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.