Last year when I took up classical guitar lessons I did not even think that I will sit for a grading examination. I took the lesson just to kill the waiting time while my son finishes his piano class.
You must take the exam, my guitar instructor told me.
Sorry. I think I am too old for all this. Exam makes me nervous, I told him.
Well for the experience you should. I think you meet the criteria, he added.
I was flattered but I think he was just pulling my legs.
No lah. I am just here to kill my time. I do not think taking exam is necessary, that was my answer.
Why not. At least you will know where you stand, my instructor tried to convince me.
Look. The kids must have something to achieve taking the exam. I am not going to take my grades anywhere. I sent my son to learn music because I know he has the passion. Besides, I am giving him more choices to choose from when he finishes his education, my lengthy explanation to him.
Ok. It is your choice, we ended the discussion.
The following week my instructor gave me a form and asked me to sign.
What is this? I asked him.
I have registered you to sit for the exam, he smiled.
Don’t worry. Just sign this, he said passing a pen and the form to me.
You have three months to prepare. Your recital is 3 classical pieces, scale works, aural and site reading, he gave me his instruction.
I took up the challenge half heartedly but with a renewed zeal.
Ok. I will do it just this time. For you, I told him.
No. For you, my instructor proposed.
3 months later. My grading exam.
I was very nervous. I am the first to start. I am the oldest candidate. With me were kids from 12 years old to 16.
Ah. They are taking the lower grades exam, I tried to console myself.
I was called into the examination room.
Suddenly I felt numb in my fingers. I am freezing in hell, I thought.
The examiner, a Briton from Trinity Guildhall London was surprised when he saw me. I was told that he is very strict in his evaluation. Wooooo…..come onnnnn…
You are very brave, he told me.
I am very nervous, I told him.
Take it easy, it will be over in a while, he said.
Right! I will be dead by then. Perhaps I will just freeze; I said it inside my heart.
Are you ready? He asked.
No! I just want to go home. Just the answer I wanted to tell him but…hei I am not a coward..I am already at the battle front…lets battle!, I said to myself.
So…I nodded to him gesturing that I am ready to rockkkkkkkkkk!!!!!! Mwa hua hua hua…
Didn’t I told you not to go thru all this! The little devil inside me muses.
Beat it! I shove away the demon within.
The next second.
Please play Tango esta Noche.
Damage done; I thought. The first bullet has been fired.
I recited the piece with style and agility. Missed a few note. But I belted a tango piece and I brought the tango sense throughout.
I started to perspire in the freezing room.
I am still very nervous. But no way am I going to back out. I must move on.
The second piece I want you to play is La Noche by Jaime M. Zenamon (1953), style lento y calmo…I was instructed.
I thought my heartbeat has stopped. Damn! It actually beats faster! I am going to die.
But I recited La Noche calmly. Bravo! I thought.
The last piece I want you to play is Etude Op. 60 No. 3 by Matteo Carcassi (1792-1853).
I thought I am going to be ok with this because this one is the easiest of all.
I could not move my fingers. My fingering is dead! More cold sweat oozes down my forehead. Mr. Drummond as I know his name was looking at me; smiling.
Ah. I finally finished the piece with remorseful look as I thought I was dragging myself.
That was good, he commented.
Good? I thought that was my worst as I have recited the piece better during a trial recital in front of some audience.
Thank you, that is all I said to shorten the conversation and to finish off the exam as quickly as possible.
Next is scale works.
Major scales of Bb and F (two octaves)
Pentatonic major scale on C (two octaves)
Arpeggio of Bb major (two octaves)
Dominant 7th arpeggio in the key of Eb, starting on Bb (two octaves)
Major scale of Bb in thirds (one octave)
Full Barre sequence
Damn. That guy who administered the grading exam outside the hall told me to write the scales that I could play very well on the form. Not even one was asked. I was played out! Luckily I knew the scales above. Damn!
Then I was asked to do a sight reading. He gave me a 16 bars piece and gave me 30 seconds to read and then played. This one is hell. I can read the notes but could not sync it with my fingers as fast as I wanted to. This was the longest period of my life I thought.
Eventually; the aural test.
I will play a piece twice and you will have to tell me;
The time signature
Whether the piece was played in major or minor
If the key changed as the piece progressed
After further playing of the closing section of the piece, state the cadence
Next, I will play two notes; name the interval.
I have to sing Do re Mi like an idiot and name the interval of the notes played…fuh…
Next, the articulation and dynamics. Describe how the music is being played.
Finally, I will play a piece as printed three times. Once as printed, and then version with two changes to the top melody line, one to the rhythm and one to the pitch. Identify where the changes are.
Boy! I wish I was younger and would go thru the phases of learning music. I was asked to sit for the Grade 5 exam and I thought it is quite an experience. I have to quickly browse thru the syllabus from the lower grades myself to make sure I understand the basic theory, the beats, sharps, flats yada yada yada..
There is a lot in music. I must salute musicians who learn music. It is so much difficult than additional maths, chemistry or physics. No wonder musicians like Bach, Carcassi, Fernando Sor, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Chopin just to name a few are musical genius.
I do not think I can emulate any of them. But I have this esteem to at least be able to play their compositions according to the standards I have attained.
Yes! I have gone thru the unimaginable. I am proud of myself. At least my children know that we could even overcome the impossible if we push ourselves to the limit when we have to face one.