A question that has been on my mind after my daughter started piano lessons is whether a piano exam is necessary. We have friends like us who are just casually having their kids take lessons, hoping they’ll learn a useful instrument, but my daughter also has classmates that take piano learning very seriously. These kids are are preparing for their piano exams and are practicing hard for them. It makes me wonder if we should be doing the same. I’ve been hesitant because 1) I don’t understand the benefit of testing, and 2) I heard it is not just one test, but a series of tests. This would be quite a commitment and I wonder if we should go down this path as a family.
I asked Natalia Huang from Natalia Huang Piano Studio my questions. I knew she would be the perfect person to consult with since she owns 4 piano studios spanning both coasts (New York, Connecticut, and California). Her students not only have unique piano performances, they also participate in winning piano competitions.
This is her response…
Natalia Huang’s Response
Throughout the years of my teaching career, I often have parents asking if a student should be taking piano exams. My answer is more often yes than no. The intentions behind why you wish for your child to take piano exams is also very important as well. You should consider for your child to take exams if you say yes to one or more of the reasons below:
- It is important that my child understands how to take constructive criticism;
- It seems my child is lacking motivation to play, and this will give him/her purpose;
- I don’t play piano myself, and it will be reassuring if my child is meeting benchmarks in piano playing;
- I am interested in building my child’s resume for college use later on;
- My child thrives in a test taking situation; and
- I wish for my child’s piano playing to be held at a higher standard.
It is important to note that it is ok if your child is not initially onboard. After all, the thought of taking a test can seem like additional work to a child. However, if you take a closer look at what the exam requires, you will see that the work required is likely what your child will achieve even without taking a test. Your role, as a parent, is to be supportive and to encourage the exam taking process so that it is a positive one. Without your support at home to make sure practicing is done, it is unlikely your child will attain the desired result.
Most piano exams will expect a student to prepare the following:
1) Three piano pieces 2) Different scales and techniques 3) Ear-training 4) Sight-reading.
It is reasonable for a student to prepare for the above requirements because these are all skills you will need to be a proficient musician. As your child goes up in the exam levels, the requirements will still be the same, just with increased difficulty.
At the end here, I think it is important to know if you are the right parent for piano exams. Compare piano exams to reading or math. Do you consider music education as an essential part to your child’s education? If you view piano playing simply as a hobby and not important whether your child will gain sufficient skills – don’t take the exam. However, if you believe your child needs to reach certain standards to play piano well, then your support will make the difference in your child’s exam success. It is important to note there is no right or wrong – just what works for your child!
Natalia’s response gave me a lot to think about. Piano started out as a hobby for my daughter, but now that she’s interested in advancing, I do want her to learn sufficient skills and meeting benchmarks in piano playing (to reach certain standards to play well) makes a lot of sense to me. At the same time, I’ll need to evaluate if as a parent I’m ready to provide the support that my child will need for the exam process and all the practices.
If you have more questions for Natalia, maybe about lessons, the types of testing or anything else, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org and also visit her studio info at www.nataliahuangstudio.com.
You can also check out her summer online camps: nataliahuangstudio.square.site. (Students will not need a piano for most camps!)
-By Joyce Lee and Natalia Huang
(Photos: Natalia Huang Studio)
Related Article: Bringing Music Into Your Childs Daily Life
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