The day of your first graded music exam is finally here so what should you expect to happen on this important day. The day wants to be practise free; last minute, frantic practise is not going to change the outcome of weeks of good, focused practise, try to relax and take some deep breaths. Do not think of the exam as a test, but as a chance to perform the wonderful music you have been preparing to a person eager to listen.
Before arriving at the exam make sure that the music is ready and that your instrument-- unless you are a pianist--is organized; making sure that your reed is ok to use, the bow for your cello is at the right tension or that your spit valve is clear in your trumpet. Once you have arrived at the exam venue take a few moments to sit quietly and calmly, you may have rushed through traffic or got let out of school late so it is important that you take some time to re-gather your focus.
I would always recommend that you take advantage of the chance to warm-up before the exam, playing through scales to loosen your fingers, playing the start and end of each of your pieces and checking any tempo’s with an accompanist before you walk into your exam will help settle any last minute butterfly feelings. If you play a wind instrument, it may be cold, which affects the tuning and overall sound with the piano, so it is best to blow air through the instrument to warm it up.
As you enter the exam room, greet the examiner with a smile as this will help you to relax and feel positive. Don’t feel rushed to start the exam, if the music stand needs adjusting, adjust it, if the piano stool is not the right height, make it so or if there is a need for a chair if you play the cello or bassoon then ask; you need to feel as comfortable as possible before the exam starts. If you are a wind or string player don’t forget to tune and take time to make sure that you are happy with your sound, ask your accompanist if you’re not sure, they can help you.
Once the exam has started remember to take your time in-between the pieces, don’t forget the examiner will be writing as you perform and so it may take a little bit of time before they are ready for the next piece or part of the exam to commence, use this time to re-focus. If mistakes are made, try not to worry about them, the examiner is looking at the piece complete so a small slip or mistake is not going to be as disastrous as you think. It is important to remember that the examiner is human too; they want you to succeed and looking forward to hearing you play.
When you have finished the exam, take a moment to thank the examiner and leave the room. The exam is complete, congratulate yourself; you have just accomplished something that some people only dream about. A weight has now been lifted and you can breathe a sigh of relief; the results will take a few weeks to be announced so I would advise not dwelling or over-thinking any part of the exam. I would also advise not thinking about what you could have done better or that the note in bar four was wrong. It won’t help now; all you can do is learn from the thoughts and comments of the examiner. If you have succeeded in a positive result, make sure to take pride in your achievement by framing the certificate where it will be seen daily by you as a reminder of what you can achieve.
Samantha graduated her music studies with honours at Colchester Institute, where she studied with clarinettist Charles Hine, and composer Jeffery Wilson. In high demand, Samantha has established herself as a clarinet and recorder tutor in Colchester founding Da Capo Academy with Dylan, in 2010. Previous faculty positions include Claydon High School, Sudbury Ormiston Academy and Suffolk One College.
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