Sometimes it takes a trip to the other side of the world to appreciate what we, as teachers in Canada, take for granted. In February, Stephen Perry (from Germany and the US), Sheila Hardy and I were privileged to be the adjudicators for the first MusicQuest All-India Piano Festival held in Pune, India. The purpose of the festival was to provide an opportunity for students to play, receive a written critique, and also have a brief working session with the adjudicator of the class; similar to the VMFW in Vancouver. Such a festival is unique in India since the only performance experiences students have is either in the teacher’s studio or taking one of the several British examinations that are offered there. Also, many students have only limited access to a piano which may be an inheritance from the British Raj! (To make matters more complicated, there is only one piano technician in the entire country!)
The playing varied from good to very poor and this reflected the wide disparity in the quality of teaching, but the enthusiasm and interest was refreshing and exhilarating. This also gave Sheila and me an opportunity to meet the teachers and discuss common problems. A topic of particular interest was the differences between the British and the Canadian systems of examinations. What impressed the Indian teachers was the large and varied choices of materials available to Canadian teachers at every grade level and that one could substitute an own choice piece or a piece one grade higher. This flexibility, which does not exist in the British systems, plus a wide range of repertoire, ensured that every student would be able to have music that was appropriate for his or her individual needs, to develop an affinity with the styles and performance practices, and have a progressive educational program. Plus the fact that our syllabus does not change every 2 years, as is the case of the ABRSM. (When I returned, I reviewed the ABRSM piano syllabus and found only 2 pieces by Bach between Grades 1-8, although there were numerous works by Handel and Scarlatti. Much of the repertoire was drawn from obscure composers and sources. In fairness to the ABRSM, the examinations are world-wide, so the repertoire chosen has to reflect the diversity of the quality of teaching in many countries.)
We are most fortunate to have several choices in examination boards in Canada and have a broad choice of music to accommodate all of our students … and an abundance of performance opportunities with festivals, etc. Plus, our students have access to any number of good quality pianos for their use. It takes a trip to make us count our blessings!
Mary Tickner, Coordinator