A bit about music exams in UK and France

They're really different. I think I have already mentioned that while in the UK people generally find a private teacher for their instrument, or do it through a school scheme, here there are municipal music school, conservatoires and so on. The situation is a little more complex than I had first understood, because the schools vary in the rigidity of their organisation: the most, the conservatoires, next the municipals, then the associations. Our music school is an association, but it tends to apply the standards of the municipal schools with its programme of cycles, etc.

Britain - grade 1 to 8, grade 8 being roughly equivalent to A-level, pre university/conservatoire.

France - 3 cycles, each taking about 4 years, with 3ème cycle being roughly equivalent to grade 8.

Theory of music - UK to take grade 8 you need theory grade 5. In France you study theory alongside your instrumental studies, very slowly. Catrin's flute music is MUCH more difficult than the stuff she does in theory.

And exams. 

UK - two pieces, one study, scales and arpeggios, sight-reading, aural tests or keyboard harmony. The lists are published and they change them each year, but in theory you can have up to a year to prepare your piece.

I only ever took one exam but it is pretty well etched on my memory ! It was held above Gamlin's music shop in Cardiff. I met Nest, my accompanist, downstairs and at the appointed hour went up the stairs into the exam room where the examiner, Adrian Cruft, was waiting. I was rather in awe of him because I'd seen his name as the composer of various pieces of music. (He died a few years after my exam.) 

We played the accompanied piece (Poulenc). Then Nest left and I played the Telemann and the Koehler study. Then a couple of scales and arpeggios. Then the sight-reading. The keyboard harmony (at which I was rubbish). Then the briefest chat with the examiner. Your results come in the post. It was just me and him.

France. One piece. And there's a roomful of people. I don't know who in total was there for Catrin but I had my three man jury composed of François the bass-trombonist from the Airforce, Albert the director and A.N.Other. The pianist, a nice young chap who had trouble with my piece! Then Renaud making encouraging grunts from alongside the piano and making me tune within the millimetre. Lastly Jérôme, the trumpet teacher, who was page-turner for the pianist. You enter, you play your piece, you leave. (Jérôme makes his pupils do sight-reading as well. Caroline doesn't put her adult pupils through exams.) A couple of minutes later all trombonists go back in together (me and Thomas) and get our results. We both passed.  For me an appréciation (play louder, lift your trombone up, watch your intonation - mention bien). For Thomas a decisive result because he goes from 1er to 2ème cycle. 

Our friends the trumpeters who took their end of 3ème cycle both played the same awful piece. It was written to be an exam piece and has every time signature known to man in the third movement but no melody at all. They both failed. Just before Thomas and I took our exams. Hmm. Afterwards Jérôme the pupil trumpeter arrived to take his exam. From the opening notes I knew he'd pass and well. He did. Très bien.


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