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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?


pushmepullyou Mon 04-Apr-11 22:44:48

Yes, it definitely depends on your examiner, which is why the attitude of the teacher is the biggest guide as to whether you need to be concerned re the quality of teaching.

The fact that he told you by text rather than calling would concern me. If he hasn't taught her to keep going at all costs that would also concern me. It is the fact that he doesn't seem to have communicated any issues with you so that you can support her practice that is the biggest worry for me. Sight reading, aural and scales should be heard in every lesson in the run up to an exam imo and parents advised if additional specific practice at home is required. I used to write the names of the scales on pieces of paper and get the pupils to pick a certain number to do out of a pot every day so that they all got practised over the course of a week. There are also books of practice sight reading that I would lend to pupils if they were weak in that area.

IShallWearMidnight Mon 04-Apr-11 22:57:43

I'd be looking for a different teacher tbh as it doesn't sound like this one is teaching/preparing for exams in a way that suits your DD.
DD1 managed to pass grade 3 clarinet despite playing one scale going up and a totally different one coming down, but as the examiner said "she approached everything with enthusiasm" so despite not being particularly musical, she did a lot better than DD2 who seems to fall to pieces in music exams despite playing ten times better than her sister.
We've found that it's the singing that lets the DDs down as neither of them can hold a tune (take after their dad wink) and DD2 especially is too embarrassed to just have a go

houselikeashed Mon 04-Apr-11 23:05:53

Why would she be talking during the pieces? You don't do that. Have I misunderstood something?

Colleger Tue 05-Apr-11 00:02:32

Two years seems a very long time to get to grade 1 on the violin. There could be a number of problems:

Teacher is useless
Student is not very able
Not the right instrument for student
A mixture of both
Student totally cocked up exam

schilke Tue 05-Apr-11 10:14:44

Oh dear I hope your dd bounces back and marks it down to experience. Dh is musician/ music teacher - he gets upset if I just put teacher!

He has only had one failure in about 18 years. This child was borderline and he warned the parents before she was entered for the exam. I would have thought your teacher should have known she was borderline and let you know.

You'll know more when you get the mark sheet and then have a chat with teacher. We swapped teachers after ds2's grade 1 violin exam - mainly because teacher was so busy and was difficult to pin down a time for a lesson. She expects more from ds2 and he has stepped up to the mark - so glad we changed.

marialuisa Tue 05-Apr-11 10:24:06

I have a DD the same sort of age who is on the musical side and I can't help but wonder if your DD really needs to do the early exams at all and could just enjoy playing and building her confidence for a while? Has she been playing anything other than exam pieces since September? If not she must be bored out of her mind and it would probably help explain why she "can't" sight read. Does she play the violin in a school or music centre group at all as may help things too?

maggiethecat Tue 05-Apr-11 10:39:32

Hmm Colleger, no gently gently with you.

NormanTebbit Tue 05-Apr-11 10:48:36

I was eight when I failed my grade 1 piano exam. <y parents were furious, I got a real telling off. I think they were embarrassed.

Truth is, music exams are hugely stressful and I had never been in that environmnt before. I just kind of froze, I couldn't do the sight reading or any of the other stuff. It was awful. I was the same with my driving test.

That said, I got to grade 6 piano and grade 7 Oboe when I was a teenager as I knew what to expect.

Don't be too hard on your kid, or their teacher. It's a learning experience and next time it will probably be fine.

crystalglasses Tue 05-Apr-11 10:49:24

There's no reason why a child should be devastated at failing a music exam, or any exam in fact. Failing is part of life and as long as she knows she did her best, that is all that matters. The op may feel angry or disappointed with the music teacher but this shouldn't be conveyed to the child imo.

The dc should be encouraged to pick herself up and carry on, if she really enjoys learning to play.

Pterosaur Tue 05-Apr-11 10:55:46

Marialuisa makes a good point about playing in groups; they help enormously with sight reading, are a change of scene and a social event. Performing in group can help with nerves too.

Perhaps the way forward, OP, is to forget the exam debacle, possibly find a new teacher, find a music centre or similar group, let her have a bit of fun with it, then eventually think about grade 2, when DD and her teacher are quite confident that she's ready.

I'd have been upset if either of my children had been put in the same position as your DD, not because the exam itself is important, but because of the possible effect on her confidence and enthusiasm. It's all mendable though; I'm sure she can make a fresh start with it.

LawrieMarlow Tue 05-Apr-11 10:57:08

Does the teacher mean she talked through the pieces with him afterwards? I would be surprised at someone talking during the exam itself.

NormanTebbit Tue 05-Apr-11 10:57:10

And yes, I play (badly) for pleasure. You wouldn't thank me for a recital. But I enjoy it and I'm glad I stuck at it as it enriches my life.

It isn't all about becoming a concert violinist.

Pterosaur Tue 05-Apr-11 11:11:38

I agree with crystalglasses about failure, but with music lessons, the problem can be that it's too tempting to give up completely, while with school exams, the child is obliged to get on with it. Anyone would want their child to have as positive an early experience of music as possible, in the hope that it leads to an enduring interest.

Norman - if my children play for pleasure as adults at any level, that'll be a great result as far as I'm concerned. DD1 has played in a local community folk band (she's put it on hold at the moment because she has too much on) and one of the best things about that is the fact that most of the players are adult amateurs, playing because they enjoy the music and the company.

seeker Tue 05-Apr-11 11:12:18

Lawriemarlow - I wonder if that was what he meant? I did wonder, but that makes perfect sense.

(BTW - bet Miranda never failed a violin exam...............!)

Asinine Tue 05-Apr-11 11:27:46

If your daughter is practicing and enjoying music that is the main thing. It would be a shame if she is put off by such a negative experience. I didn't get put forward for any grade exams as my teacher said it was a waste of time, she'd rather pick the music we were playing. She was the best teacher I ever had, she helped me gain confidence by playing in lots of groups,bands, orchestras and festivals. I ended up playing at a high level in adult chamber and symphony orchestras whilst still at school.
Importantly I still play for pleasure, which I think has encouraged my kids to see music as a life long life enhancing thing.
But my sight reading is abysmal blush

maggiethecat Tue 05-Apr-11 11:28:19

But why would he comment by text that she talked through the pieces, as in how she performed them, since he would know how she did having accompanied her?

LawrieMarlow Tue 05-Apr-11 11:46:29

I think i may be trying to read things into what the teacher has texted as thinking about it I agree with you maggiethecat.

Seeker I am sure Miranda would never have failed. Lawrie could well have done though...

I used to only just pass music exams. Sight reading and scaleS let me down.

newpup Tue 05-Apr-11 12:28:22

I have just suspended piano lessons for my DDs for a few weeks pending the results of their exam! We have always got on well with their teacher he gives me regular verbal feedback and they passed their first exam with good marks. DD1 was 2 marks away from a distinction.

However he decided to enter them for this exam with 3 weeks notice. I was a bit worried but he assured me they were ready. They took the exam but both came out saying they had been asked to perform a scale they did not know and had trouble in another section too. The piano is their second instrument and both have taken several exams before in other instruments so know the drill well. They were both upset and it had shaken both of them to not know what the examiner had asked. I phoned the teacher to discuss with him and he was very vaugue but sounded worried as if he realised he was in the wrong.

I am so cross as this will effect their confidence and he insisted they were ready for it. I have asked for a couple of weeks break until we get the results particularly the feedback sheet with a breakdown of their marks. If they have done badly as result of not knowing something the teacher should have taught them I will be looking for a new teacher. The Dds really like him but I could not justify keeping him on in that instance. sad

If I were you I would have a frank conversation with her teacher when you have the exam feedback

Pterosaur Tue 05-Apr-11 12:35:44

It doesn't hurt to keep an eye on the syllabus yourself (though you shouldn't have to).

newpup Tue 05-Apr-11 12:56:48

Quite right Pterosaur. I trusted their teacher though. They have done really well in all their other music exams but will definately be checking up from now on!

Colleger Tue 05-Apr-11 20:30:07

In the scheme of things I don't think parents should be worried about a fail affecting their kids confidence. Get a grip! How are our children ever going to cope with life if they never experience failure! hmm

Honeymum Tue 05-Apr-11 21:51:23

Hello again all

Wow this thread has grown like topsy!

Righto - I went to see the teacher today. All we know is that DD got 80 out of 150 for the exam. No mark sheet as yet.

We know that DD did not attempt the sight reading so that was 20 marks gone straight off. Teacher said she talked during the pieces and stopped and started, ie, when she made a mistake she said "oh I've made a mistake" and stopped before resuming again. I don't know how many times this happened, but I don't think it was too many.

DD tells me that the examiner wasn't very friendly and she was nervous but she did the aural ok and "most of" the scales. Until we get the mark sheet back we won't know the full story.

After sleeping on it I was thinking about DD as a learner. The thing is she is a flighty, imaginative child, not inclined to focus or concentrate generally. She wants to play and enjoy her lessons but she doesn't half fanny about and teacher isn't very good at stopping her. She's not naughty, just very chatty and distractable.

Her teacher is not strict enough with her IMO, and I now know why after our conversation today.....He told me he has aspergers. A lot of things make sense - why he might have problems managing DD, and why I feel like he doesn't communicate very well with me (hence the results by text). He also said no one else failed across all the grades he teaches.

We decided that (a) she has musical ability (b) if she can focus and bring some discipline to her playing she will be probably be ok and (c) we should carry on for a couple of months and see what happens with me sitting in on lessons and him itemising what he wants DD to do outside of lessons, with an emphasis on both cracking on with sightreading and scales and learning some new pieces to relieve the boredom. He said it's up to us whether we repeat grade 1 or try to move forwards.

I spoke to DD tonight and told her about the result. She was very upset and told me that she had found the exam very difficult and the examiner was not nice and she wanted a nice lady examiner next time. She is very keen to continue though, and understood that I had to set some conditions.

On a final note, I am still thinking of a change of teacher, though, as I think maybe a different teacher would have prepared her differently/better and perhaps, despite their good relationship, they just don't suit eachother. But I would feel bad jumping ship when I do think that DD's "learning style" for want of a better expression is a big part of this.

Thanks for all of your comments - they are hugely valuable and interesting. I hope I've answered most of the queries that have popped up. We should have the mark sheet next week. I'll come back and report on that next Tuesday after DD's next lesson.

Georgimama Tue 05-Apr-11 22:00:44

I'm casting my mind back a long time but I would think it is virtually impossible to pass if you don't even attempt the sight reading and stop and start during the pieces.

Playing in an ensemble is marvellous for sight reading and self discipline as a player - is there a junior strings group she could join?

Honeymum Tue 05-Apr-11 22:13:37

There is a local youth orchestra but I think you have to be grade 2 or above. I will look into the Council run music school which is on Saturday mornings I think. I agree that playing in an ensemble would help greatly.

Tangle Tue 05-Apr-11 22:24:12

Your poor DD .

I remember music exams being quite intimidating (and I got to grade 8 on piano and cello, so took a fair few). I don't think many of the examiners go out of their way to be intimidating, but the nature of their job means that's often how they'll come across. It might be worth asking your teacher to do a mock exam or two as part of your DD's exam prep before she has another go (at whatever level) - or even asking if there's another teacher who could do the same thing so it was someone she didn't know very well.

See how it goes, but if you do decide to change teachers don't feel like you're jumping ship - he might be a fantastic teacher but if he's not coping well with your DD's personality and current learning style (good phrase ) then he's not a fantastic teacher for her at this time. It does sound like your DD will progress faster once she's matured a little - and the right teacher will help her in that process. Is this teacher able to do that?

Groups are fantastic as a way to get out and enjoy music. They also tend to force you to keep going wink. Your teacher should have a handle on what groups there are around that are suitable for your DD's standard - or where she needs to get to before she can join. Otherwise, your County Music Service should be able to advise you. Hopefully there'll be something - when I started the local music centre had a Beginner String Orchestra that you could join as soon as you could play open strings, and then a couple of others that all met weekly up to about grade 5+.

I'm really glad she wants to carry on, though. My cello spent a few years in its case once I started working, but its out again in earnest now and I'm playing 2 or 3 times a week in different groups. I can't imagine life without music in it. If I can foster that love in DD then I'll fell like I've achieved something as a parent

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