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CM Theory Test Correcting @ Chabot College

This is an all-day endeavor. And I do get tired. And I am usually the only male in the room. If you answered these clues Jeopardy-style with, "What is Jesse correcting Certificate of Merit theory tests at Chabot College", then you are a perceptive soul.
The Music Teachers Association of CA (MTAC) requires all of its active members to work a minimum of one full day each year to help run the Certificate of Merit program. The jobs range widely from studio host to theory room monitor to registration desk, and sundry others. This year is my 3rd year as an active MTAC member. My first year I helped run the registration desk. Both this year and last I worked among the theory test correcting ranks.
The theory test correcting room is set up with a row of long tables. Teachers sit on each side of these tables all day long, rubbing elbows. Here's what we do: we have red pencils. We hold the red pencils in our hands. We mark answers if they are wrong. Fatigue sets in after a couple hours and you start to question your lot in life. One's visage assumes a pallor and you are only shaken out of a trance when your neighbor asks you, "Does this look like a flat or natural?".
Students - and their strange pencil scrawls - haunt your thoughts. I tend to err on the side of leniency; other teachers are more draconian. I was able to learn my students' theory test scores today. One student was marked wrong for his definition of the musical term sforzando. In his definition he wrote: "A strong, loud accent". The teacher correcting his test savagely marked his answer wrong, insisting upon the inclusion of the word "sudden" in his answer. As in, "A sudden, strong accent". I couldn't believe it when I saw this - I was aghast. Draconian! I assure you that I will be restoring this point to the student's tally. He clearly demonstrated knowledge of the term.
I must have corrected 50 theory tests today. It's strange to devote so much time to something that may be inconsequential. I know plenty of amazing musicians who are rubbish at music theory. But I also know plenty of people who dominate music theory yet can hardly play a lick. My perspective is skewed. I see from the inside out.
I always stand out at these gatherings. As one teacher said when introducing herself to me, "I should know you already - we only have about two and a half men in our branch!"
One more humorous aside. Pat, the teacher in charge of the theory correcting room, insisted that one of her students was the spitting image of me. I chuckled and thought little of it. No more than 20 minutes later she pulled me out into the hallway to meet the young sprout. As he and I exchanged a handshake she said to him, "I want you to see what you'll look like when you are an adult!" She wasn't far off in seeing the likeness, but he'll need to grow at least a foot and a half before we're truly on a level plane.


  1. Bless this note from 2010.
    "I" have been playing the piano since 1964. I first played at the 10:30 Mass in 1968. (The 10:30 Mass was the Big One.) I've played the piano on three continents. But Sister Noreen never taught more than rudimentary theory. I can play all of the music, but I can't name the constructions hardly at all.
    My 12-year-old daughter is taking the tests again this spring. I came here hoping to find the answers to old tests; I want to help her but she is way way ahead of me in theory, and I have to "learn" the stuff before I can check her work.
    Though for the life of me I canna understand why we canna find the answers to old tests, which we take for practice, I was happy to read this note. She learns piano for far more than learning piano. She learns theory for far more than learning theory. I admire the work your team does.
    Thank you.


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