Astudent climbs a ladder of Grade 1, 2, 3 and upwards, learning a prescribed set of pieces, which they play on repeat like a broken CD player for just one performance at an examination, where they are effectively smuggled out of school to a small room to regurgitate the repetitive exercise of the last year.
Theory and repertoire are segregated, composition strictly prohibited, improvisation considered heresy, and there’s generally zero jazz education. It’s amazing how the exam world avoids so many aspects of music-making that professionals have needed since the Baroque period!
Challenging this is one of the reasons I founded the London Contemporary School of Piano, which gives voice to piano students worldwide who feel starved of forward-thinking music-making and crave a holistic, deeper understanding of how to make music.
Many creative forces in the music industry have taken a completely separate route to the world of exams and competitions. Artists who were empowered to go their own way include Jacob Collier, who rearranges music through his own world view of harmony,...