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New 2017-2020 Flute syllabus

My name is Clara and I trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in Orchestral Flute. From the moment I began playing it was the voice of the flute, combined with my own individual voice, that felt important.

When I was asked to work on the Trinity College London 2017-2020 Flute syllabus I was especially excited to hear that Trinity was planning new graded flute books and introducing an Initial exam for flute.

In making suggestions I looked forward to having a chance to help design books and an overall list of pieces that give flute players of all ages an opportunity to choose the music to play in their exam which suits them and their own musical voice.

So, having revisited the list as it was in the 2015-2016 syllabus, how were the pieces chosen that would be new to the 2017-2020 syllabus?

One of my jobs was to choose the music. I visited specialist music shops, played through boxes of music sent to Trinity by publishers, looked through and played the music held in the Trinity library, and revisited my own library of music – a collection I have been building up since I first began playing the flute. I consulted lists of suggestions provided in surveys completed by teachers from around the world who are preparing their students for Trinity exams, explored repertoire suggested in specialist publications, bounced ideas off colleagues and talked to flute playing friends.

Whenever I have an opportunity to ask a flute player, of any standard, what music lights them up when they play it, I ask them!

Obviously, choosing music that suits the grade is vitally important, and so it is here that discussion with colleagues at Trinity is crucial. The work done on the syllabus is work done in company and discussion with other specialist musicians, so that an overall balance and rigour is achieved.

When I first saw the copies of the new grade books I felt proud that the books contain such a variety of new and innovative material, from Initial through to Grade 8, as well as providing the opportunity to explore the more traditional flute repertoire at every grade.

A programme can be chosen for each grade which reflects the strengths and enthusiasm of the player, while providing a balanced and varied programme for the exam. This was a personal priority for me.

We felt that in the development of the new syllabus there should be favourite pieces retained, as well as bringing in many new pieces from up and coming composers, arrangements of well-known pieces and standard flute repertoire that hadn’t been on the previous list.

What I like the most about the 2017-2020 syllabus, and look forward to sharing with my own pupils, is the wonderful variety of music to play. Music that may spark an enthusiasm or desire to explore further. Threads that can be picked up in one grade and carried through to the next. For example, if a candidate enjoys Piazzolla’s ‘Tango Final’, in the Grade 4 book, more pieces by Piazzolla can be found in each grade through to Grade 8. Arrangements from Bernstein’s ‘West Side Story’ are available in a number of grades, starting at Grade 3.

There are also many opportunities to tell musical stories. ‘The Bluebell Line’ at Initial is a lovely little piece with interaction between the flute and piano accompaniment. There is space for plenty of imagination in ‘Spooked’ (Grade 1) and ‘The Dance of the Snow Queen’ (Grade 2).

Some of the standard repertoire that can be visited includes Prokofiev’s ‘Sonata No.2’ (3rd Movement – Grade 8), Gaubert’s ‘Madrigal’ (Grade 6), Roussel’s ‘Joueurs de flûte  – Krishna and Mr. de la Péjaudie’ (Grade 7), and Mozart’s ‘Adagio from Flute Quartet in D’ (Grade 5).

There is Traditional music, for example, ‘When the Boat Comes in’ (Grade 2) and ‘Lovely Maiden’ (Grade 3). Works for solo flute include Honegger’s ‘Danse de la chèvre’ (Grade 8) and Telemann’s ‘Fantasias’ (for solo flute at Grade 6, 7 and 8). There are also examples of popular music such as Jagger/Richards ‘Paint it Black’ (Grade 2).

I have so many favourite pieces in this new syllabus that I could spend a long time just listing them, but I hope that this highlights just some of the pieces and ways the syllabus can be explored.

Flute players can still show their enthusiasm for the Piccolo and Alto Flute by choosing to play one piece from the list in the syllabus at Grades 6-8. These lists have also been revisited and refreshed.

The Technical Work for Flute was refreshed in the previous syllabus and remains in the 2017-2020 syllabus. There was development of the Scales & Arpeggios lists, new alternative exercises composed specifically for Grades 1-5, and the Orchestral Extract lists revisited and revised.

I hope that as well as providing access to the flute exam the syllabus as a whole inspires and supports flute players from around the globe in their journey as musicians. Playing the flute is one of my passions and it was this that I wished to share in my input to the 2017-2020 Flute Syllabus.

Blog post written by Clara Charlesworth, Trinity examiner and flute syllabus consultant

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