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Grade 1 Violin failure

(244 Posts)
Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 18:41:39

I've just had a text from my DD's violin teacher to say she's failed grade 1.

She has been with him for almost 2 years and has practiced regularly, particularly since we've been preparing for the exam (since last September). To my untrained ear the pieces sounded fine. After the exam the teacher (who accompanied her on the piano) said she had done well and he was pleased.

The scales and sight reading are done with the examiner only so he didn't hear these.

By text he said she talked through the pieces but I will get full story tomorrow.

I wanted to know how common it is to fail grade 1? Is it DD or the teacher? Should I try to switch?


Orangepuffle Mon 04-Apr-11 18:46:38

I know that teachers are allowed to contact examiners and question their marks and ask for them to be revisited. Find out exactly what your examiner has said and then ask your teacher whether he feels it could be "challenged".

seeker Mon 04-Apr-11 18:47:40

I don;t think it's very common to fail - but you do get a detailed sheet with marks and remarks for each section so that should explain exactly where she went wrong.

Poor dd - how old is she?

WillieWaggledagger Mon 04-Apr-11 18:49:11

iirc you get a sheet with comments on each section - not lots but may be a starting point for understanding which areas need work or where you might feel the examiner went wrong if that's the case

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 19:01:48

She's 9. I'm just pissed off because she's been having lessons for so long and we did everything asked of us. I don't think she should have been entered if there was a chance of failing (difficult I know). I hold teacher responsible. Maybe unfair, I know but...

What makes me cross is DH bumped into him a few days after exam and he'd gone from "she did really well" to sucking his teeth and saying he didn't know how she'd done. He was unsure as to whether you have to pass all elements as well (shouldn't he know that?)...and what made me angry was that it was only then that he said she doesn't concentrate very well in lessons....

I am emotional about it. It will be very difficult to tell her and motivate her from now on and I don't know if she would have been ok with a different teacher.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 19:02:33

It was like he was shifting the blame. That makes me think we need to switch. I don't think I can work with him even though DD loves him.

pushmepullyou Mon 04-Apr-11 21:04:19

I used to teach violin and both my mum and sister are music teachers. IME it is pretty rare to fail grade 1.

I once had a child who barely scraped through, but she was severely dyslexic and unable to read music in any meaningful way so sight reading was always going to be a challenge!

I think it depends on how the teacher has approached this. If your daughter has practised regularly and has no particular issues that make it particularly difficult for her to learn an instrument then I would nornally expect that she would be able to reach a suitable standard for Grade 1 within 2 years, although obviously all children are different.

How experienced is the teacher? What grade do they teach up to and what is their pass rate? Did the teacher not raise any concerns with you in the run up to the exam? Whilst you make a judgement at the time of entering a pupil as to whether they are likely to be good enough by the time of the exam, I would have expected the teacher to have spoken to you on an ongoing basis in the run up to the exam if they didn't feel she was reaching the necessary standard so that you could get her to up her practice.

It is always possible that something catastrophic happened in the aural, scales or sight reading, but again I would have expected the teacher to include practising these skillls as part of the lesson and therefore to be aware of whether she was managing them ok.

Tbh if she was my daughter and was keen to progress on the violin I think I woukd probably move to an experienced teacher with a good reputation and references

elphabadefiesgravity Mon 04-Apr-11 21:10:21

You can only dispute the marks if there is a discrepancy between the comments dn the marks given. (an ABRSM examiner told me this).

The teacher should know how the exam works. You don;t have to pass all elements for ABRSM (I failed Grade 8 scales) but have to reach the overall pass mark.

Sometimes you get an examiner who marks harshly, last year my students had a LAMDA examiner who I felt really marked everyone down and of course there is no accounting for things happening on the day but as the teacher was actually in accompanying most of the exam should have an idea if things went that badly.

it doesnt add up to me.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:18:22

Thankyou everyone and thanks esp to pushmepullyou.

She does practice regularly and has no issues at all - she's very good at school all round, and loves music and dancing generally. She enjoys her violin lessons and has a nice relationship with her teacher. I don't know about the teacher's pass rate. He teaches up to grade 8 on both violin and piano but is a violinist professionally. He wasn't recommended - he is a neighbour of a friend. In retrospect I should have asked for more evidence of his work.

I don't think he covered enough sight reading in the lessons. I know that she didn't do much of that at home. In the exam I think she stalled and said she couldn't do it. But her pieces were good. I can imagine that she would stop if she made a mistake and ask to start again (she's a chatterbox) but the teacher gave no indication on the day that this was the case. I thought you could fail an element and still pass overall.

She started preparing for the exam in September with a view to doing it in December 2010 but the teacher forgot to enter her. When I asked him for the date of the exam he said he'd forgotten to enter her, then said she wasn't ready anyway. I thought it was unprofessional to (a) forget and (be) to suddenly say she wasn't ready but I know he had some personal problems so I didn't say anything. He entered her for this exam in January, when I asked him by text if he'd done it (on the last date for entering). He could say I put him under pressure but, hey, he should have said if she wasn't going to be ready.

No indication in run up that she wasn't ready - I would gladly have paid for more lessons to avoid this.

She's going to be heartbroken and it's going to be hard to persuade her that it's worth trying again sad.

CelebratedMonkey Mon 04-Apr-11 21:18:47

Poor thing. I barely scraped through grade 1 when I was in secondary school and I remember being terribly embarrassed at my low score. Thing is, I was dreadful and rarely practised. Though your daughter is younger it sounds as if she would be at a higher level. I would try a different teacher.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:20:19

elphabadefiesgravity - thanks just read your post.

You mean either teacher was fibbing that she did ok on the day, or the examiner was unduly harsh.

I am dreading talking to her teacher.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:22:35


She's practised for 10- 15 minutes a day at least 5 days a week. I think she practised as much as we could hope for given her age.

I think she needs a new teacher.

She's going to be upset about that too.

seeker Mon 04-Apr-11 21:34:30

I wouldn't do anything until you see the report sheet. It's possible that froze on the aural, scales and sight playing and dropped a lot of marks there. But you dont have to pass all the elements - dd got below the pass mark for her sight singing in her Grade 5 recently but still got an overall merit..

Generally speaking they do their best to pass people. You start with full marks and they take them off for each thing that goes wrong rather than the other way round, if you see what I mean.

Librashavinganotherbiscuit Mon 04-Apr-11 21:36:38

I'm really sorry but I was completely shit at the violin and can't carry a tune to save my life and somehow I passed Grade 1, if your daughter really does enjoy playing maybe it's worth just her having lessons for the enjoyment value rather than to pass exams.

2BoysTooLoud Mon 04-Apr-11 21:37:38

My father teaches music and was horrified when a pupil of his failed grade 1 recently. Wrote letters etc to examining board but don't think got far. I do think examiners vary.
My father did not avoid issue as so concerned child might give up music - she didn't.
On another note the violin is difficult to play well when nervous- though from what you have said that was not the case with your daughter.

pinkhebe Mon 04-Apr-11 21:41:35

my son only got 5 marks above the pass mark in his double bass. The comments were really harsh. Luckily he took it all in good humour. (he was nearly 10 when he took thw exam)

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:45:46

I agree, Seeker. I will try to keep my powder dry.

I just can't believe she couldn't get enough marks on the pieces. But I feel that the teacher should take some responsibility if she wasn't prepared for the other elements of the exam. If he doesn't, then he will have to go - I can't work with him if he doesn't admit that he didn't prepare her properly, at least to some degree.

What I don't get is how positive he was on exam day and how catostrophic the outcome.

2BoysTooLoud I hope this teacher is horrified too. It's a bloody awful situation to have to break this news to poor dd. I would rather have withdrawn her than face this. Sorry, I am a bit overwrought!

seeker Mon 04-Apr-11 21:49:28

What did she say about the bits the examiner wasn't there for? Just remembered tha dd failed the scales bit of grade 3 clarinet too - but she knew she'd screwed up and told me as soon as she came out. Still passed the exam though.

lucysmum Mon 04-Apr-11 21:55:34

if her teacher genuinely thought she should have passed why not put it in the past and move on ? no requirement that she should pass grade 1 before doing grade 2. You could also get another teachers view on her playing. Are you musical at all ? I am a bit and I know if my DD has prepared well or not for an exam and that is usually born out by the result. Also at this age they do not understand that they may be 'fine' with the teacher/you but nerves will affect them in the exam so they need to be better than fine ie be more prepared than they think they need to be. I am still telling my Dd (aged 10) this and she is grade 4/5 on two instruments. But saying all of this - her teachers have always told me pretty truthfully imo where they think she is up to and not put her in for an exam if they don't think she is ready.

maggiethecat Mon 04-Apr-11 21:59:18

Honeymum, I feel for you. As others have said wait until you see the results sheet in order to make sense of what's happened.

Although she may have played her pieces beautifully there are 3 other elements to take into account so although you do not have to pass each element you must have enough marks and you cannot rely too heavily on the pieces.

The other thing you mentioned was stopping and starting - this is something my dd was told repeatedly in the run up to her exam last year - never stop and start again - you must play on (I think that may be true of pieces, scales and sightreading but I remember teacher emphasising this instruction for her pieces).

She's young and hopefully will bounce back.

Honeymum Mon 04-Apr-11 22:08:40

Seeker - she said she'd not been able to do the sight reading. I don't know if she said anything about the scales and aural.

Lucysmum - I will have to ask the teacher about what he heard/thought at the time. I am not musical, no. But I can see that she's really improved over the months and played the pieces pretty well. I am concerned that me and the teacher aren't having any real conversations about how she is doing. He's not showed any concern in the run up to the exam though. I am not sure when he said she wouldn't be ready for exam in December, back in October when he forgot to enter her, whether he meant it, or whether he was covering his mistake.

Maggiethecat - I don't know yet if she stopped and started, just that she talked through the pieces which suggests to me she was stopping and starting.

Will find out more tomorrow.

Thanks all - will report back tomorrow.

seeker Mon 04-Apr-11 22:17:22

Ah. If she couldn;t do the sight reading at all that might be the reason. If she only screped a pass on the other elements - and stopping and starting in the pieces won;t have helped, a very low mark on the sightsinging could have pushed her below the magic 100.

singersgirl Mon 04-Apr-11 22:26:03

DS2 (9) recently got 102 for his Grade 2 piano (2 marks over the pass mark) and his teacher was horrified. All her pupils got 20 points below her predictions, including the music scholar for whom she had confidently predicted a distinction (she got 108). I think she complained overall about the marks and was very angry, because it looked as if she hadn't prepared them properly.

The comments on DS2's report didn't stack up either. For example, he failed the scales but her comment was something like "Not always even but all were readily attempted" and he got the pass mark for the aural but according to the report only got one thing wrong; he got full marks the same week for the aural in his Grade 1 clarinet exam.

We've just ignored it and moved on. He was pretty upset as he really was much better than that.

Pterosaur Mon 04-Apr-11 22:36:27

They are very intimidating exams, particularly after the teacher/accompanist has left the room.

I don't think teachers always take that into account (they were probably pretty good at doing them themselves).

My DD2 took her first exam, grade 2 cello, last year, and the teacher came out happy with her pieces, but she had a bit of a meltdown during the scales. She pulled herself together on her third try at one (I'd accidentally wandered into earshot at the wrong moment - I could hear the fear sad). She got through it, but I think many children need to be prepared to a level which will allow them to lose marks in the actual exam.

DD1 also underperforms in music exams (she's perfectly all right in academic ones). She's supposed to be doing grade 5 violin this summer, but I want to be sure that she's well above the required level to pass, as she finds the exams such an ordeal. She doesn't want to stop taking them though, so we plough on.

elphabadefiesgravity Mon 04-Apr-11 22:36:56

I would be very concernted at her having talked through the pieces, talking would mean the examiner couldn't hear properly and she is not giving a performance if she is talking.

Talking whilst playing is a big no no.

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