P Plate Update: meeting with examiners.

P Plate Piano (and its various launch and discussion events) have kept me outrageously busy of late, and I’m ashamed to note that it’s been close to a month since I last posted anything to this blog – a record time without new contributions.  All the more shameful as I’ve set myself the task of discussing a scale every week, and that’s looking a bit like a failed New Year’s Resolution at present.

But back to the topic of today’s post: an update on P Plate Piano.

The website is increasingly functional, and the forum for teachers has been up and running for a week or so. Not many posts as of yet, but 19 members, which (by Australian piano teaching demographic standards) is not a bad start!

The last two weekends of February saw me tearing around southern Victoria doing my final launches for teachers in that state. Ballarat, Bendigo, Traralgon (I had to look that one up on the map, I must confess) and then a final (and really well attended) Melbourne session.  Each of these four centres was a highlight for me, each for its own set of reasons. I’ve been so privileged to get to meet such a range of fabulous teachers, for starters, and the gold-rush towns of Ballarat and Bendigo have an amazing vibe.  I’d never been to Traralgon or surrounds before, and it’s like a whole new aspect of Australia (to me).

But today was the first time I’ve addressed a different and very important group of people: the examiners!

Of course, the P Plate Piano assessments are not the same thing as an AMEB exam: no grading, for starters, and no scales, ear tests, sight reading, extra lists, and so forth.

So the examiners are establishing how they will go about creating this new kind of assessment experience.  And P Plate Piano is a series that does such different things to the exams the AMEB has previously offered: students rearranging pieces, transposing them, changing the register, altering the dynamics, choosing their own tempi… And for examiners seeking to write meaningful commentary on the performance of the student this means they need to take a different approach to assessment: accuracy is not the holy grail in P Plate Piano.

That would be musicality, musicianship – making music with the composer’s ideas and the piano.

Many a time an examination candidate is so concerned with following the letter of the score that they miss the spirit. The goal with P Plate Piano is to make the letter of the score so malleable that the music is not lost in the quest for being right.

The response from the examiners is not something I can report – once I had completed my presentation I whisked myself into a taxi and I was boarding my flight home before the examiners had completed their discussions and deliberations. But some of the P Plate Piano pieces did elicit murmurs from the select group: usually approval, sometimes good-humoured responses, sometimes even singing along with the music!

And that’s hopefully a good sign of things to come with P Plate Piano.  Apparently there are students enrolled for P Plate Piano assessments in April and May in New South Wales and Queensland – this fabulous experiment from the AMEB is about to have its first results come in!

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