Post-Examination musings

I had a terrible dream the other night that I got an 83% on my Conservatory Canada Level 7 Contemporary Idioms examination. Normally, I'd be happy with an 83, which is First Class Honors. However, having turned music into a profession, I was aiming for higher. I also wanted to beat my highest exam mark from my youth, an 88% on my Grade 8 RCM practical, which I got on my second attempt.

[Note to students: Get a good night's rest the night before an exam and don't spend it staying up all night to read a juicy novel or else you wind up botching your exam and need to re-take it.]

I digress. I was therefore delighted to log into ConCan's site and find that I scored 88.7% (on my one and only attempt). Now I'm itching to see my exam comments.

So, how was it, you ask?

What a surreal experience. It didn't feel like an examination at all. It was far more relaxed than my RCM examinations in my youth.I vacillated from feeling calm, almost lackadaisical to thinking, "Oh my God! This is my exam. For real. Eek." It felt more like a lesson with a very relaxed examiner. As for the improvising section, I was just jamming along with another teacher.

I felt pretty confident in my technical elements, although my hands weren't completely in sync on my first mode (B Aeolian). Growing up, this was one of my weakest areas so I was determined to show that I've matured.

The same goes for ear, rhythm, sight-reading and keyboard harmony. Gone are the days when I was a panicking mess over two lines of sight reading, stumbling and pausing all the way through. It's amazing what a difference a slow, steady tempo makes, as well as counting out loud!

The repertoire went generally well. A few tiny slips in Gershwin's I Got Rhythm and a few more oddities in Vince Guaraldi's What Child is This? Hey, I was just glad my tempo was there for both. Manteca went quite well as did Thriller Rag.

The examiner stumped me on one of the Viva Voce questions. I didn't research jazz waltz enough so I was winging it with my answer. When he asked about Dizzy Gillespie and Manteca. I said the first thing that popped into my head, "He had big cheeks...I heard him play a while back."

It didn't help that the room had many hard surfaces. I should have compensated more for it but the excitement of the moment kicked in. So, the examiner said I was a little percussive and not melodic enough. Too technical. I've never considered myself a technical player. I've been called "expressive" and "analytical" but never "technical". Until now.

I thought I had dynamics but if anything, I suspect he'll say I needed more contrast and shaping (it's something we always say to our students, why should this time be any different?).

I had a mini-lesson afterwards which was basically like a master class. This added to the "non-exam" feel of the experience.

I felt all right about the exam. I didn't feel terrible either. I simply felt that I could have done better. That is probably what fuelled my dream the other night.

One colleague asked whether I'll prepare for the Level 8 exam. I'd have to think about it. I'm too busy trying to incorporate all these new tricks I learned into my gig repertoire.

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