Musical Achievement, Assessment and Motivation

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

A RESPONSE TO ABRSM

With a single Tweet, the exam board ABRSM have in the last week provoked what they have themselves described as a “passionate debate”.

Defending their stance, ABRSM have subsequently confirmed that these are the words of their Chief Examiner, John Holmes, quoted from his presentation at this year’s Music Education EXPO event in London:


In the context of his talk, Holmes will no doubt have made many other points, adding balance and nuance to his position. That said, his view of a “virtuous circle of motivation” was surely not made up on the spot. We must accept this as his well-rehearsed position on the nature of and relationship between musical achievement, assessment and intrinsic motivation.

Discussion of these important concepts must be welcomed. As teachers it is our basic responsibility to question ideas, absorb good material, develop subject knowledge and promote better understanding. I should add that we also have a duty to confront that which might genuinely harm our students.

These issues are of course also of interest and importance to the parents of any child learning to sing or play a musical instrument. In contributing this response, I hope my thoughts might be considered both by teachers and by parents who are rightly keen to understand their childrens’ progress.

Together, let’s begin to unpack some of the many positive ways that we can all celebrate our childrens’ and our own adult achievements.

Continue reading Musical Achievement, Assessment and Motivation

Rediscovering the Magic of Piano

Fluency, understanding, expression and confidence.
Written by Andrew Eales

“If we begin to think about our goals in life as destinations, as points to which we must arrive, this thinking begins to cut out all that makes a point worth having.
It is as if instead of giving you a full banana to eat, I gave you just the two tiny ends of the banana – and that would not be, in any sense, a satisfactory meal”.

Alan Watts: What is Tao?

Over the many years I have been teaching the piano to children, one of the most common enquiries from parents is this:

“What goal can my child be working towards?”

More often than not, it turns out that they would like me to move their child onto an exam-driven footing rather than simply allowing them to wander more freely in the meadows of musical wonderment.

Interestingly enough, far fewer adult learners make this point. We should really consider why this is, and how useful goal setting might really be…

Continue reading Rediscovering the Magic of Piano

The Practice Room Sanctuary

Take a little time to pause before playing on…
Written by Andrew Eales.

The bestselling author, journalist and broadcaster Hannah Beckerman recently wrote an article for Planet Mindful (Spring 2019) in which she shared what music meant to her, and in particular the difference that learning an instrument has made in her life…

Continue reading The Practice Room Sanctuary

The Three Treasures of Musical Learning

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

Understanding the importance of the “Three Treasures” of musical learning empowers teachers to deliver holistic, effective tuition and support to all our students.

Paying attention to ALL THREE Treasures in balance, and at all stages of learning from the youngest beginner to the most advanced professional, gives us the teaching philosophy and learning tool needed to foster deeper learning, fuel progress and inspire a lifelong love of music.

In this article I will explain what the Three Treasures are, and offer some tips on how focusing on them can help us develop as effective teachers.

Continue reading The Three Treasures of Musical Learning

Personalised Learning

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

Every aspect of music is personal.

A good performance depends on the player’s personal interpretation of the music. Enjoyment, for the listener, depends on their personal response to the music. Which in turn is informed by personal musical taste and experience.

And in the same way, learning to play a musical instrument is a highly personalised experience. In this post we’ll consider why that is true, and what it means in practice.

Continue reading Personalised Learning

Let’s talk about our practice expectations

Supporting teachers, promoting piano education.
Written by Andrew Eales

Lack of practice is an issue that most piano players grapple with at some point – and it is something that teachers don’t always handle graciously and with understanding…

Continue reading Let’s talk about our practice expectations