Friday, June 24, 2011

Andre conquers Grade 5 theory

In March this year, Andre sat for his ABRSM Grade 5 theory exam. For most kids, this probably would just be a routine exercise but for Andre, it was a major milestone. Actually, milestone is a nice word, the more accurate word would be "hurdle".

The month leading up to the exam was seriously stressful. As the exam grew nearer, I became increasingly aware of how unprepared he was. Realising that there was no way he could memorise all the required French and German terms, I told him he just needed to remember some of the basic Italian terms (see my post on Andre's grade 2 theory exam). But when a week before the exam, he told me he thought "p" meant slow, I knew we were in deep trouble. (For those who don't know music, "p" means soft, it's the most basic musical expression there is.)

Andre's not dumb but I think Uncle Peter and I misjudged his readiness for the exam. It became even more nerve-wrecking when I found out later that the passing mark was not 50/100 but 66/100. "Please, please, just pass this exam and we don't ever have to do this again!!" I begged.

He drove the usually placid Uncle Peter damn near to heart failure. He told me during lessons, Uncle Peter would actually smack his forehead and mutter, "tian ah".

For the life of me, I couldn't remember why I'd let Uncle Peter sign him up for the exam (you know these things, they always seem like a good idea at the time!) The exam also coincided with the week of CA1, adding an additional level of stress. In desperation, I let him ponteng school on the Friday after the CA1 to study for his theory exam on Saturday morning.

That day, when Uncle Peter came for a much needed last minute extra lesson, he discovered that Andre suddenly decided there was a black key between E and F. "How can you not know what the keyboard looks like?" he asked in despair. It's an impossible question to answer. Sometimes, I think Andre lives in his own little planet.

It all came down to exam techniques, I'm sorry to say. We did the Singaporean thing. For composition where he had to compose a tune for a series of words, Uncle Peter basically taught him to write a C major scale up and down. Not the most interesting of tunes but you can't say it's wrong.

BUT... this story has a happy ending because Andre passed!! He scored 68/100, passing by 2 marks. I'm pretty sure it was the prayers that did it. Or maybe my sheer will power propelled him over the line.

It's a miracle. I need to frame this up because it probably aged both Uncle Peter and me by several years. The good news is, Andre never has to take another theory exam. Ever.


Karmeleon said...

LOL - and my 12yo did his Grade 3 in March. Quite nervewrecking too. Especially since he plays a Chinese Instrument. Terms made no sense to him. Certainly he doesn't know the piano keyboard. We just thought it best for him to have this very basic Grade 3 to put him on the road to reading 5-line scores.

Ah, but for your Andre...who knows? Maybe he might be so interested in music later on in his teenage years that he'd want to continue? ;D My elder boy did his grade 5 around same time as yours - he doesn't play the piano either, so if you talk about keyboard, certainly he won't remember that. haha. But he asked to continue, so now he's working on syllabus from grade 6-8 so that he'll do Grade 8 theory eventually. Not sure how long he'd take to work on it!hahaha!!!

monlim said...

Karmeleon: I'm resigned to the fact that music will never be Andre's no.1 love (and the theory exam certainly didn't help in this area!) His heart is with sports. As long as he knows some music to provide that little bit of culture and an outlet for relaxation, I think that's all I can ask for.

Karmeleon said...

Then the grade 5 theory is for ... for him to take grade 8 practical? hehe.

monlim said...

Karmeleon: That's the thing, Uncle Peter wanted him to take a theory exam cos the last one he took was grade 2. But for now, it seems unlikely that Andre will be moving towards grade 8 practical, which means... I've no idea why he took grade 5 theory! Ah well.

Karmeleon said...


Anonymous said...

Grade 5 theory is quite difficult, especially at Andre's age. Well done to Andre and Mommy!


Just a regular mom. said...

Could the Uncle Peter be Peter Tang? My kids' piano teacher is Peter Tang. Was just wondering if it could be the same teacher. :)

monlim said...

CY: Thanks!

Alice: Yes, it's Peter Tang :) I wrote about him in previous posts, one of them is this:

Jo said...

Hi Mon

I have one daughters, one still struggling with Grade 1 theory at Pri 2, another Grade 3. I don't recall theory being that hard during my time ( I completed Grade 5). They were suppposed to take their exam in March but I postponed it as they were not at all ready :P

Anyway, at Grade 3 I am struggling to help my elder daughter - even furnished her some wrong answers ! I decided to use that "Blue" guide book for Theory (Grade 1 to 5) by a malaysian author ( Loh something) - my hubby calls it the "idiots" guide. The British guides are too hard and their explanations not suitable for kids.

Still plodding along - hopefully they can take the exams end October.

monlim said...

Jo: It's true, the theory exams are much tougher these days. Maybe ABRSM cottoned on to all the SG kids scoring 100?? For Andre's exam, they tested 2 obscure French terms. Luckily he didn't waste time studying them! We use the small red book published by ABRSM but you're right, their explanations are not kid-friendly.

Good luck to your kids! You're such a great mum to help them.

Anonymous said...

Congrats to Andre!

Mon, dun play play hor, for what you know, it might just be Andre's plan to pass by just 2 marks. *snicker*


monlim said...

Chris: He would have to be a genius to engineer that :P

Anonymous said...

Congratulations to Andre!!


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