RCM Exam Preparation
What is RCM?
The Royal Conservatory is the largest music institute in Canada, and embodies over 130 years of creative minds channeling their talents and hard efforts through inspiring programs. As the largest music institute in Canada and one of the largest in the world, RCM has always made it their priority to provide the definitive standard of excellence in performance training, assessment, curriculum design, teacher certification, and arts-based social programs (“RCM Our Mission”).
The Royal Conservatory of Music has a mission that I, as an alumnus, fully believe in:
“To develop human potential through leadership in music and the arts.”
Whether you want to pursue a career in music or your enrollment in RCM is more of a hobby, following RCM’s reliable and structured program guarantees growth. This growth is clearly seen in the participant’s musical output, but just as importantly, in their personal growth and social cohesion (“RCM Our Mission”).
Many of the five million alumni of The Royal Conservatory have taken their skills elsewhere into a varied range of fields including business, education, science, politics, and medicine. Others, such as Oscar Peterson, Glenn Gould, Diana Krall, Sir Roger Norrington, have achieved international success in the field of music (“RCM Our Mission”).
The Royal Conservatory of Music is committed to structuring their participant’s musical growth by implementing a Certificate Program. In this program, different aspects of being a well-rounded musician, such as technical abilities and ear training, are tested at different levels. By structuring music education in this manner, it allows for students to have an organized approach to their improvement as musicians, and in this case as pianists.
As an alumnus of The Royal Conservatory, I can confidently say that it is a well-thought-out and structured program for any child to immerse themselves in. If children follow the RCM system and dedicate the proper amount of time and focus to their practice, then it is guaranteed that their child will grow as a pianist.
A supplementary benefit of anyone finishing the RCM certificate program is that in Canada, they will have the ability to teach piano at an amateur level! Many piano schools will ask for a minimum RCM standing instead of a formal degree or diploma.
As one of the most respected music education institutions in Canada, RCM holds a high standard to its program, which in turn provides its students with desired results. As an alumnus to The Royal Conservatory Certificate program, I can say with confidence that dedication and a strict routine are incredibly necessary for guaranteeing your child’s progression in the program.
The certificate program at RCM is a system of step-by-step levels of music education that challenge and test your child’s abilities in piano. Each level consists of particular aspects of musical ability, from technical requirements and repertoire performance to solfège training and music theory studies, that are all meant to promote well-rounded growth in one’s studies.
Embarking on the journey to RCM certification requires a couple things from both students and their parents. From the student’s end, it is important that they have a genuine interest in studying music. Music is something that comes from within and is an intellectual art form. If a child is forced into the matter and does not end up enjoying it (and only perceives it as work), then it is tough to be authentic and honest in one’s playing.
From the parent’s perspective, it is important to impose a balanced routine of practice that can be fit into the child’s day-to-day structure. As with anything we learn, consistency is one of the major keys to success. For a child, guaranteeing consistency may be a challenge and therefore it is the responsibility of parents to ensure that their children manage to practice EVERYDAY of the week. This does not mean pushing your child to practice for hours upon hours, as each child is different and can handle different amounts of focused time per day, but to confirm that musical thinking and training must be an active part of their lives from day to day.
That’s why as an alumnus of the program and as a recent graduate of the Schulich School of Music at McGill University, I strongly believe that every child that shows an interest in piano, should use the RCM certificate program as a structured approach to their practice. Outside of the RCM system, parents must enrich their children with arts-centered activities that will develop their overall understanding of the artistic world. As music is connected to poetry, literature, and visual arts, it is important to encourage your child to learn in all fields of the arts. Children that are supplemented with more exposure to the arts outside of practice, show more emotional maturity in their playing and display a better understanding of what piano playing and music is truly all about.
“Benefits of formal piano education”
Piano education and learning to play any instrument have shown amazing developmental progress in children. Because playing the piano requires motor skills, listening, memory, and equal use of both hands, many studies have shown that children who study piano at a young age have certain developmental benefits compared to their peers. In these studies, children that studied piano were compared to others that studied a wide range of different activities (sports, drama, painting, etc.) and were seen to have a more developed sense of their motor skills and memory (especially auditory). Some studies went as far as taking brain scans of concert touring pianists and found that some neural pathways worked more efficiently, compared to people outside of the realm of music.
When analyzing it from a less scientific perspective, we see that children who study piano develop a good sense of discipline and routine. Not every student studying piano may want to make a career out of music, but the benefits of sticking to a strict daily routine develops good habits that are seen to be useful in their future. In my own personal experience, I found that due to the time commitment that practicing piano had in my youth, I was able to develop skills in time management that were above my peers’. This skill became very useful as I got older and started studying at the post-secondary level.
Furthermore, playing piano is a very complex process, which at the intermediate and advanced level, requires a significant amount of emotional cohesion. Composers in highly emotional situations wrote much of the music played today, therefore it is the performer’s due diligence to try and connect with their own emotions when performing their pieces. Take Bach’s Chaconne from his Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004. This movement was written in memory of his wife that had passed away while he was away from his family. The movement is filled with such intense emotions that if a performer does not find a way to relate to the music, it will not be nearly as convincing and will only sound like a group of organized notes.
Of course, this piece is played by professional performers at a very advanced level, but the point remains the same. For a performer to reach this level, they must start from their simple beginnings, and through the process of practice and learning, are able to develop enough emotional maturity to make it sound true to the composer’s intentions.
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