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 .