Congratulations to Alena for passing her Grade 8 ABRSM exam! The ABRSM (Associated Boards of the Royal School of Music) is a curriculum started in the United Kingdom over 100 years ago. There are eight levels. The curriculum is available to many students and is used worldwide. To play the exam students are given a choice of pieces from three different time periods of music. The student and teacher choose three to study, and the student performs in front of the examiner and receives a grade and comments. Students are also required to learn and perform scales and arpeggios, to sight read, and to demonstrate their aural and oral music skills.
Due to the pandemic Alena had to make a recording of three pieces from the Grade 8 repertoire and choose one piece of her choice. The recording had to be all one take, so there was no chance to edit! Alena’s choice piece was the Allemande from the Partita no 2 in D Minor for Solo Violin, by J.S. Bach. The pieces from the curriculum she learned were Full Fathom Five, by Michael Nyman, Scherzo in C Minor, by Tchaikovsky and Prelude and Corrente from the Sonata in C minor, by Vivaldi. Local pianist Donna Amato accompanied Alena and helped her to prepare for the recording.
Here are some thoughts from Alena:
How did you get started with the ABRSM curriculum?
“I actually started with the Trinity curriculum in London but when we moved to Houston, they didn’t have it, so I switched to ABRSM for my Grade 6 exam.”
What are your interests outside of music?
“I like to draw and play lacrosse at school and on a travel team.”
What do you enjoy about music and playing the violin?
“I really like the music that is written for the violin and how I get to perform at a lot of great places.”
What suggestions do you have for other students who may be finding it difficult to practice right now during the Covid pandemic?
“Advice I would give is just to do your best to practice every day even when you don’t feel like it, even just playing a scale is better than nothing!”
What was the most difficult aspect of preparing for and making the recording for the Grade 8 exam?
“The nerves were definitely the hardest part!! Because of the difficulty of the pieces and the importance of the exam, I messed up a lot in the takes because of how nervous (and excited!) I was.”