music grades(12 Posts)
Hi! I'd love to get some input on the importance - or not - doing music exams.
DS is in Yr 7. He is reasonably musical but not so much that a career in music seems likely. Although he enjoys the piano I wouldn't say it is his top priority in terms of his extracurriculars. He is about to take his grade 5 piano exam, and left to my own devices I would probably stop the exams after that and just let him have fun with piano (he would like to explore jazz).
However, various snippets heard at the school gate make me wonder if I would be doing him a disservice. I gather grade 5 can be part of a music GCSE (and grade 8 an A-level?). Another mum said something about anything grade 6 or over being some kind of "tick" on university applications?? I am totally ignorant about any of this as DS is my eldest.
Any insights much appreciated!
Grade 5 is pretty good for Year 7 although not good enough to do something in music on that instrument, but the exams are not important. He has plenty time to explore the piano and develop without sitting exams and could go back and sit them at a later date. Grade 6 and above add a small amount of UCAS points but they don't really mean anything in terms of the courses being applied for.
The only thing I would say is that it would be good for him to get higher grades before GCSE's and above because you may find he will need to give it up by then.
I would say if he enjoys it and is happy to continue, let him if you can afford it. It's hard to say which way they will go jobwise at the moment, so it just keeps his options open. My daughter is only at Grade 2 for her violin (although only been doing it 18 months) and she is working with a girl who is at grade 2 flute in many of her music projects. Apparently the teacher is constantly given them top marks and when the class have to vote on which two have done the best music arrangements on new instruments the whole class keeps choosing them, so playing an instrument must help them in music lessons.
To do music GCSE you need to be able to play an instrument at at least grade 3 level, and you can get a few extra marks if your pieces are a little harder. There is no extra credit for anything above Grade 5 level. DS1 is in Y10 doing GCSE Music. He is doing Grade 6 presently but will do a Grade 5 piece for his solo.
The grades themselves aren't relevant to the GCSE, they don't count towards it.
Grade 5 is considered equivalent to a GCSE because of the work involved but is not a substitute for GCSE Music, likewise Grade 8 is for A level. UCAS points are awarded from a Merit in Grade 6 onwards. Lots of vocational skills can get points like this, dancing is another example.
Let him carry on with piano and explore all the different genres but don't get too fixated on grades. With my BTDTGT old grey hat on I can confidently say our best instrument teacher, (who is highly rated in his field) is the best at getting the kids to love their instrument and do amazingly well. They take exams when they have exceeded the standard by some distance and it suits them to do them (they virtually have to plead!). Result- brilliant mark and relaxed positive experience all round.
For instance DS who is playing at diploma standard is sitting grade 8 this month.
Our piano teacher, who is lovely but very much a prep school teacher makes them do every grade pretty much as soon as they can. It's OK but a bit of a thankless slog.
Apparently sometimes you can get UCAS points for grade exams, but it's never been relevant to my kids. It does mean they float through the practical side of GCSE and AS/A2
It is useful to do the grade exams for back up for A level. Dd got her grade 7 clarinet which earned her some UCAS points which meant when she didn't quite get the grades she needed for her 1st choice uni the grade exam boosted her total points and enabled her to go to her chosen uni.
ds1 had a music scholarship at school and did gcse music and never did a single music exam other than the scholarship one in Y8. After grade 5 you can get ucas points for practical as well as theory exams see here for what they are.
In my dc's experience of competitive courses at Uni the music grades are not a differentiator in anyway. I would say continue with music for the pleasure, workload does ramp up from Year 9 so it makes grading more challenging.
Higher grades currently attract UCAS points, but this is subject to review.
Top universities won't care. They will be happy that DD does something, but would be equally happy if it were DofE Gold or a Saturday job.
Mediocre universities will usually only offer on points gained on A2 exams.
Bargain basement unis will look at all UCAS points, but if your DD has high music grades, these places will not be on her radar screen.
Every hour a child spends playing a musical instrument is storing up pleasure for the future. I still play, though I wish I had worked harder at it when I was at school. If I had a quid for everyone who says I wish I hadn't given up I would be as rich as an oligarch.
I'd say it depends on whether your DS will carry on playing if he stops doing the exams. I still regret that my mother decided I didn't have to do any more exams after violin grade 1 - I don't know why, I was the sort of kid who liked exams - with the result that I stopped practicing and eventually gave up.
By grade 5, esp if he's into jazz, your DS may be past this stage, just wanted to point out that exams can be a positive motivator for some kids.
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