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Was told that Grade 8 means nothing. Thoughts?


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#1 playthestatic

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 10:30

Hello everyone,

 

I'm not sure if this is a good forum to post this, but if any moderators are around, feel free to move it.

 

Yesterday, I read a post on a classical forum that quite upset me. It was in response to a thread I created, quite lightheartedly, about being an oboe player who was thinking about casually picking up the saxophone. I mentioned that I was an amateur had done my Grade 8 exam some years ago and had been playing in some orchestras, thinking that this would give a rough gauge of my experience so that I might get some useful advice.

 

I received this scathing reply.

 

"Just another slight bit of information that you need to know. Because grade 8 is an elementary exam any orchestral music that you play will be well beyond your ability to make a close interpretation of what the composer intended. For a good interpretation you need to be a professional player. Grade 8 is not next to the standards needed to be a professional player as I said before it is an elementary exam and professional players are experts.

If you are playing lots of concerts in your orchestras you must think about what you are putting your audience through. They are not hearing how the pieces really sound when played by your and your orchestra. What they get is a very poor approximation to what the composer intended. There is a general problem in the UK about standards in music. Many instrument teachers do not explain properly what these standard are and they also don't explain about how orchestral music should be played and how difficult it is to play it well enough to be up to the standard for an audience to listen to. Someone who has taken grade 8 is a beginner on any instrument. They are at the beginning of learning not the end or even half way up they are right at the beginning. A beginner cannot hope to play orchestral music that needs expert skills.

Now that you know all this you can see that playing the saxophone is not a problem. It can't damage your oboe skills because at the standard where you could take grade 8 and pass you don't really have any."

 

Here's the link to the thread: http://www.talkclass...-taking-up.html

 

I admit I was quite upset to hear this. While I am proud that I have achieved Grade 8, I am very aware that this does not make me close to an excellent oboist. All graded exams, including Grade 8 I believe, are just snapshots of particular aspects of playing that ABRSM has chosen to assess, all of which probably does not include everything involved in being a truly excellent musician. I am indeed constantly self-conscious about my playing. I know that I am not doing justice to the pieces I try to play, and am always thinking about things I could be doing far better, and trying to practice more so that I can improve to a standard I am happy with.

 

Still, I don't quite think it's fair to say that Grade 8 is such an elementary exam that anyone who passes it is firmly a beginner and cannot really be said to have any skills at the instrument at all. I have put many hours into practicing this instrument, and it breaks my heart to hear it said that despite all that, I "don't really have any" skills at it at all.

 

I am also aware that this person has never actually heard me play, and hence cannot possibly form a thoroughly reasoned judgement of my playing, but I was just wondering whether everyone thinks this is a fair assessment of the exam system.

 

What does everyone think?

 

Edited: To show the link to the forum properly :)


Edited by playthestatic, 10 November 2014 - 11:17 .

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#2 Latin pianist

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 10:43

I have found over the years ,quite a few people who are scathing of other musicians, and I think it's due to insecurity. I meet other musicians and they soon tell me they've been to the Royal Academy, or they've learned with x famous teacher. And sometimes they're not brilliant musicians. Of course grade 8 can mean many things and we all continue to learn and improve after that, but surely you're doing that by playing in orchestras. Ignore this unpleasant poster and do not let your heart be broken. There are plenty of musicians who have taken no exams at all and are fantastic players. But knowing someone has passed grade 8 is a useful guide to ability.
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#3 UnnaturalHarmonics

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 10:45

"If you are playing lots of concerts in your orchestras you must think about what you are putting your audience through"

:D That was my favourite bit. I expect I shall soon be hearing from the solicitors of anyone who has witnessed me and my horn in concert action.

My response would be along the lines of:

'I have considered your thoughtful post, agreed you are SPOT ON and have consequently been motivated and inspired to write to ALL the amateur orchestras in the UK requesting they either please desist at once (you're quite right, those poor audience members, forced to attend with no recourse to subsidised post-traumatic stress counselling afterwards), or hire exclusively professional musicians going forward. I feel sure that these measures will serve to raise the currently dire standards of music in the country as they will encourage participation, ensure thriving and diverse community opportunities and provide the means for members to develop personally while pursuing a hobby they can enjoy at the same time.

Oh, and I gave them your address as a reply-to. Hope that's ok. xxx'
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#4 Splog

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 10:58

What a horrible experience! To be so scathing when you've simply asked for advice, and you have clearly worked hard and achieved a tremendous amount in the past. I would ignore it, and never go anywhere near that forum again. Come and join us. We're always in awe down here of anyone who has a grade 8!


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#5 Maizie

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 11:12

I think we'd all agree there's a big gap between Grade 8 and professional; but Grade 8 is certainly not nothing!

 

I'm trying to follow the nonsensical opinion through to its logical conclusion.  So at G8 you're not 'allowed' to perform publically because you're not professional...I assume you are meant to keep on studying, and without any performing or orchestral experience, and then somehow emerge a fully-fledged professional-level player before you are allowed to inflict yourself on the listening audience.

 

Daft!


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#6 linda.ff

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 11:12

Bravo, UH.

 Goodness me, what a troll.

 

There was someone who used to post to the TES  music forum who would scathingly put down every aspect of anyone's post and even their entire career and all their attitudes to it, even if were an innocent question and it was their first appearance. This was almost certainly in no small part down to the fact that he had a long-standing grievance with the forum itself (and many others, and constant on/off battles with editing and re-editing Wikipedia). He used a load of different aliases but was finally banned, after very strenuous efforts on the part of those he had attacked,  and seems not to have been back (though I've only dipped my own toe in those a couple of times over the last five years). His real identity was very well known and he was in fact a good teacher and successful composer, apart from this "little problem".

 

This response sounded very much like his style in those days. This person presumably could not have been unaware of the fact that any orchestral player at any level spends years playing in beginners and amateur orchestras, and neither did the OP make any pretence of thinking that they were a professional. Had they posted before on that forum?  

 

I'd suggest the OP not to worry about it, this person knows what s/he's doing and has written that with no other purpose in mind apart from to annoy as many people as possible. I haven't been able to open the link yet - have there been any replies?


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#7 Invidia

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 11:17

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever had about being a modern day musician is "don't waste valuable practise time arguing with know it alls on the internet".

 

Grade 8 is one thing, professional performance is another, being an "expert" is another.

 

Exactly as you said "All graded exams, including Grade 8 I believe, are just snapshots of particular aspects of playing that ABRSM has chosen to assess, all of which probably does not include everything involved in being a truly excellent musician. "

 

"Professional" for me is anything that counts as work- i.e. there is a fee involved- teaching, accompanying etc.

 

"Professional" is by no means a greater measure of skill than "casual" i.e. there is no fee involved- amateur orchestra, festivals etc. Paid work as a musician really is about who you know over what you know/your ability.

 

"Expert" is a difficult word to define. It's not about fame and riches, it's about mental faculty. I always think of master chess players. They have thousands of move combinations in their brains with which to respond to the board in front of them. Master musicians, then, have thousands of body/breath combinations with which to respond to the instrument/score in front of them. (I'm not a chess player and this may be a bad analogy, but it's the one I use!)

 

So in my book they are incomparable. Grade 8 is a qualification, "professional" is if someone pays you or not and "expert" is brain power...


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#8 lingle

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 11:22

What a silly reply you got!

 

Can I ask you a favour though? Please don't reply on the original forum referring to this forum. The person might turn up here, and I can do without trolls like that spoiling this rather wonderful forum.

 

Why not repost your original question on this forum so you get some constructive answers and the troll is ignored exactly as s/he should be.


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#9 Arundodonuts

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 12:29

This persion obviously feels that only professional standard players should be allowed to play classical music. They sound very similar to someone I had a run in with on this very forum some time ago.

 

Anyway, suffice to say that grade 8 is a pretty decent achievement for any amateur player.

 

EDIT - Mind you they are a "natural player". http://www.talkclass...ng-mastery.html  -_-


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#10 notmusimum

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 12:31

How do you get to be a professional if you have no experience?

If you don't play in ensembles then you will never be able to sight read at a good enough standard to be professional.
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#11 owainsutton

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 12:42

The person posting that has some major chips on his/her shoulder. See these threads:

 

http://www.talkclass...c-students.html

http://www.talkclass...brsm-exams.html

http://www.talkclass...ys-me-well.html


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#12 hummingbird

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 12:44

This person sounds very much like someone we had on this forum a few years ago and who was also an oboist.  Full of their own importance as a musician, and whose only posts were to be as scathing as possibly about amateur music making.  Upsetting others is what gives them their kicks - hard to understand but sadly true of some people.  Rather than letting posts like that annoy me these days, I just feel sorry for the individual who is so full of venom that they want to spit it out at whoever comes within their firing line.  Unfortunately you are their latest target, but being the target does not make you the victim unless you let it affect you.  Rest assured that there are many, many amateur orchestras who give a huge amount of pleasure to large numbers of people.  I go regularly to see amateur orchestras as well as professional orchestras, and I enjoy both.  The standard of some of the amateur orchestras I've seen is extremely high.  And if the less advanced orchestras have a repertoire which is suitable to their level, then they can still make beautiful or exciting music.  I love amateur orchestras.  The players are there because they get pleasure out of sharing music with others, and if that comes across, then it's lovely to be part of that.  Long live amateur orchestras!


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#13 JimD

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 12:49

There's a word that aptly describes the person that replied to you on that forum, but if I post it on here I'll probably get banned. :lol:


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#14 Arundodonuts

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 12:53

Yep. I definitely recognise that style.


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#15 hummingbird

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Posted 10 November 2014 - 13:07

Yep. I definitely recognise that style.

Yep, having read the links that owainsutton posted, I would lay odds that it's the same very unpleasant person.  To the OP - you can't reason with this type of forum poster and they're not interested in your views anyway.  All this person wants to do is make other people feel bad about themselves.  DON"T LET THEM SUCCEED!!!!!   Let them have their own egoistic opinion of themselves and twisted views about the people they perceive as lesser mortals, and carry on enjoying your own music and sharing it with others.  And stick with us where you'll be welcome! :D x


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