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Talk Trinity: The values behind our new Piano syllabus

Peter Wild, lead senior examiner for Trinity College London, explains the values that underpin some of the choices for the new Trinity piano syllabus ahead of the first exams in January 2018.

How is Trinity repertoire chosen?

Trinity_Day_Two25888‘At Trinity we provide assessment rather than a curriculum. Our pieces are selected for teachers to make choices with, and for their students, in line with the depth and breadth of musical learning they deliver, their own musical experience and knowledge, and their personal values as musicians and educators.

‘The new syllabus covers a vast array of musical styles. Rather than narrow choice by genre we leave the choices to teachers and pupils so they can personalise the experience to make it relevant and engaging for them. We chose music that learners enjoy playing and can play with confidence so that a music exam becomes a fulfilling experience and embeds a love of performing beyond the exam room.

‘In addition, we select pieces that are both as accessible as possible, as well as non age-specific as we would like to enable learners to embark on their musical journey at any time in their lives.

‘We are not afraid to choose from the widest range of recognised repertoire, as well as opening up new music to teachers and to learners. We rely on teachers bringing in other pieces that supplement and reinforce key learning using their expertise and knowledge’.

How we assess

‘Understanding how the performances are assessed helps clarify how pieces are chosen. In our assessments we look to see whether the performer has really understood the essence of the pieces, has engaged with them on a musical level and is able to communicate the ‘message’ of the music. We mark musically, our assessments aren’t about battling technique per se, rather technique supports the requirements of the music.

‘In the new piano repertoire we have ensured that there are opportunities to showcase a range of styles and whether the candidate has the necessary technical control to fulfil the musical demands and to communicate convincingly.

‘Our criteria fall into 3 strands:

Cover thumbnail - high resFluency and Accuracy: with fluency coming first. A valid performance can include a few note slips which may not affect the musical quality of the performance.

Technical Facility: Finger/tone control, balance and articulation are all important here. Sensitive use of the pedal also becomes an important part of technique as the examination levels progress.

Communication and Interpretation: Central to this strand is whether the style and message behind the music been understood and communicated in the performance’.

Technical Work (Scales and Technical Exercises)

‘Technical exercises are embedded through all nine levels and are designed to develop musicality and to encourage engaged listening, essentially allowing the candidates to demonstrate being ‘in touch’ with the sound which is being produced.

‘Our approach to scales is to focus on enabling learners to progress to playing with both hands more quickly as there are fewer patterns to learn. Dynamics are varied from Grade 3 and articulation varied from Grade 4 -– once more applying a further ‘musical’ level to the performance of scales and arpeggios. We encourage teachers to include a wider variety of scales in their teaching, the syllabus doesn’t have to control what is taught.

‘The technical exercises are specially composed and come with descriptive titles which are included to open up the performer’s imagination and to help them to think of the exercises as short musical statements, each with an underlying technical purpose, rather than just a technical ‘hurdle’ which has to be surmounted.

‘The technical exercises are related to technical demands within the repertoire at each level and test technique through musical outcomes: tone control, co-ordination and finger/wrist strength and flexibility.

‘These studies aim to embed transferrable skills which are nurtured in a musical way and teachers are encouraged to teach around the syllabus to support this’.

Peter Wild 2Peter Wild led the panel of experts that contributed to Trinity’s new Piano 2018-2020 syllabus, and is also Trinity’s lead senior examiner, having spent 14 years examining for us. Peter studied at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester and subsequently at the Royal Academy of Music, London. Much of his time is spent in the field of education — he is in demand as a teacher and consultant in piano pedagogy — and he collaborates with other musicians in chamber music performances and as an accompanist.

Download a free Piano 2018-2020 pieces and exercises sample booklet

Find out more about the new Piano 2018-2020 syllabus at: www.trinitycollege.com/piano

Access a range of teaching support materials, including advice and content on pieces, performance and technique; supporting tests; and technical work at: www.trinitycollege.com/piano-support

Talk Trinity is a new series exploring the wider thinking, and values that underpin everything we do. We want to hear what you have to say so please use the comments box below to join the conversation.

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