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Support group for parents of children taking music exams!

(1000 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!!

Wafflenose Tue 22-Nov-11 09:24:38

Hello Southern, I hope they did do as well as they thought. Please let us know when they get their results!

My DD is doing her Grade 1 recorder in a couple of weeks, so is still practising lots. It's a special visit though, so very late in the session and most people will have sat theirs before then.

mel38 Tue 22-Nov-11 10:08:02

Yes my daughter sat her grade 1 piano last thursday and she too was very positive said it went really well ! but she did also say she played a wrong note in her first piece , she would love a merit as she got a merit on her violin in july but I would be happy with a pass ...........only 3 weeks to wait .....

relaxitllbeok Tue 22-Nov-11 10:17:02

Mine took Grade 2 piano last week. He wasn't very positive about it afterwards, but it didn't sound from his description as though anything too disastrous happened (and he was much the same after his Gr1 where he got distinction; otoh I wouldn't expect him to get distinction this time; so who knows, really?!). At any rate, I know his playing has been coming on really well, and that's what matters. I videoed him just before his Grade 1 exam and just before his Grade 2, and the improvement is astonishing for a relatively short time. I'm really glad we had the Gr1 recording to look back at, actually, as when you're in the thick of always working on the stuff that's not right yet it's easy to lose sight of progress.

SouthernandCross Tue 22-Nov-11 10:25:25

Oh cool re recorder. I am afraid I've confiscated every recorder in our house and we have 12 on the top shelf, as DD2 is the only one who can actually play a tune on it; the rest just BLOW as hard as they can.
It sounds wonderful when played nicely though smile

SouthernandCross Tue 22-Nov-11 10:29:36

Oh cool, there are bunch of us nervous mothers here too.
It was DD2's first exam so I was just pleased all her pieces sounded reasonably okay to me. it sounds like her sight reading and aural went okay too.
DD3 got a distinction last year for grade 2 after a poor pass in grade 1 ( we changed teachers). I don't think she'll get a distinction this year as she fumbled one of her pieces so I hope she's not too upsetsad
Do any of you reward your kids for exam results? I've told them they can have something special if they get a good grade as it represents a LOT of hard work for them!

relaxitllbeok Tue 22-Nov-11 11:35:17

I wouldn't want to reward for exam results as I'd think it'd just tend to increase the stress next time. What I did do, though, was to have a special "celebration" meal with candles and DS's favourite foods the evening of the exam. DH was a bit hmm at celebrating then rather than when the results come out, but I take the view that the thing most worth celebrating is the effort DS put in and the steady improvement he's made, regardless of the results.

Wafflenose Tue 22-Nov-11 12:06:19

This is DD's first exam, but no, we probably won't buy her anything, except maybe some new fun music. She took part in her first festival last week and unexpectedly won 5 medals and trophies in the end - she was so thrilled we didn't need to do anything additional to celebrate. She was then asked to play at school and in the festival showcase concert, so it was well worth doing to practise playing to various audiences. Unfortunately, she has now decided that everything is boring by comparison to her brilliant week - school is boring, her toys are boring and even we are boring. She's also developed a bit of 'attitude' lately - but maybe that's just her age!!

Wafflenose Tue 22-Nov-11 12:08:43

relax, let us know how he gets on when the results come out!

Absolutely agree that it the progress made which we should recognise and celebrate. I have a feeling my DD will like collecting the certificates too, but hopefully that will be reward enough for her - the exam cost over £30!

racingheart Tue 22-Nov-11 12:56:56

Please can I join you? With sad news.

DS1 sat his grade 1 piano today and it was a disaster. I could hear through the walls. He absolutely went to pieces. he adores piano, practises hard every day, unaided, and plays well at home but just crumbles under any sort of pressure. He really messed up his RH broken chords, which he's played perfectly for months; he absolutely blanked on his LH broken chords so told the examiner he couldn't play them at all, and then played Andante (Haydn) ending in the wrong key somehow, having made three complete re-starts mid piece. I feel like crying for him. He was perfect on all these last night. He knows he's failed, and feels so sad.

Any advice?

SouthernandCross Tue 22-Nov-11 13:14:38

Oh racingheart, don't give up hope yet. Seriously, I go to pieces in exams too but have managed to pass complete train wrecks of both Grade 4 and 5 in piano over the last couple of years.
If he played 2 pieces musically, did the rest of his scales okay and his aural/ sight reading went okay he should pass Grade 1, I think.
Last year I bombed all of my scales, cried through my pieces and had to restart 2 ( one 5 times!) and have no memory of my sight reading or ear tests!!!

racingheart Tue 22-Nov-11 13:20:05

Southern - did you pass, despite that? You've just given me hope. He really deserves to pass. I've never met another child who practises every day without a single prompt from an adult. He loves playing but not performing, IYSWIM.

relaxitllbeok Tue 22-Nov-11 13:48:02

racingheart, what does his teacher say? And has he gone to pieces in performance situations before? It's fine for him not to do exams if he doesn't want to; tbh their major purpose is to goad children into practising and your DS doesn't need that! It seems a little bit of a shame to miss out on performing altogether since giving people pleasure with your music is to my mind part of the point, but if it never went past playing for his friends and relatives that would be OK! See how he's done and then maybe have a chat with him and his teacher together to see what's a good plan?

There are things that can be practised about how to react to making a mistake in a piece, and this is worth doing even if he never plans to do another exam or performance. Most people's reaction to making a mistake is to restart, but you can imagine that if they're playing together with another musician and they both restart every time they make a mistake chaos results! So it's a useful skill to learn to keep going, preferably coming back in in time, even if you miss a note or a few; it makes it easier to have fun making music socially. Practising with a metronome, maybe set at a speed slow enough to make the piece easy, can help. His teacher should be able to advise. My DS often finishes his practice of a particular piece, once he's got it near to performance standard, by playing it through "three times perfectly" by which he means (a) with whatever aspect of it he was practising earlier in this practice session correct to his satisfaction, and (b) with no stumbles in the rest of the piece. I think this is a dubious definition of "perfect" and his notion of "perfect" certainly improves a lot over the weeks, but it works for him!

racingheart Tue 22-Nov-11 13:54:40

Relax, haven't told his teacher yet.
Your advice about how to keep going when you make a mistake is great - thanks for that. I'll pass it on to DS.

His teacher is one of the shyest women I've ever met. She gave a recital once to a couple of mums and pupils at her house, and she was BRILLIANT! Like a different person - so flamboyant and passionate. But I wonder if she'd have the bottle to play like that in public. I think she connects with DS and his love of playing for its own sake.

Theas18 Tue 22-Nov-11 14:03:24

Just found this thread as well!

Can I just say yes it does get easier the more exams you and your children do but also depends on the child....

My elder 2 have nerves of steel- the eldest did a choral scholarship audition at Oxford and that was about the 1st time she shook after apparently, but the youngest shakes every time we do one!

As a parent we take things really low key and TBH the kids put the pressure on themselves (typically). Singing and piano exams are relentless and the teacher is a bit against skipping grades. I think this is because her "day job" is at a prep school and she "needs" to feel she has evidence of progress IYSWIM

Much prefer the attitude of our recorder teacher which is "do an exam if you and it happen to have the same agenda" so DS is planning to do 8 in the summer after GCSEs having last done 6 a couple of years ago.

Mostly (apart from recorder) recent exams have been trinity and the results are given the same day which is marvellous.

Nerves are also eased a bit as the school is often an exam centre so they do a normal school day, just popping out for the exam.

DH sometime accompanies the kids and he gets more nervous than they do I think (esp DD1s gd 8 recorder when the pno part was very hard!).

We've had some lovely and some bad adjudicators but over all apart from the expense I really think doing exams is good for the children. Performing and getting well written feedback is great and just having to do it lots is a great way to deal with nerves.

BTW glad to hear good feedback about the recorder! When played seriously it is so close to vocal music in its expressive nature. I know I'm biased but still!

SouthernandCross Tue 22-Nov-11 14:57:38

Racing heart, yes I did pass. The examiner gave me one mark over the required pass mark because she could tell I'd prepared and knew my stuff, it's just my hands were shaking so much they were all over the place. I'd like to sit grade 6 eventually but am slogging through my theory first.
You son sounds a little star. My 9 year old is good at practising now but my 8 year old is is NIGHTMARE still, DD1 was like this for her Grade 1 and 2 as well, so I'm hoping DD2 will grow out of it eventually.
They are both sitting 2nd instrument exams in the next year too, trombone and double bass, so I think having done piano first will help them a lot.

3monkeys Tue 22-Nov-11 21:14:22

DD has her grade 2 violin in december. She can play well on some days but not great on others. I don't know if I'm too hard on her but I'm not that sure she'll do well!

RaspberryLemonPavlova Tue 22-Nov-11 22:12:26

We celebrate the hard work, not the grade achieved as well, and have a treat after the exam.

DCs have done both ABRSM and Trinity Guildhall Exams depending on instrument and teacher, Trinity is fantastically quick with results compared to ABRSM.

Had a session off this term, Grade 5 cello and trombone to look forward to in February.

Good luck to all DCs taking exams this term

3monkeys Tue 22-Nov-11 22:53:35

What age did you start the cello? Would love DS2 to play

RaspberryLemonPavlova Tue 22-Nov-11 23:52:23

3monkeys Its DD that plays, not me. Actually meant to say she is doing Grade 5 sax in Feb. She has just started cello aged 11 because it wasn't on offer at primary school, and I refused to pay (and find the time) for a teacher outside school. So she did violin, with a promise of cello at secondary if she wanted to change.

But depending on your willingness to find a teacher, I believe you can start cello at around 4 with 1/10 cello if you wanted to. There is a thread on here somewhere about someone that age playing. How old is your DS2?

3monkeys Wed 23-Nov-11 08:29:19

He's 6, would start at about 7 as that's when DD started violin. Only one problem, he would prefer drums hmm

Xenia Wed 23-Nov-11 09:13:19

I'm quite relaxed about it now on to child 5 in year 27 of being a mother.... (and I passed 4 grade 8s myself in my time)

I am not sure how many exams my children have all done but quite a lot and one got a music scholarship.

Also bear in mind Associated Board grades 6 - 8 get you UCAS points for university entrance (although that's only useful if you won't get very good A levels and are scrabbling for points but even if they have good ones some job applications ask for them - my 20 something daughter had to look out her grade 8 cello and her singing and piano certs the other day to work out how many UCAS points that gave her).

I agree with "The" about keeping it low key although mine seem to be massively laid back, so may be we should be less low key about it. Anyway it's only music and should be fun, that's my view. I got the twins through grades 5 and 6 and 7 singing exam but I think (unlike their big brother who was very young for his year) we have missed the boat for grade 8 before their voices break which is a pity particularly for me as I love singing with them every day.

As the original poster will know more than most as she teaches, one of the key things when they start to learn is to have the parent sit with them each day and better to practise 10 minutes a day than once a week and easiest if it's at the same time every day. I always accompany on the piano too if they're doing an instrument because I like it which means they always practise the pieces which are accompanied much more than boring unaccompanied studies always always start with a few scales.

(rh, he may still have passed. He might have done well on other bits of the exam. One of ours got the pass mark for a brass exam this summer although that was a pretty nasty examiner I think; a rather mean mark)

thetasigmamum Wed 23-Nov-11 13:04:29

DD1 has her Grade 4 piano the week after next. It seems very late but the school is an exam centre so that's when they are doing it. Piano is her 4th study (first study recorder, second/third study flute and voice) but it is absolutely vital since although she is already at least grade 7 level on her 3 other things, if she doesn't get her piano up to at least grade 5 it will affect her chance of doing music at college. She has some time though since she is 13. But still. Piano is something of a trial for her. and therefore, for the rest of the family!

I am endeavouring to be away the day of her exam. I have managed to schedule work trips for her last 5 exams (and DD2's last singing exam, and DSs last clarinet exam) and this works well for everyone since I completely stress them out beforehand. Mind you, for DD1's grade 6 recorder exam she and DH went to the wrong place which can't have reduced the stress much since they then had to hare across to the other side of town in no minutes flat!

Although I did several grade 8s myself and never used to be that nervous, I find the DCs exams excruciating. Yesterday DD2 had a ballet exam and it was just as bad.The worst thing ever though was DD1's NYRO audition last year when I was sat outside the room and could hear everything. It went fine, but.......I could never have been a music teacher. I'm not very good at attending performances either, I get v stressed then I worry that my stress will communicate itself to them........

Michaelahpurple Wed 23-Nov-11 14:02:08

I am about to embark on what I hope will be a reasonably long secondary-music-exam process, with my 8 year old doing his (and my!) first exam in the first week of December - just grade 1 trumpet. It will all be at school, so I will get no sight of things, and will just be left annoying his teacher by sending in fretting emails about warm-up time etc (I think he already finds me a bit of a fuss-budget!).
My 6 year old is to do singing class 1 in Easter, so all very exciting (and I am supposedly doing to do a singing exam, either grade 5 or 6 in the summer, but currently by the time I have got the boys to do their trumpet, singing and violin practice, I never seem to do mine - oops)

EdithWeston Wed 23-Nov-11 14:05:12

How long does it take to get the results through?

I seem to remember it was about 2-3 weeks, and they are sent via the teacher who entered them. Is that right?

Xenia Wed 23-Nov-11 15:56:06

Can be longer too. I enter the twins for their singing and I get the result accessed by email which presumably teachers do too but when they tell the parents will depend on how busy the teacher is. You can go on the Associated Board web site to look for the exam period dates and there are discussions groups on there for people doing those exams and they sometimes have advice about when results are out etc.

Grade 5 theory (and higher grades ) is worth doing too if they want to get up the grades for a proper exam board and do well. You do sometimes get children who just are not academic to do it and then they have to pick a different board I think which does not require theory but I might be wrong about that.

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