Exploring “Mosaic” with Nikolas Sideris

Editions Musica Ferrum have recently brought out two volumes of pieces in a new series called Mosaic, featuring original music by a dozen or so composers, organised by difficulty level and suitable for beginner to early intermediate players.

I have enjoyed the privilege of contributing to the project, with two of my own compositions included in each book so far, and more to come!

Karen Marshall will be writing an independent review of the first two books, which will be published here on the Pianodao site soon. In the meantime, I decided to catch up with Editions Musica Ferrum founder Nikolas Sideris and ask him more about the project…

Continue reading Exploring “Mosaic” with Nikolas Sideris

The Graded Piano Player

Sheet Music Review

The Graded Piano Player is a series of three books from Faber Music, comprising arrangements of well-known tunes specially arranged by leading educationalists for pianists from around ABRSM Grade 1-5 level.

Published back in 2016, the books return to the spotlight as two of these arrangements – Close Every Door from Book 1 and Wouldn’t it be loverly from Book 2 – have been selected for ABRSM’s brilliant new 2019/20 syllabus (which Karen Marshall and I reviewed here).

When pieces are selected from the “alternatives lists”, there’s always a danger that a pupil might be expected to purchase a separate book from which they will only ever play a single piece – so teachers, parents and students will undoubtedly be interested to hear what the rest of the book is like, and in this instance the rest of the series.

With that in mind, let’s take a look …

Continue reading The Graded Piano Player

ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2019/20: The Big Reviews

Sheet Music Review

So here it is – ABRSM, the world’s leading instrumental examination board, today announces the 2019/20 syllabus, and as promised Pianodao can bring you the world’s first – and second! – in-depth review of the full package.

  • First comes my own review, focusing on the overall trends in this brand new syllabus, and assessing the overall product.
  • This is followed below by Karen Marshall’s in depth look at each grade in turn, commenting on the suitability and appeal of the selected pieces.

Karen and I have also jointly produced a FREE printable download in which we each list our Golden Selections of our favourite pieces from each of the eight grades.

You can print this off and use it alongside the syllabus as a resource to help with repertoire selection, and for your own interest. There’s also space for you to add your own Golden Selection in conjunction with the full syllabus, available now from the ABRSM website.

My much-read review of the 2017/18 syllabus suggested that it was a somewhat mixed affair, and teacher reactions have been similarly mixed. If there was some disappointment with the 2017/18 syllabus, this only heightens anticipation for its replacement.

So have ABRSM this time delivered the goods and struck a balance that teachers and students around the world will be more enthusiastic about? Let’s find out!..

Continue reading ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2019/20: The Big Reviews

ABRSM Syllabus 2019/20: An Announcement

Excitement is rising for the launch of the brand new ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2019/20 next month!

In the meantime, a proud author moment as I announce (with permission) that I have had the honour of contributing to the forthcoming Teaching Notes book, which will be published along with the rest of the syllabus on Thursday 7th June 2018.

Continue reading ABRSM Syllabus 2019/20: An Announcement

EVC @ the RAH

Pictured (from the left) – Andrew Eales, Elena Cobb, Lindsey Berwin and Heather Hammond.

We often hear of a decline in music education within UK state schools – and without doubt, over the last 25 years of teaching I have witnessed a steady but undeniable diminuendo in the musical life of local schools here, often despite best intentions.

How wonderful, then, to see buoyant evidence of enthusiasm for music among young people – as was most certainly and robustly the case when I attended the Elena Cobb Star Prize Event at the Elgar Room in London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall last week.

Here was a showcase of great playing delivered by young people from around the UK and beyond, each performing and clearly relishing music by a host of living writers, and in many cases in the very presence of those composers.

Continue reading EVC @ the RAH

ABRSM “Piano Star”: The Review

Sheet Music Review

ABRSM’s three Piano Star books (published Autumn 2016) have been a huge and well-deserved success, appealing to children and their teachers alike.

So I was thrilled to hear that there would be two more additions to the series (which have just been published) – Piano Star: Five-Finger Tunes, and Piano Star Grade 1.

According to ABRSM:

The new books, Piano Star: Five-Finger Tunes and Piano Star: Grade 1, are packed with a wealth of useful teaching material which children will love to play.

The Piano Star series is part of ABRSM’s commitment to producing a wider range of early years resources and aims to inspire young pianists and help them to develop their musical skills. The five Piano Star books are designed to take young pianists from the end of their first tutor book to Grade 1 standard.

The series now offers over 120 new compositions and arrangements from leading educational composers and are brought to life with imaginative titles, eye-catching full colour illustrations and fun activities.

Let’s take a look at each of the two books, and see what they add to this popular series.

Continue reading ABRSM “Piano Star”: The Review

LCM Syllabus 2018: The Big Review

Sheet Music Review  by Karen Marshall

November has seen the London College of Music present their new piano syllabus.

Due to staff changes the last time the syllabus was changed was back in 2013. So I was very excited to see what LCM were offering – especially as many of my colleagues Andrew Eales, David Barton, Francis Wilson and Melanie Spanswick have consulted on the main albums.

As a teacher who actively uses LCM, along with Trinity and ABRSM, Andrew asked me to write the review (to maintain impartiality).

As my first full syllabus review on Pianodao, I have worked really hard to get a broad collection of voices – many thanks to my piano teaching colleagues who have helped me shape this review.

I must say that the overall impression is that this is a job very well done by LCM, and a big step up from previously piano syllabi in terms of pedagogical content, variety of repertoire, quality of editing and presentation of the publications. Huge congratulations to William Alexander, David Duncan and the rest of the team at LCM for this achievement.

Now here’s my review, and in true Pianodao style, it is equally as detailed as Andrew’s! I really hope it proves helpful to teachers and pupils.

Continue reading LCM Syllabus 2018: The Big Review

ABRSM Teacher Conference ‘17

EXCLUSIVE REPORT

Having been very impressed with last year’s ABRSM Teacher Conference, I attended again this year, and with high hopes – and wasn’t disappointed!

Once again, the event took place at London’s Grange Tower Bridge Hotel, a venue which itself lived up to the excellent impression made last year. The surroundings, organisation and – perhaps most importantly – the FOOD were all first rate!

As for the content of the day, once again this year there was something for everyone, although a particular focus was on the new Woodwind and Singing syllabi and resources published earlier in the year.

This inevitably led to a lesser focus on piano teaching than last time (presumably next year the piano will again be centre stage) but I found the day no less rewarding. So here’s my report…

Continue reading ABRSM Teacher Conference ‘17

Women Composers, Piano Exams, and the Quest for Balance

When I published David Duncan’s guest article Women Composers and Grade Exams I really hoped that it would promote a healthy debate about a really important issue, and I am pleased that it has done so.

While I don’t generally comment on Guest Posts, on this occasion I would like to add a few thoughts. And I must begin by applauding David Duncan and his colleagues at LCM for their determination to address an imbalance. David makes a valuable contribution to the discussion, and I believe his efforts at LCM deserve our support and enthusiasm.

My hope is that by including far more works by women composers, their forthcoming piano  syllabus will be an eye-opener, in which unjustly neglected works will receive the greater exposure they deserve.

Continue reading Women Composers, Piano Exams, and the Quest for Balance

Women composers and Graded Exams

Guest Post by David Duncan
Publications Officer, LCM Examinations

Should we care about the representation of women composers in graded music exams?

Continue reading Women composers and Graded Exams

ABRSM’s Theory rethink: a step in the right direction?

ABRSM surprised the teaching world this week with an email announcement detailing significant changes they plan to make to their Theory of Music Grades 1-5 examinations, from January 2018.

In this post I will explain the changes ABRSM are planning, assess reaction from teachers online, and share my own views, particularly in the context of my previous writings on this topic.

So let’s start by looking at exactly what ABRSM are planning to change.

Continue reading ABRSM’s Theory rethink: a step in the right direction?

ABRSM’s Michael Elliott: The Pianodao Interview

An Interview with Michael Elliott, Chief Executive, ABRSM

I am hugely grateful to Michael Elliott, Chief Executive of ABRSM, for giving up his time to take part in this interview. At his suggestion, the questions were crowd-sourced prior to the interview.

As well as the many questions raised on the Pianodao site here, I received several via email and have included topics raised on the Piano Network UK forum.

So far as possible I will include reader questions word for word, but I have streamlined the recurring themes which cropped up.

And many of the questions asked were very probing – so get comfortable and prepare for an in-depth and revealing read! …

Continue reading ABRSM’s Michael Elliott: The Pianodao Interview

Alan Bullard’s Preludes

Sheet Music Review

Alan Bullard will be known to many readers for his many contributions to popular educational series such as Piano Time from OUP and Piano Star from ABRSM. His Joining the Dots series of sight reading books for ABRSM and the excellent adult piano method series Pianoworks, co-written with his wife Janet, have also become well known favourites.

Alan’s latest publication is brought to us by Colne Edition, distributed by Spartan Press, and is entitled Twelve or Thirteen Preludes for Solo Piano.

Continue reading Alan Bullard’s Preludes

Ask ABRSM

I’m delighted to let you know that Pianodao will feature an exclusive interview with ABRSM Chief Executive Michael Elliott next month.

Readers are invited to submit questions here.
Simply add yours as a comment below this blog post, and I will try to include it in the interview.

The goal of the interview is to get behind the scenes, perhaps bust a few myths, and give Michael a chance to talk about the direction ABRSM are headed, answering any questions or concerns teachers and candidates may have.

ABRSM and Pianodao will both be sharing this blog post via our respective social media channels, and hope to crowd-source as many interesting questions as possible. Questions submitted elsewhere on social media might get missed however, so please be sure to post your question in the comments here.

On your marks, get set ….  ASK!

Closing date: Monday 3rd April.

[NB if you haven’t commented here before, your first comment is send for approval before it appears in public, but I get an instant notification and will approve quickly.]

ABRSM Conference Report

ABRSM’s Teacher Conference has established itself as one of the leading events in the instrumental teacher’s calendar, providing an opportunity for colleagues to network, stay abreast of new developments in the music teaching world, and refresh teaching skills.

This year’s conference took place at London’s Grange Tower Bridge Hotel on Saturday 5th November, and took as its title and grand theme ”The Art and Craft of Performing. More than 500 teachers attended, including me for the first time.

Continue reading ABRSM Conference Report

Introducing ABRSM Piano Star!

I am delighted to inform readers that ABRSM commissioned me to compose a number of pieces for their new Piano Star series of pre-Grade 1 books, which they formally unveil today. I feel honoured to have been involved with these fabulous new books…

As a direct contributor, of course I am unable to offer a full independent review of the publications here for ethical reasons. Instead, I have reproduced today’s Media Release from ABRSM, which gives full details of the publications below.

Continue reading Introducing ABRSM Piano Star!

ARSM: Your Questions Answered

Interview with Penny Milsom, Executive Director of Products and Services, ABRSM

Professional diplomas in music performance and teaching have proliferated in recent years to a point where even many music professionals are sometimes baffled by the sea of letters that follow a colleague’s name.

Latest “diploma” on the block is the new ARSM performing diploma from ABRSM, the world’s leading music examining board.

The ARSM joins existing diplomas the DipABRSM, LRSM and FRSM, and is intended to bridge the gap between Grade 8 (the highest amateur qualification ABRSM offer) and the DipABRSM professional qualification.

The ARSM syllabus and full information were launched last week, following which there has been much discussion about the purpose and validity of the new diploma, some of it summarised in this post by my friend and colleague Frances Wilson.

So I was delighted to have an opportunity to discuss it with Penny Milsom, Executive Director – Products and Services, ABRSM.

I put to Penny a number of the questions I have seen colleagues asking online. Read on for her responses, and I hope you enjoy what proved to be a very enlightening interview.

Continue reading ARSM: Your Questions Answered

The New ABRSM Prep Test

Sheet Music Review

In addition to releasing their 2017-18 Piano Syllabus ABRSM have just brought out a brand new “Prep Test” for piano, with assessments from January 2017.

This is actually the first time that the exam board have updated the syllabus and pieces for their piano Prep Test since January 1999, so it’s great to see that it has finally been refreshed and given a revamp.

Continue reading The New ABRSM Prep Test

ABRSM Syllabus 2017-18: The Review

Sheet Music Review

July 7th 2016 sees the publication of the brand new ABRSM Piano Syllabus, along with Exam Pieces books for Grades 1 – 8. Review copies arrived a week or so ago, and I’ve enjoyed looking through the books, listening to the optional CDs, and trying out many of the included pieces.

Continue reading ABRSM Syllabus 2017-18: The Review