I know, it’s been a while since I posted; I’ve been very busy (mostly gigging / recording, plus desk work) and have a lot of writing to do to catch up. It will happen eventually, but for now I interrupt strict chronological sequence to bring you news of my diploma result.
Firstly and most importantly, I passed! Which is the only bit of information from this post that’s probably of real professional value to me in the longer term. However, I find some of the other details of interest so I’m going to subject my reading public to them anyway.
Please don’t think I’m humble-bragging when I say I’m pleasantly surprised to have got a high pass in this, much closer to the boundary with distinction marks than fail ones. It was my first performance exam in [thinks] 13 years and my first ever on viola, I’ve hated auditions and performance exams since I was barely a teenager and I generally think I do badly in them compared to playing for a live audience. So perhaps the practice hours, intermittent tension with my flatmates, stress, travel and expense paid off in breaking some of that fear with a stronger than expected showing!
The sheet of handwritten feedback I have in front of me contains some interesting insights into how my examiner heard this performance. Keywords from the notes include: passion, urgency, intent, style, atmospheric, charming and elegant (possibly my favourite pull-quote, on the Classical sonata that is probably my favourite of the programme), delightful contrasts (!), sensitive and generous, evocative and plaintive, deceptive simplicity, huge tragic weight (!!). The examiner’s own summary runs:
The performance was assured, with a clear understanding of the relevance and significance of the pieces presented. Technique was stretched at time, but playing was never less than persuasive, with creative and secure musicianship.
The marks are distributed (unequally) across four areas, and I think ranking these in order of how well I did in them is an interesting exercise too; from high to low: presentation skills (mostly planning what I would play and writing programme notes), musical sense, communication, techniques (though even on the last my mark equates to a solid pass).
Overall, the weighting perhaps represents the best of what I would have dared to think of myself as a classical player: solidly up to scratch technically (but always with room for improvement … ), but really shining in musical understanding, communication and holding attention as a performer; without the suggestion of overdoing it for this style and context that I had genuinely (and I think reasonably) feared to encounter.
Of course, all of this triggers a bigger question: what next? But for that I don’t yet have an answer, and it may be quite some time before I do; unless you count ‘the next gig!’.