Your experience with certificate or guild programs for strings?

Amanda Marie said: May 25, 2015
Amanda Marie TewViolin
Saint Joseph, MI
14 posts

I am interested in hearing what other teachers are using for certificate programs for their students. Do you use a graded/adjudicated program in your Suzuki studio? Do you use RCM or ABRSM? Are there other options? What are the pros of each program, in your experience? I would like to start participating in something like this for my studio. I am in a smaller town in SW Michigan but we are close enough to travel to Chicago or northern Indiana. Thanks for any input!

Lisa said: May 28, 2015
Lisa HollisViolin, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Viola
Dorchester, MA
21 posts

I’ve prepared students for RCM exams in the past, but I don’t necessarily think it is needed for all Suzuki students. Some students are naturally motivated to work through the Suzuki repertoire and don’t need an exam to see progress and find validation. I find the exams are the most useful for kids who need to have a reason to practice, or for students who live in an area where exams are expected (such as Canada or the UK).

The RCM exams are very heavy on technique and require a lot of scales, double stops, ear training, and interval training that I wouldn’t always teach in a private lesson. It is a lot for the kids to learn and this is what my students would always struggle with. We would spend so much time learning all of the required scales that not much time was spent on repertoire, which they already generally knew well.

ASTA also has an exam system that you might want to check out. I think it is a little easier on the technique than RCM. The same number of scales would be listed for both exams, the difference being that in ASTA the students pick which scales to play (meaning they don’t have to learn all of the suggested scales) and in RCM the examiner picks (so they have to have them all prepared.)

I only prepared one student for ABRSM. I generally didn’t favor it because it required sight-reading from Grade 1 (RCM starts in Grade 3 I believe) and because at the time it didn’t have many Suzuki repertoire pieces in it, at least for violin. RCM uses a lot of the Suzuki repertoire.

Let me know if you have other questions!

Andrea said: May 29, 2015
Andrea YunTeacher Trainer
Suzuki Association Member
14 posts

I’m replying mostly to follow this thread, but also wanted to say that there are a few of us interested in trying to get RCM testers and prep classes in southeast Michigan. I’m in Ann Arbor. Amanda, could you email me so that I can have your email address in case we go forward with this? Where are you located, exactly? ([javascript protected email address])

Lauren said: May 30, 2015
Lauren Lamont
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Edmonds, WA
33 posts

Ideally, I’d like to see SAA develop a graded system for theory. I teach it somewhat in my lessons from Twinkle on, but a developed system whereby the student at a higher level then studies the theory from the known pieces, starting with Twinkle. Learning the common chord progressions, leading tones, tonic, sub-mediant, sub-don, history of style, deeper understanding of ornamentation as it applies to different periods, etc. and then with certificate levels.

I teach in a school where both Suzuki and traditional lessons are taught, and the RCM system is being used for traditional students. I haven’t started using it yet. But it seems the cost to student/parent is substantial, and of course, this is in addition to what they are paying for the lessons & groups. I’m still on the fence about it. Thanks for putting it out there :-)

Amy said: Jun 3, 2015
Suzuki Association Member
50 posts

Like Lauren, I am on the fence about the worthwhileness of RCM-type grading systems. The theory tests are part of my concerns. When I have seen the theory prep materials, they are very focused on piano. I don’t really care whether my book 4 violin students know that una corda tells the pianist to use the soft pedal.

Having said that, I think there is great value in having someone other than the primary teacher assess students. I am the only Suzuki teacher in my small town, and that makes it challenging to find opportunities for other teachers to offer comments. Are there any suggestions for how to fill this void?

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