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Finishing Grade 8 Piano by 12 years of age


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#16 sbhoa

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 21:32

QUOTE(jpiano @ Jun 3 2013, 10:17 PM) View Post

If I am understanding the OP's description correctly, this sounds all too common in terms of a narrow, tick-box target and examination driven culture where what is needed to be done to gain the certificates is driven to the detriment of longer-term musicianship. The lack of aural and theory confirms this.

Not covering exam aural preparation doesn't necessarily mean a lack of aural awareness though coverage of exam requirement would be desirable as part of preparation for an exam.
Likewise it's possible to have a decent working knowledge of 'practical' theory while still having some gaps with regard to theory exams. These gaps would be fairly quickly sorted though.


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#17 Norway

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 21:42

I'm not sure that I would describe someone with grade 8 whose certificate is lying in a drawer and that's it as a musician if they are in no way actively making music in a cultural context. I did some research on this for a dissertation recently. I compared the responses of university music students with those of members of a community brass band to the question "Do you consider yourself to be a musician?" The band were unanimous - 100% yes. The students (despite being far more formally qualified than the band members) were not so sure!

Also, I can't imagine selecting students by ability (apart from for professional training). If each pupil is on a rewarding path for them, then that's good enough for me!
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#18 jpiano

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 21:46

QUOTE(sbhoa @ Jun 3 2013, 10:32 PM) View Post

QUOTE(jpiano @ Jun 3 2013, 10:17 PM) View Post

If I am understanding the OP's description correctly, this sounds all too common in terms of a narrow, tick-box target and examination driven culture where what is needed to be done to gain the certificates is driven to the detriment of longer-term musicianship. The lack of aural and theory confirms this.

Not covering exam aural preparation doesn't necessarily mean a lack of aural awareness though coverage of exam requirement would be desirable as part of preparation for an exam.
Likewise it's possible to have a decent working knowledge of 'practical' theory while still having some gaps with regard to theory exams. These gaps would be fairly quickly sorted though.


That is certainly true. But my reading of the OP, especially in terms of the technical and rhythm problem issues, was that exams had been rushed through at the expense of wider knowledge. Difficult to say without a lot more knowledge, and as I say, not fair to judge on the basis of only a few students, but I've taken on transfer students time and again with a far higher grade pass than their actual playing and knowledge would suggest.
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#19 linda.ff

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Posted 03 June 2013 - 23:37

QUOTE(Very Sane Tom @ Jun 3 2013, 07:25 PM) View Post

QUOTE(linda.ff @ Jun 3 2013, 08:01 PM) View Post

QUOTE(Very Sane Tom @ Jun 3 2013, 03:11 PM) View Post

If you have any dreams of becoming a professional (classical) musician then your best chance of achieving them is to have been started on the road by ambitious parents years before you were capable of making such decisions for yourself.

Sorry, I think that's very sad. This suggests that the decision that a person is going to become a professional musician has already been taken - for them, not by them, at an unfeasibly early age. And there's only so big a market for concert pianists, which means that all that hot-housing will have been unnecessary.

The decision has not really been taken for them. Whether to continue with the training is ultimately the individuals choice. But by giving them an early start the parents at least give them a better chance of making the grade if they decide that is what they want to do. And it is not only pianists, of which there seems to be a huge oversupply but also all the other traditional instruments.

You've made two contradictory statements there, VST. The decision HAS been taken for them if the "early start" - which nobody thinks is undesirable, probably - is not just an early start but an early INTENSIVE start, which is what is being described here.

I've just been doing the Pirates of Penzance.Frederic was apprenticed to a pirate at the age of 5 because his nursemaid wasn't listening when his father told her to take him and bind him apprentice to a pilot. Whether or not a child would normally have been bound apprentice at such an early age I have no idea, but if anyone suggested it nowadays hands would be thrown up in horror. Yet so many parents are already carving out their child's career in music because that is what the parent wants for them. Yes, the teenager may decide later to carry on with it, but that decision was made for them when they were too young to make it themselves. I don't mean "I want to learn to play the piano" I mean "I want to bypass half my childhood become a pianist". Nochild decides that.
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#20 Guest: Very Sane Tom_*

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 06:19

QUOTE(linda.ff @ Jun 4 2013, 01:37 AM) View Post

You've made two contradictory statements there, VST. The decision HAS been taken for them if the "early start" - which nobody thinks is undesirable, probably - is not just an early start but an early INTENSIVE start, which is what is being described here.

We are talking about two different decisions. The decision to start intensive training at an early age has been made for them. The decision to become a professional musician has not.

My statements neither condone nor criticise the parents. I am just pointing out that:

a) It increases the chances of success IF the child later decides they want to be a musician
b) Some of the children will end up being grateful for it
c) Parents are not necessarily motivated by attempts at vicarious satisfaction of their own unfulfilled ambition, or of gaining bragging rights for their children
d) It is unfair to judge the school on the basis of two students that have problems. You need to look at a bigger sample to draw any valid conclusions

Early intensive music education ... equivalent to being apprenticed to a pirate? You have to be joking!

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#21 BitterSweet

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 07:35

Hot-housing isn't inherently bad. It is inherently extremely risky for the adult making the decision.

If, for example, your child becomes Venus Williams, or [insert name of latest child prodigy pianist here], or whoever, then it's not been bad. It's allowed that child to achieve something others can do naught but dream of.

However, the drop-out rate (i.e. a child giving up the activity forever) from hothousing has got to be very high compared to the situations where the child has some say in the decision. Not to mention that the damage that can be done to the parent/child relationship...

Sadly, the culture of hot-housing exists to the extent that it is no longer possible to reach the top of certain areas without having started before the age where a child has any real say. Tennis, ballet, violin and piano are just some of the areas that are now the domain of the hot-house parent (rather than the Tiger parent).

For the purposes of clarifying my distinction between hot-house and tiger parents:

"Hot-house parent" (n.) a parent who decides their child will reach the top of their game in a given area and enters them into training as soon as physically possible. Committed to one specific and usually practical skill, to the detriment of all others. Highly competitive, but not necessarily certificate orientated. Winning matters most.

"Tiger parent" (n.) a parent who wants their child to achieve lots, which results in a pushing forward through formal examinations so that they can collect certificates. Not necessarily committed to any given activity. Usually has a broader but academic focus. Achieving matters most.
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#22 linda.ff

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 09:48

QUOTE(Very Sane Tom @ Jun 4 2013, 07:19 AM) View Post

Early intensive music education ... equivalent to being apprenticed to a pirate? You have to be joking!

No, that's not what I said - being apprenticed to any trade at all at such an early age
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#23 Guest: Very Sane Tom_*

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Posted 04 June 2013 - 10:10

QUOTE(linda.ff @ Jun 4 2013, 11:48 AM) View Post

QUOTE(Very Sane Tom @ Jun 4 2013, 07:19 AM) View Post

Early intensive music education ... equivalent to being apprenticed to a pirate? You have to be joking!

No, that's not what I said - being apprenticed to any trade at all at such an early age

ohmy.gif Hmmmm. I see that my sense of humour does not survive translation into the written word wacko.gif .
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#24 SChen

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 09:46

To VST, there is no judgement to the school. As a matter of fact, I was impressed by the concerts of both teachers and students and piano competitions. But after further investigations between the students and some of the teachers whom I later met, it's a stressful environment with competition among teachers. Some teachers left because of the competition amongst themselves.The things that goes through that particular music school is similar to the situation in the corporate world. There is no enjoyment in teaching and learning.

Parents who send their kids there thinks it's wonderful because their children can finish their Grade 8 ASAP and can spend more time studying. So, they want them to do accelerated learning. It's an Asian society thing. I have several students transferred from accelerated learning because the teachers were screaming down their throats during classes and the children were fast loosing interest.

Accelerated piano learning has become the latest "trend". I'm not against it neither am I for it. At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves what do we truly want to achieve as music teachers. I am more for a holistic approach which can be another new topic of discussion for another day.

By the way, the parents of the 2 girls I'm teaching are no tiger parents. They just want their kids to be happy learning music and challenging themselves by themselves at their own pace.

Thanks everyone for your opinions!
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#25 linda.ff

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 09:56

QUOTE(SChen @ Jun 7 2013, 10:46 AM) View Post

Parents who send their kids there thinks it's wonderful because their children can finish their Grade 8 ASAP and can spend more time studying.

Do you mean studying piano/music or studying other things? If it's the latter, it sounds as though they think that everybody ought to be able to play the piano up to grade 8 to "get it out of the way, over and done with" - is this the case?
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#26 SChen

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 10:18

QUOTE(linda.ff @ Jun 7 2013, 09:56 AM) View Post

QUOTE(SChen @ Jun 7 2013, 10:46 AM) View Post

Parents who send their kids there thinks it's wonderful because their children can finish their Grade 8 ASAP and can spend more time studying.

Do you mean studying piano/music or studying other things? If it's the latter, it sounds as though they think that everybody ought to be able to play the piano up to grade 8 to "get it out of the way, over and done with" - is this the case?

Studying piano to get it out of the way so they can spend time studying other subjects in school. They have no intention of becoming a musician. It's part of collecting certificates that shows you are a well rounded student in the Arts. If the student is good (distinction) they then proceed to diploma exams (certificates look good when applying for Universities). Most students HAVE to finish their music education before entering college or University. That's understandable as my college-going students are having a hard time trying to find time to practice.
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#27 Pond

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 12:11

The obsession with collecting certificates at the expense of learning in a more relaxed, enjoyable and maybe musical way is a pity.
On the other hand, I quite like the idea of masses of people leaving school being able to play the piano well. Sounds a bit like Jane Austen days - all women of a certain class being able to entertain others at the piano. It makes for a very musically literate society, and with luck many of these students will have a chance to enjoy and share their music in later life.
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#28 deb176

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Posted 09 June 2013 - 13:09

A 10 year old student of mine just did her grade 5 exam with great ease. (still waiting for the results but it is mo st probably the usual high merit or distinction).She could most likely finish off with her grade 8 before she is 12-or 13 seeing her pace so far has been one exam a year, skipping a grade each time. However, she now told me she would rather not take any exams for a while, she would like to have fun exploring pieces she is interested in, improvise, accompany and play chamber music. I think this is a very healthy approach and hope to convince her parents to stop the paper race for now.
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#29 lil_mist

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 15:00

I passed grade 8 piano with distinction when I was barely ten years of age. I am 11 now and doing DipAbrsm.


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#30 Latin pianist

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Posted 18 September 2019 - 15:27

I just can't imagind any of my 10 year old students achieving grade 8. Most have maybe done grade 1 or 2. So are you from a very musical family and do you practise hours every day?
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