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Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor

I was delighted to read your article regarding music examinations in the October issue (No 24) of "Rhythms."

I am always concerned about the perception of some teachers and students that passing the exam is forever the driving force, the principal goal. How right you are to say that the leaping from grade to grade we so often see, leaves a huge gap in students' knowledge about the subject "Music." It is as true in the UK as you seem to imply it seems to be in Malaysia. On an examining tour there recently I certainly saw no reason for hope to the contrary.

My feeling has always been that music examinations should be a "snapshot" or sample of progress that is part of the on-going learning process, and never the consummate focus of its efforts.

As a music student I spent endless hours preparing for the challenges of practical examinations, and on leaving college realised that I actually knew very little about music! Indeed it was as a young teacher in school where I learned the symphonic repertoire, albeit at the behest of the school examination board's insatiable desire to change the set works on an annual basis.

It was then that I came to understand how important it is to know ABOUT music as well as to play it yourself. I can't count the number of student essays written about composers that exude from every sentence the fact that the writer has never actually HEARD the music upon which sometimes quite erudite analyses are submitted. Without this dimension, what is the point of the subject? Music is a living art and can't just be restricted to the few pieces learned by a student to play on their own instrument. If this is the only music known then the mind is closed to about 95% of the real riches of the art, irrespective of what instrument is played.

Please let us all continue to promote this concept.

Keith Beniston
Chief Examiner in Music, London College of Music and Media
17 October 1999

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Many of us, teachers are doing our best: engrossed in teaching students to read notes and play the piano tutor and examination books in the weekly lesson schedule. If we follow the traditional teaching/learning lesson, we are left with little or no time to develop our students’ MUSICIANSHIP further. There is more than playing piano tutor series and examination syllabus. Let us be that ‘special’ teacher to share more, teach more.

Music is connected in all elements. We cannot isolate a piece to teach without involving any aural awareness, and neither can we teach theory without ‘hearing’ the theory, (e.g. we have to hear the pitch of a sharpened note when we teach the accidental - sharp ‘#’). This cohesive organisation of thoughts and actions will make your lessons invaluable and interesting to your students. With it intertwined together, the lessons becomes ‘alive’ and musically enriching. — The ART of Teaching by Alice Chua

The ART of Teaching (AoT) is written specially for teachers who are teaching beginners. It is written in simple instruction and AoT is very much suited to be used alongside all piano tutor books and graded syllabus as teaching music elements are applicable to all piano tutor books — pieces, scales, sight-reading, aural training, theory, composition, improvisation and technique building. Let’s move on together for a more ‘musical’ music education for the new generation. They deserve a better music education than ours!