For generations, music students have been getting gold stars, certificates, and other pats on the back from their teachers. But a budding musician with high marks in one state is not necessarily on the same level, judged by the same criteria, as a budding musician in another.
Now, such positive reinforcement soon might carry a lot more weight nationwide: Launched by Carnegie Hall in New York and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, the Achievement Program seeks to establish the first national standard in the United States for measuring musical aptitude in students of all ages.
At about 90 assessment centers across the country, adjudicators, who themselves have undergone a training process for the task, have been busy evaluating students this month during the first assessment sessions of the Achievement Program.
In Maryland, tests can be taken in Germantown and at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, where nine piano students recently were assessed. Students of other instruments, along with singers, are expected to participate when the next assessments are held in the spring.
“When someone says, ‘I’ve been playing piano for 10 years,’ that could be a good thing or an uh-oh thing,” said Jennifer Snow, the Achievement Program’s chief academic officer. “With the assessments, the student can find out where he or she stands. It’s a way of being connected to music students across the country.”
That sense of connection is something British-born Clive Gillinson, executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, learned early.
“I come from a country that has national standards, which are valuable not only in terms of motivation, but setting the bar for future projects,” Gillinson said. “When you passed a certain-level exam, people everywhere knew what that meant.”
That’s the aim of the Achievement Program, which provides a detailed and extensive curriculum for graduated levels of study, from “Preparatory A” to “Grade 10.” For each level, repertoire lists are provided, along with exercises in ear training, sight reading, harmony, and more.