Royal Conservatory of Music

For the first time this year, I am offering voice and piano students the chance to take exams through the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM). The RCM, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, sets out a series of requirements for different “grades” of musical study. It's been a very popular program in Canada for many years. In the last 10 years or so, more and more American teachers are having students take exams, so many that there is an American contingent of the RCM, called the Royal Conservatory of Music Achievement Program. The idea is that since different teachers teach different things at different times, when a student says they have 2 or 3 years of study on their instrument, it's hard to pinpoint what exactly that means. If a student passes an RCM Grade 1 exam, they've then passed a standard mile marker. (It should be noted that the grade levels of exams do not correspond to grade levels in school.)

Students take exams for various reasons. For some students, it's simply helpful to have a goal to be working toward. Other students may wish to achieve a certain grade level for college and scholarship applications. Still others may wish to go on to earn their Associate of the Royal Conservatory (ARCT) professional teaching certification, learning and proving the skills necessary to teach their instrument. Some schools and districts in the US are now allowing certain levels of exams to count toward high school or college credits (discuss this with your administration or school board). Whatever the reason, preparing for and passing an exam is quite an achievement to be celebrated. 

Exams involve learning repertoire from different historical periods and styles and demonstrating these pieces along with technical skills, sight reading, and listening exercises. At different points in the exam track, students are also required to take written theory exams to pass their grade level exams in their instruments. (RCM also offers a whole theory track that can be taken separate from the instrument exams.) It can take anywhere from a few months to a year to adequately prepare for an exam.

Exams are held three times a year – December, May, and August. Students go to a testing center and perform their exam before a judge. Recently, testing centers have been designated in Vienna as well as the District.

Students who are interested in taking an RCM exam should talk to me.