The Good News: all 12 of my students who participated in the Certificate of Merit program this year passed their theory tests! I am encouraged by this success.
I have had several conversations recently in which students or parents have told me that the CM Theory Test is no big deal - it's the Performance component they're worried about. I can understand this, but each element is essential to the growth of a musician. I do not wish to instruct people who then hide their musical talent away - what a waste! Performing is vital, a challenge worth meeting.
The performance portion is always trickier compared to the theory test. Where a written test is cut and dry, performances have so many variables. It is undeniably difficult to travel to an unfamiliar music studio with a strange sounding/looking/feeling piano and perform your best. But I do think it's good training for life, to gain confidence presenting a performance of quality to a discerning audience.
I find it extremely easy to teach music theory. We're dealing with facts there, unchangeable answers to unchanging questions. But where I can tell someone "Go home and complete this practice theory test," and then see it complete at our next meeting, I often lack the means to discern that a student has spent enough time at their instrument working on their technique and performance pieces. I'm not a battle-hardened veteran teacher yet, so at this point I only *sense* the deception I'm sometimes fed by students. Did the student slack on their home practicing this week, or do they simply have severe performance anxiety and lack of self-confidence? Does their home practice environment have too many distractions? Are parents not providing the right amount of support? These are important questions. I can't always discern what the problem is.
It's an absolute bummer when someone gets the word back that they must "Remain at Level". These results affect me deeply. But participation in this program involves shared responsibility between Teacher, Student, and Parent. I can't go to the Performance evaluation and play your technique exercises for you! The results students receive are almost always just, an unfiltered reflection on each student's work, preparation, and commitment.
The CM program can be weird and disorienting, but it's the best that I know to offer to my students. My hope is that every participating student can sense the value of their work and effort and be encouraged for the future. Music can be a joy for a lifetime; let's never lose sight of that.