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Peripatetic Music teachers - talk me down!

(44 Posts)
VanillaSugar Sat 11-Mar-17 13:02:55

DS (age 9) has been having drum lessons for the past 18 months. Today I asked his teacher if he could prepare him for Grade 1 next year (i.e. after Christmas, not the start of the next academic year in September).

Well, he went off on a rant for 10 mins about how he wants children to enjoy the instrument, it's not all about passing exams otherwise the teachers are teaching to pass the test, not teaching kids to be musicians. ...

My point is that it's all very well for DS to tell people he can play the drums, but the usual questio is "oh yes, which grade are you on?" DS will be sitting the 11+ exam next year for an over subscribed school so any extra piece of paper he can add to his school reference has to be a bonus.

My other point is that you can't say that you can drive a car unless you've passed your test. The drum teacher gave the example of a conductor who said that just because a violinist has grade 8, doesn't mean to say that they will be a good violinist. Well a violinist wouldn't be able to audition for an orchestra unless they'd passed a certain set of grades in the first place.

My DD went through all this as well with her violin teacher. Again, she started in Year 4 and it was a battle to get her teacher to enter her for the exams. DD eventually passed Grade 7 during which she had joined a senior orchestra (entry grade & audition requirement) and went off on a European tour. This isn't a stealth boast - I've included this to emphasise my point that passing music exams is necessary.

So why have BOTH these teachers been so bloody awkward? Please, if you're a Peri, please give me the other side. And please don't say it's because my kids are rubbish at music

Miniwookie Sat 11-Mar-17 13:08:57

Does your son want to do the exams? I did piano exams and absolutely hated them. Thinking back now, I could have just done the syllabus and not sat the actual exam. If you really feel that what others think is so important, you can always say he is playing at a grade 3 level etc.

PuffinDodger Sat 11-Mar-17 13:09:00

It does sound odd. Dd's flute teacher suggested grade 1 after 6 months. Not a stealth boast, dd is 13 years old, so it would be a bit of a rubbish stealth boast!

VanillaSugar Sat 11-Mar-17 13:12:44

Yes, son is happy to take exams... especially as he would get the morning off school to take the exam as his school is not an exam centre!

raspberryrippleicecream Sat 11-Mar-17 13:19:37

But you don't need the exams. NYO for example asks for Grade 8 with Distinction. Standard, but accepts a letter from the teacher. DS is currently involved with Inspire which is Grade 6 plus but he hasn't done an exam since Grade 3.

dangermouseisace Sat 11-Mar-17 13:19:47

with all the testing in primary schools do you really want to add exams to what should be an enjoyable experience? I loved playing instruments but hated exams. Is there really any point bothering with the lower ones unless your son wants to?

dangermouseisace Sat 11-Mar-17 13:20:00

x post

allthebestplease Sat 11-Mar-17 13:24:58

I think its important to have a grade in music otherwise how do you know if you're any good, also it will give him a boost in confidence and something to aim for. Also the more he can read music the more instruments he may be able to then play. Id say get a new teacher you're paying so the should provide a service.

RandomMess Sat 11-Mar-17 13:28:59

Unless you are playing as part of a band or orchestra working towards exams gives you a focus and something to aim for.

I think it's really odd not to tbh. DD started with "rock school" for drums which as really good and her teachers focus was very much on fun. She's played kit and timpani, and snare, still loves it!

IamFriedSpam Sat 11-Mar-17 13:29:58

I think its important to have a grade in music otherwise how do you know if you're any good,

Is this what it's come to? In all likelihood OP's son isn't very good, most of us are mediocre musicians but we do it because it's fun and enriches our lives. You know how good you are because you listen to yourself play and it sounds nice. Not everything has to be examined to be worthwhile!

cingolimama Sat 11-Mar-17 13:30:39

Hi OP, I'm not anti-exams (at all), but they're not really "necessary" as you say, and certainly a Grade 1 is virtually meaningless. They can be a really positive thing to focus on, and a merit or distinction at an upper grade is a big achievement. However, bear in mind that not all countries do exams - in fact throughout Eastern Europe (where many of the best players and teachers come from) they simply don't exist.

I think the teacher's idea that "enjoyment" and "exams" are two separate things a bit bizarre. An exam that a child is ready for is an opportunity to perform. Preparation for an exam is hard work, but should be enjoyable too.

My daughter is a very active musician (violinist), plays in a senior orchestra etc, is a music scholar, and never once has she been stopped from doing anything because she hadn't passed an exam. Sometimes organisations want an idea of the level the student is playing at, which can be attested to by the teacher.

So I understand your frustration with the teacher (the rant was silly and unnecessary), but perhaps think Grade 1 drums isn't that crucial to his success.

VanillaSugar Sat 11-Mar-17 13:43:30

So, a mixed bag. But my son loves a challenge - even his class teacher says that he works towards goals. It's a shame because the drum teacher is very good.

macaronip1e Sat 11-Mar-17 13:44:34

i don't think it's wrong for the teacher to hold that opinion - my clarinet teacher was like that, and I merrily made it into regional senior orchestras following audition. It was only when I was due to leave school she suggested I take an exam so I had something on paper. So, I only have one grade in clarinet - grade 8. My piano teacher was the opposite and everything was about exams, which I found stressful - it was only once I stopped lessons that I learned to enjoy playing it.

VanillaSugar Sat 11-Mar-17 13:45:21

I love iamSpam's assumption that DS isn't any good 😁😁😁😁😁😂😂

Sundance01 Sat 11-Mar-17 13:46:01

Some people value exams and others do not - get a different teacher simple!!

I played music professionally for a few years many years ago and not only did I never take an exam I never had a single lesson - I was totally self taught

SisterMoonshine Sat 11-Mar-17 13:47:39

I started at grade 3 and I'm glad that DD's music teacher seems to do that too. And offers a more wide and varied musical experience until then. Do you have to do much more than turn up for grade 1?

KurriKurri Sat 11-Mar-17 13:55:43

I think it's a balance - my DD's piano teacher felt that exams slowed her down and were boring and repetitive - you have to spend a long time doing the same pieces. She did grade 2 then stopped with exams, then later she decided that she wanted to do music at university, where of course she needed to have passed grade eight, so she took grade five theory and then took her grade 8.
It worked for her.

The again she also plays trumpet and her teacher was very much focused on exams so she worked her way through them to grade 8.
She doesn't play her trumpet all that much now though - which is a shame.

She's a professional pianist now though so tends to concentrate on piano which is her bigger love anyway.

It depends what your son wants. Some children enjoy the challenge of exams and like the competitive element of trying to do well and as you say - being able to say the have reached a certain level. Others find them a chore.

In terms of the future, in order to do a music degree, my DD needed grade 8 in first instrument and at least a grade 6 in a second, so there are entry requirements fro certain things.

On the other hand if you progress in an instrument without taking exams, you will most likely be able to take the highest exam quite easily as my DD did with piano.

Exams do help with technique, - the force you to learn the technical stuff, which it's easy to not bother with if you don't have to.
Exams and enjoyment aren't incompatible - many children enjoy them. If they become incompatible and your DS stops enjoying his music then you can stop the exams. But really it is your choice and you need to find a teacher who fits in with your choice.

Sometimes teachers are not registered to enter students for exams and they can't be arsed to do the paper work - this can present as ' I believe music should only be for enjoyment etc etc.'

Albadross Sat 11-Mar-17 14:01:37

I had the most fantastic violin teacher - I was also leader of all the school orchestras and Saturday morning club ones and ended up being a professional musician. Never took any grades until grade 8 and only did that because I felt I should. It made me loathe practise frankly.

I knew hundreds of players with grade 8 and the grades beyond and they were all useless without the dots in front of them and lacked musicality - of course that's not always the case, but it really made no difference to the quality of playing or the enjoyment of it. Most orchestras ask for standard and won;t demand to see the piece of paper anyway.

Pollyanna9 Sat 11-Mar-17 14:05:30

If DCs interest in drumming moves into wanting to do it for GCSE or further into the future, you need to be Grade 5 to study music at A level. And as another PP said, for Uni it's grade 8. So that is something to bear in mind if that's the way they want to go.

I think what's important is to have a balance of studying to an exam (maybe Rock School syllabus????) and also getting involved with music at school and performing and so on so that there's a range of his experience with the instrument.

Witchend Sat 11-Mar-17 14:08:22

I think that it does depend on the teacher. However those I have known who have been anti-exams (rather than not really minding if the pupil does or not) have been anti-exams because they like playing and being fun, but never actually polishing off a piece.

I think some exams are a good idea from my dc's point of view because it gives them a focus to really get a piece well done. If they don't have that they can find that they always do a piece okay, but never do that complete polish the finished product needs.

On the orchestra side, if you're getting really good then I'd assume it would be by audition, rather than just exam grade.

However for lower levels you may need to prove yourself a bit more as grades are what they look at. For example, last year dd2 started an orchestra -she put down her grade as doing grade 4 that term, and was put in the intermediate group, where she was bottom end. A friend whose teacher didn't believe in doing grades started at the same time and was put in the juniors-she's actually slightly better than dd2. They only move them up once a year, so she spent a year in the juniors.

Blossomdeary Sat 11-Mar-17 14:10:34

There's no hurry - he can just enjoy the lessons now and dive in at grade 6/7/8 later on. It will not be to his detriment in any way and he will have years of pressure free enjoyment.

Enough blooming tests in school now without adding to it all.

Chill out would be my advice.

BertrandRussell Sat 11-Mar-17 14:12:00

Not sure Grade 1 at 10 is going to help much it's secondary school entry, to be honest!

VanillaSugar Sat 11-Mar-17 14:19:50

OK, some interesting opinions here and to appreciate your answers. I'd be grateful if you could now say whether you're actually a Peri or a parent. Thanks!

raspberryrippleicecream Sat 11-Mar-17 14:23:11

Witchend in all the groups my DC has done, the actual grades still wouldn't have been necessary. You simply put down playing at that standard.

Vanilla sugar perhaps the teacher also thinks he will be moving well past Grade 1 by this time next year band that it would hold him back?

BoboChic Sat 11-Mar-17 14:23:36

FWIW I moved DD from a conservatoire that did not follow a public exam schedule to one that does. DD is a much better piano player now!

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