|Finally, let it be reiterated that it cannot be too
strongly impressed on pupils that the greatest concentration and avoidance
of mechanical playing are essential to any success at all.
With many teachers a large part of their work is taken up with preparing
pupils for examinations, and a few words of advice on this subject are
Firstly, a strong warning is needed : examinations must be treated as a
means to an end, not as the end itself. The following will make clear what
is meant by this statement.
Examinations may be profitably and justifiably used as an incentive to
make pupils work hard and well, and to give the successful ones a definite
reward for their labour. Also, in the case of advanced pupils, the
possession of a diploma is an asset, and gives definite professional status,
should this be desired. Examinations are also a test of the value or
otherwise of the teacher's method of working. But to be continually entering
as many as possible of one's pupils for examinations, with the sordid aim of
piling up long lists of successes, is absolutely wrong-it is making an end
of what is really only a means. The result often is that the pupils of such
a teacher come to look on the study of music not as something which may, and
should, be a source of pleasure both to themselves and others, but as a
continuous working for one test after another. The artistic and pleasurable
sides of the question are entirely lost sight of, as is also the fact that
not everybody has the " examination mind." In many cases one finds pupils,
both young and old, who can do good work under normal con- ditions, but who
seem constitutionally incapable of doing well under the eye of an examiner.
(The same not infrequently occurs in connection with paper-work
examinations, where there is no examiner actually present : the very fact of
working under examination conditions induces an attack of " nerves " and
results in poor work.) To enter such pupils for examinations is sheer
cruelty, but many teachers persist in doing so. Each examination that is
taken causes a greater nervous strain, and results get steadily worse.
No examination should ever be attempted until the pupil has arrived at a
standard of performance well above that which will be required. To work a
student just up to the level expected is quite useless, as it leaves no
reserves to draw on, no margin to allow for nervousness ; and the
examination candidate who does not suffer from nerves, in however mild a
form, is so rare as to be negligible. In particular the technical standard
of the examination must be well covered, or a bad performance is almost
inevitable. If the candidate can only just manage to give a satisfactory
rendering of his pieces, &c., under comfortable conditions, he is reasonably
certain to give an unsatisfactory one in the examination room.
To be continued