Our examiner interview series continues with Peter Crompton, who gives some top tips for taking a music exam and explains why Trinity’s ethos suits him best.
What’s your musical background?
In my early years, I was influenced by my father who sang tenor and enjoyed opera, and also played brass, and my mother who played the piano. Subsequently, I spent most of my free time from school practising the piano and the trumpet. Later, I obtained a BA (hons) degree in Music, a postgraduate certificate in Secondary Music Education, and a postgraduate diploma in Orchestral Performance. I worked as a freelance musician in London for 10 years, an instrumental teacher for nine years, then a class teacher of music for 10 years. I’ve always conducted orchestras and wind bands during these times, and continue to do so, along with adjudicating at music festivals and examining for Trinity. I also work on the syllabus development team.
What made you want to get into examining?
I thought that having a rounded musical background in music playing, teaching, and conducting would make me a good candidate for it. I had just been doing some A level recital and composition examining for a British exam board, and found it to be rewarding work. I thought the Trinity syllabus and ethos suited me the best.
What do you particularly like about the Trinity syllabus?
I especially like the fact that the syllabus helps to develop the candidate in tone quality, technical facility and musical style and communication – with individually tailored musical examples, produced by specialist experts. The pieces are also fun and interesting to listen to.
What do you feel are the benefits of taking a music exam?
It focuses the mind, bringing a more consistent and systematic approach to practising. It generates a desire to do well and improve. And it allows for expert opinion on the standard of your playing, with international standards of achievement.
What do you most enjoy about being an examiner?
I enjoy most aspects of examining, and I would like to say truly that the thing that lights up my day most is someone playing well and being engaged with the music during the exam.
What’s been your most memorable moment as an examiner?
Visiting many different places whilst examining, meeting different people on the way, and being made to feel welcome and being looked after. I’ve had plenty of special trips abroad which I will always remember: various destinations in India, Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe.
What’s your top tip for preparing for an exam?
Make sure you can play steadily and fluently through your pieces and scales. Any difficult corners should be practised over and over till your thought processes are clear. Teach your brain the right way, every time.
What’s your top tip for the supporting tests part of the exam?
Learn about the ‘Musical Knowledge’ aspect of a piece right from the start. Understanding about keys, time signatures, finding scale or arpeggio shapes, or certain intervals, etc. All this helps you to learn the music faster and you will understand it better.
What’s your top tip for dealing with nerves?
Be really prepared for all aspects of the exam, then you will be confident. The odd wrong note doesn’t matter!