Royal Conservatory Of Music Pi Essay, Research Paper
Royal Conservatory of Music Piano Exams: A Fair Evaluation?
The 144-year-old (Royal, 63) Royal Conservatory of Music institution offers a
variety of musical programs, but for Paul Shaffer, bandleader on the David Letterman
show, the Royal Conservatory of Music meant mostly one thing- the exam (Goddard).
Many Royal Conservatory students across the country and I, being a former student,
share his sentiment. The exam dreaded and feared by all who play the Royal
Conservatory of Music piano books is one of the sole purposes for playing the piano. The
months spent training and practicing are all to get a good mark on the exam. By making
the exam room less uncomfortable and promoting a better evaluating system the Royal
Conservatory of Music piano examination could be improved.
The Royal Conservatory of Music piano examination demands students to know
every aspect of the piano: not just being able to play, but also to develop a good listening
ear (Jenkins). The test consists of a performance, a sight-reading exercise, an ear play
test, and theory for participants in Grade 5 (Royal Conservatory of Music grade) and
above (Royal, 10). The performance is composed of three pieces of music (for grades 1-
7) that the participant chooses from the specified Royal Conservatory of Music piano
book for his/her level (Royal, 8). The sight-reading test evaluates the knowledge of the
candidate to read, understand and comprehend notation. The ear test is a little bit more
difficult and stresses the importance of listening. During the ear test the examiner plays a
melody twice and the participant is required to clap, tap, sing, or hum the rhythm back to
the examiner (Royal, 13). The Royal Conservatory of Music piano exam is very
The Royal Conservatory of Music since being established in 1886(Royal, 63), has
been and still is at the heart of music education in Canada (N/A), as the chairman of
the board for the Royal Conservatory of music Bob Rae states. Paul Schaffer says that the
Royal Conservatory of Music enabled a kid like me (him) from a small town to get a
world-class musical education (Dolan). A third year English student at Saint Mary s,
Nadine Armstrong, says that she s never met anyone who s played the piano and hasn t
played the Conservatory books (Swick). Its many alumni support the Royal Conservatory
of Music s reputation. Among the numerous alumni are songwriter/arranger David
Foster, piano player Glenn Gould, and singers Amanda Marshall and Teresa Stratas
(Goddard). All support and advocate the school.
One aspect of the exam that affects all participants of the exam is the anxiety and
fear. I remember every last detail of my first piano exam, down to the blue and white
polka dot dress I was wearing. I was so nervous, and being an extremely shy 10 year-old
the hardest thing for me to do was leave my parents in the waiting room and walk into
that cold, unfriendly examination room by myself. The adjudicator did not go out of his
way to make me feel comfortable or even make an attempt to do so. I am not alone in my
experience: Paul Schaffer recollects with a chill in his voice that he walked into the
room and that the examiner was there (Goddard). The chill in his voice is probably due
to his recollection of the fear he felt when walking in and remembering the unfriendly
and cold environment. If only we were allowed to bring in a parent, but the Royal
Conservatory of Music rules do not allow page-turners or other assistants in the
examination room (Royal, 9). It would be extremely calming for a participant in the
exam to bring in a parent or their teacher into the examination room for support. The one
person that the student is allowed to bring into the examination room should not be
allowed to speak or help the student in any way. I know that if my dad had been able to
come in with me to the exam I would have been a lot more calm and relaxed, just
knowing that he was there.
One of the most discussed queries of the exam is the inconsistency of evaluating.
The mark a student receives for the exam is based on the examiner’s professional and
objective assessment of both strengths and weaknesses (Jenkins). This way of evaluation
based on examiner s judgment can be unfair. If every examiner has a different system of
evaluating then doing well on the piano exam could depend more on whom a participant
gets as an examiner than how well they play. To ensure that this is not the case the
Council of Examiners (Royal), is in place in the College of Examiners (Royal).
Specializing in a variety of instruments and vocal the College of Examiners is a body of
more than 300 professional teachers and performers. Examiners have completed up to
three years of initial training and participate in ongoing professional development
sessions. (Royal) The Council of Examiners is a sixteen-member board continually
reviews members of the college to ensure consistency (Royal). Despite all this it must be
taken to account that an examiner travels across the country and evaluates numerous
participants a day. That can also affect his/her judgment when evaluating for a long time.
Peter Goddard, a writer for the Toronto Star, tells about his father who was a
Conservatory examiner who, for five weeks a year traveled west by train to test up to 20
kids a day (Goddard). It was probably more than 25 years ago that Peter Goddard s
father was a Conservatory examiner. Today, the examiners sent up here to the west from
Toronto must see a much larger number than 20 participants a day. To ensure that all
exams are marked fairly, there should be a panel of examiners. The panel would consist
of three examiners. The three adjudicators should vary in age and gender to ease the
participants that they are getting a fair mark. Also, if the examiners vary in gender and
age they may all have different evaluating systems and this would help even the marks
out from one extreme to another. The three would each individually mark the candidates
performance and then later discuss their differences in marking. This would assure that
the participant would get a just mark based on skill, rather than the examiner they were
Almost every pianist in the country, who is serious about his or her music, has
taken a Royal Conservatory of Music piano examination. They all have felt the pressure
and stress caused by the exam. It is difficult for a pianist to play his or her best when
feeling anxious and uncomfortable. In order to ensure that participants in the exam play
to the best of his or her ability they should be allowed to bring one person (preferably a
parent or guardian, not a teacher) in the examination room to help them feel more
relaxed. The Royal Conservatory of Music is a cherished institution in Canada. It is truly
national and it sets the grades (Goddard) for music nationally. That is exactly why the
evaluation process needs to be more consistent and fair. By having three examiners
evaluate the pianist it will produce an even mark that has been agreed upon by three
evaluators. These two changes to the Royal Conservatory of Music piano examination
will make it a more comfortable and fair exam.
Works Cited List
Dolan, Dierdre. Correspondance course to stardom: A North Bay education was all Paul Schaffer needed. National Post. 26 April 2000: B5. Canadian MAS FullTEXT Elite. EBSCOHost. Capilano Coll. Lib., North Vancouver. 22 Nov. 2000. Keywords: Royal Conservatory
Goddard, Peter. The sound of music: The hallways of the Royal Conservatory of Music have been alive with students for 114 years, and this weekend, alumni are celebrating that history. Toronto Star. 6 May 2000: Entertainment section. Canadian NewsDisk. Capilano Coll. Lib., North Vancouver. 22 Nov. 2000. Keyword: Royal Conservatory of Music and Piano.
Hunt, Brian. A pitch for the future. Toronto Star. 6 May 2000. Canadian NewsDisk. Capilano Coll. Lib., North Vancouver. 22 Nov. 2000. Keyword: Royal Conservatory of Music and Piano.
Jenkins, Christine. Home page. Eruoil. 23 Nov. 2000. Keyword: Royal Conservatory.
N/A (Author Unavailable or not named). Bob Rae named to arts posting. Canadian Press. 30 Nov. 1999. Canadian MAS FullTEXT Elite. EBSCOHost. Capilano Coll. Lib., North Vancouver. 22 Nov. 2000. Keywords: Royal Conservatory
Royal Conservatory of Music. Piano Syllabus. N.P. : Frederick Harris Music, 1994.
Royal Conservatory of Music. RCM Examinations. Oorlan, Karigan& Associates. 25 November 2000 http://www.rcmexaminations.org
Swick, David. Royal Conservatory brings music to the nation: More to RCM than Toronto school — it teaches, tests and sometimes saves a student. The Halifax Daily News. 27 July 1995: 2. Canadian NewsDisk. Capilano Coll. Lib., North Vancouver. 22 Nov. 2000. Keyword: Royal Conservatory of Music and Piano.