45. Sit my DipABRSM

I have taught the flute on and off since I was 16, and since settling back in Cardiff with my family I have had a busy and regular private practice of flute pupils. I have prepared pupils for exams from the Prep Test for (absolute beginners) to Grade 8 and helped my pupils to gain results often in excess of their expectations. I know my pupils enjoy learning with me and I know that I provide a quality service. Yet in all these years, something has been missing… and for me, that something is a bunch of letters after my name (to come after the already impressive M.A.(Oxon)!!) that certify my teaching skills. And so, to my list of 50 challenges, I added the challenge of sitting for my Diploma in Instrumental / Vocal Teaching from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (DipABRSM).

Back in September, I was slogging away at the Written Submission – an extended essay of some 1800 words on one from a list of given topics. I chose to discuss my choice of teaching material to use with a young beginner. I enlisted the help of David Barton as a mentor to ensure that I was on the right lines with what I was writing, and having bound triplicate copies with appendices and posted them to the board, I could start to prepare for December’s practical examination.

And that was today. I was required to present three pieces from the current Grade 6 syllabus and to use them to demonstrate my teaching methods and approach. I was also ‘subjected’ to a 40 minute Viva Voce examination in which I was questioned on my approaches to teaching, my understanding of technique, my professional standards and the repertoire I would choose to teach. And I had to perform an extended piece of sight-reading (a ‘quick study’) after 5 minutes preparation.

I have to say, it was a horrific experience. I don’t know what it is about music exams (see previous post on my Grade 7 exam…), but there seems to be something fundamentally lacking in examiners’ empathy with candidates. Somewhere along the line, there seems to be a failure to grasp that it is surely better to seek to get the best out of the candidate, rather than to subject them to an exam ‘ordeal’ in which they are constantly on the back foot. I get that ABRSM don’t want to put their name to shoddy teaching, and therefore if you’re a shoddy teacher then you should surely not be awarded the diploma. But I’m not one of those, and I’d have liked to have felt that the examiners started from the position of accepting me as not only a ‘candidate’ but as a professional too. As it was, I felt that my attendance at this exam was something of an inconvenience for the examiner, who clearly had some more pressing engagement than assessing my worth as a flute teacher… I think if he had checked his watch or cut my responses short one more time in that hour, I might not have been able to stop myself from passing comment!!

And so, I have indeed ‘sat’ my DipABRSM, as stated on my list of 50 challenges. As to whether I will pass… only time will tell, and on the basis of today’s experience I couldn’t give any indication of whether I think I will or won’t! Results aren’t due until early February, at which point I will update this post.

It’s a shame this challenge hasn’t proven to be a more positive experience, but then I guess that’s what being brave is all about…

[45 down, 5 to go… roll on no.46]

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