Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Carnegie Hall and The Achievement Program (TAP)

I think every pianist dreams a little dream to play at Carnegie Hall. I know that I did. There is something about it, about the very sound of 'Carnegie Hall'. There is an old joke that asks how to get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. What "it" really stands for is probably different to each person. So many people have now performed there and do not go on to international fame, or have remained faceless in the sea of amazingly great pianists. Perhaps the grandeur of Carnegie is lost? NAH! Never! But we are in a different time and place than our pianist forefathers.

The Royal Conservatory (think Canada and England principally) already had in place a standard of assessment for musicians. They have now teamed together with Carnegie Hall to bring a national standard of measurement, as I understand it, to the United States. I am going to find out a LOT more information about it, and hope to share it with you over the next weeks and months. They have decided to call it TAP, The Achievement Program. Click on the New York Times article here if you want to read about the unveiling.

I have a LOT of questions before I read anything on their website or from the packet I received. Can students progress through levels at their pace? What areas does it cover? How strident are the exams? How would I implement it into the studio? Can we jump in in the middle? Where are the exams taken? What kind of volunteer work does it mean to me? What are the fees? Would it take the place of anything I'm using now or would it be an additional system to master and choose from? Would I get any willing studio families that might prefer a national exam to the Minnesota state exam? Are they comparable to Guild?

There is something compelling about a national standard to me. Wolf Piano currently uses the National Guild, which is malleable to each student. Teachers choose the elements of the exam that best showcase the students' attributes.

I have noticed that an intermediate student, or a level 5 student means nothing across the country, however. There is a part of me that would like to believe that a level 4 student knows x, y, and z. But it is rarely true. I know that there are gaps in some of my teaching for each student. Sometimes it is about the lack of time in a 30 minute lesson to get everything covered. Sometimes it is a matter of me; sometimes it is a matter of the student or the parent not wanting history, composer information, not too much theory, or technique. There is so much to bring to life about music!

What about the composition elements I teach and the other programs I already use? Would we do it all? What about the jazz and popular styles that many students learn here at my studio? Is it strictly "classical" (lower case "c")? Is this a good studio fit? Will it meet students where they are or try to bend them to the program?

I am a little reluctant to learn another new program. But I AM curious. Even my curiosity is curious. I am settled into a really good routine here. Why should I want to bother? Other progress programs are out there, tepidly. I already have favorite activities for each type of student. I am trying really hard to teach each student rather than use a standard method book or system for the whole studio. When I go to adjudicate at Guild, I notice some teachers that use the same pieces with every child. Suzuki teachers use the same pieces too. I just can't do that.

I have heard rumors that TAP may prepare students and earn college credit, similar to the AP (Advanced Placement) exams. Because it would be a national standard, it is a very interesting scenario when I, as a private teacher, could help contribute to a student's college admission in a tangible, real way!

A new program would change some of my teaching-it always does. It adds new deadlines, new mastery and new challenges for me AND the student. But would it change it for the better? I'm going to find out more.

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