
One is improving on sight reading as she practices it, and was okay before.
The other struggles on sight reading. However I think she's the most naturally musical.
Equally well: 1 gets full marks without working on aurals, one does okay with no work on aurals and I'll wait to see for the other. I suspect he'll be between the two.
And scales etc: One works hard at the scales, but finds them tricky, one seems to just be able to know them without working, one works well and finds them easy.

They've all got bits they find easier, bits they find harder, same as anything else.

drummersmum Sat 08-Oct-16 11:31:41

Nobody in Abba could read or write music. They had to pay someone to actually transcribe their compositions which were ALL done by ear.

gillybeanz Sat 08-Oct-16 13:43:38

drummer I never knew that, but I suppose it's not unusual. They sort of came from nowhere and won Eurovision, their fame was unparalleled and quite unexpected, I believe.

Absolutely great Marimba btw. star

Back to the thread now grin

I can see both sides tbh. I don't see how children have the time to put in the amount of practice they need to become a good all rounder.
I have noticed a huge improvement in the areas of weakness dd had before starting her school.
However, music takes up 1/3 of their school day and they have practice and ensembles on top of this. I don't know how anybody could emulate this, especially if they would have to travel between different providers.
I agree that sight reading and playing in ensembles are practised skills, but also that there seems a rush to complete grades.
I can absolutely agree with pugs on this one.
There is a big difference between learning to become accomplished and taking exams when you are already at that level or the one above, and constantly working towards the next exam.

allegretto Sat 08-Oct-16 13:47:49

I agree. I have Grade 7 in piano and I can't actually play a thing!

NotAMusician Sat 08-Oct-16 13:59:43

Pug, most of the kids, if start early with little practice should be able to pass grade 8 at the age 14-16. I would like say its a fun for them instead of "slave". And any one who pass grade 8 with merits or above should be easily fitted in Chamber music shortly after practice. I would rather assume the kids you happen to visit haven't had that training like your DD.

Frazzled2207 Sat 08-Oct-16 14:01:10

I agree. I got fed up of grades at about 4 and stopped but had lessons for several years after and player in a wide variety of ensembles etc which I loved.
At nearly 40 I still do so. And love it. I don't see the harm in doing grades but it really is not the be all and end all. Some of my friends' parents were completely fanatical about it. Mostly the completely un-musical ones (my parents were both music teachers and completely unfussed about grades once I started enjoying playing in different groups).

However I did do music joint honours at uni and they were distinctly unimpressed when I told them I didn't have any grade 8s, despite having an A at music a-level.

NotAMusician Sat 08-Oct-16 14:02:27

Grade 8 is an amateur grade. It is still far far away from professional.

EllyMayClampett Sat 08-Oct-16 14:08:20

Somethings are a technical skill and others just a part of being more mature.

In her primary school orchestra, my DD was lead violin although she was only grade 3 when there was a much younger boy who was grade 5. I asked her why she was lead violin? It didn't seem fair. She explained that he was really good, but got a bit confused in the group. Then there was a Xmas concert. The DC got a bit muddled, as happens for primary school aged children. Sure enough, out of 4 violins my own DD in year 6 was the only one who managed to keep on playing the song through to the end. Some of the younger, talented violinists got muddled, panicked and quit playing. It's no big deal, that's what playing in a primary school orchestra is all about, anyway, gaining the experience.

My point is, DC can sometimes grow and gain skills at an uneven pace. What you need to pass grade exams is not everything that you need to participate in group music making.

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