Clarinet Grade Five Exam – 19 July 2011


UPDATE: I later found that I passed this exam after all, with a mark of 112/150.

PLAY THE CLARI_My clarinet.

"You’ve brought the sun with you," was the examiner’s cheery welcome, as I walked into the music exam room at Windsor Music Centre today, just as the weather was brightening up outside. I’d been told he was a laid-back kind of chap, which certainly helped me to relax a little, but even still, music examination nerves were getting the better of me.


The three pieces I’d chosen were Lefèvre‘s Allegro Moderato: First Movement from Sonata No 3 in F, Paul HarrisGut Reaction, and James Rae‘s Ambiguity. During a short warm-up in the waiting room outside, I’d had a play-through of all three and – as can be expected from the nerves – I made a few slips, but nothing to worry about too much. In the exam itself, the first two went OK, but the third piece wasn’t anything like as good as it had been in practices. Bizarrely, I think this is because I played it too slow (in an effort to get every note right), but in doing so I lost the quick flow I’m used to with it, so made more mistakes.

Just like when I did my Grade Five Piano exam, I made a hash of the aural tests. Normally, I do quite well in them – perhaps consequently, during practice time, I turned too much of a blind eye to them, not worrying about them as much as I maybe should have done.

As for the scales, well… I openly put my hands up and admit that I didn’t practise them anything like as regularly as would be expected of a Grade Five student, although I did do more than I have for previous grades. The examiner, by chance, picked the scales and arpeggios I was more confident with, so most of the (many) cock-ups I suffered in this exam were as a result of the increased nerves.

Finally, I had 30 seconds to prepare a short piece of his choice, in the much-feared sight-reading tests. Actually, he should have given me longer than that because of my extra-time allowance, but despite handing in the appropriate paperwork, he did not honour the requirement for whatever reason. Keen not to aggravate him further, sensing his disapproval of my presence in front of him. My clarinet teacher has done an excellent job at improving my ability to sight-read over recent months, but I can’t help thinking that I’ll get a similar comment on my ‘Examiner’s Comment Sheet’ to what had been written in my last exam: "You kept going, which is good, but sadly both pitch and rhythm were not very close to the original".

As I walked out at the end, I noticed the weather had changed during my exam. It was bucketing it down with rain – now how’s that for pathetic fallacy, for you?!

At last, my exam was over, and – with just 45 minutes more controlled-assessment to go at school, before we break up on Thursday – summer (and more specifically my Jamboree adventure) is just around the corner. Sadly, I’ve got to wait until September to find out if I passed or failed (or rather, by just how many marks I failed).

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.