I began studying for my Grade 2 flute exam shortly after I completed the first. Like last time, I chopped and changed the tunes I was learning, as I found some more or less enjoyable to play than others; but eventually I ended up with this selection: ‘Marche Militaire’ by (Franz Schubert), ‘The Liberty Bell’ (J.P. Sousa) and ‘Humoreske’ (Michael Rose), the last being my unaccompanied piece. I also had two new scales, in addition to the ones from last time; A minor (harmonic or melodic at my choice) and D major (2 octaves)
I booked my exam for the 13th November, and once again booked my pianist Rebecca to accompany me in the exams. The day of, I went to rehearse at her house. Marche Militaire, I was pretty satisfied with; having practised it the most as it was the first in the book. The Liberty Bell, I had practised the least, as it was one I’d switched to later. Humoreske was always going to worry me, as it was the solo piece. Other than that I felt prepared. As per the plan, we then piled into Rebecca’s car and drove to Bexhill.
About five minutes before we arrived at the exam hall, Rebecca suddenly shouted ‘F*CK!…I’ve forgotten the music.” There was no time to go back, and my copy of the sheet music didn’t have the piano accompaniment on it, so there was no choice but to carry on to the hall and explain. Fortunately, someone had cancelled their exam later in the day, so they let me have that time slot instead and we went back to Rebecca’s house again. A quick cup of Earl Grey and another practise later, we tried again, this time arriving with no problem.
Most components of the exam went pretty well, although I once again flaked on the arpeggios (especially E minor), which is ridiculous really because I know them so well. I played D major perfectly on one breath, which I had never been able to do before. I thought my unaccompanied piece was alright. ‘Marche Militaire’ went great. The only blip other than my E minor arpeggio was ‘The Liberty Bell’. It was all going swimmingly, then in the fourth from last bar, I missed a note and blanked. I didn’t manage to come in again until the last note. Now I only missed three or four notes and Rebecca said it was the best she’d heard me play it, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
It was agonizing having to wait three weeks for my results. It was even more agonizing to check the ABRSM website and see my result – Pass. This is going to sound stupid, but I was devastated. I really wanted a Merit, I was sure I’d done enough to earn one, and so had Rebecca been. The worst part, was I couldn’t find out what went wrong until the breakdown arrived in the mail. It was nearly a week later that I finally got the breakdown of my results.
First, the bad news. For ‘The Liberty Bell’, I received 19/30 – a FAIL. Despite my performance having, and I quote, ‘rhythmic performance with clarity of articulation’, those last two bars I missed cost me dearly. Why am I being dramatic about this? Because there’s a really good chance not failing this segment would have got me the overall merit I was after.
For ‘Marche Militaire’, I got 23/30, a pass. While the character of the march was ’emphasised in (my) clear tonguing and rhythmic control’, the ‘repeated notes were not clear’. Ok, not bad, moving on. Unaccompanied piece, ‘Humoreske’ – 26/30, a merit! Yippee! The tone was ‘well-supported’ and the notes ‘confidently conveyed’, it was ‘a stable and effective performance’.
I also got a pass for my sight-reading (it’s not my strongest skill), a merit for my scales and (get this) a DISTINCTION for my aural test, 17/18! Who’d have thought it? All together, a respectable 116/150, exactly what I got last time, 4 marks off a merit. Well, it took me over a week to stop being pissed off that a relatively tiny mistake cost me my goal and to see that a pass at Grade 2 is still better than a pass at Grade 1 (I did, at least, get better. And in truth, I did pass two graded music exams in the same calendar year, so I did well.)
I can be very hard on myself and hold myself to high standards but that’s probably why even when I fail to achieve my goal, what I’m left with is still a good result. And hey, this is just an incentive to try EVEN HARDER next time to get what I want. Next step, Grade 3….