We are often asked what steps student musicians should take after performing in informal and formal recitals. We are also asked if there are steps students considering majoring or minoring in music should take before their collegiate auditions. The American College of Musicians Piano Guild, Royal Conservatory of Music, and Associated Board of Royal Schools of Music are three of the most popular music examination programs that offer students graded levels of music theory and performance exams worldwide. While all three programs share similar goals of promoting music education and nurturing musical talent, they have some key differences.
1. Piano Guild: Piano Guild is a music examination program focusing solely on piano performance. The American College of Musicians runs it and has been operating since 1929. Piano Guild offers graded levels of piano performance exams to students of all ages and levels of experience, from beginner to advanced. The exams are held annually and are judged by certified examiners who provide written feedback and comments on the student's performance. The students typically memorize their pieces and must perform the coordinating memorized scales and chord cadences for each piece. Students and instructors can select pieces from any method or repertoire book. Students may opt to be graded on skills such as sight reading, ear training, scales, and arpeggios. Each piano teacher must be a member of the American College of Musicians to register students. There is no studio or school membership for Guild. Piano Guild auditions occur at a local school or studio in the spring or early summer. (Renee Bordner is the Sudbury Chairperson and hosts the auditions for all Boston MetroWest studios at her studio in her home). Piano Guild is particularly popular in the United States.
2. Royal Conservatory of Music: The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) is a Canadian music education organization that offers graded levels of music theory and performance exams in various instruments, including piano, violin, voice, and guitar. The RCM has operated since 1886 and is one of Canada's oldest and most respected music institutions. The exams are held annually, and students are graded based on their performance and understanding of music theory. RCM does not require instructors to be members for students to participate, and our studio is a participating studio. Students must perform pieces from the current year's edition of RCM books. RCM exams are offered at different times throughout the year. The RCM also offers teacher training programs and a comprehensive music curriculum for students of all ages.
3. Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music: The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) is a British-based music education organization that offers graded levels of music theory and performance exams in various instruments, including piano, strings, woodwinds, and brass. The ABRSM has operated since 1889 and is one of the world's most respected and widely recognized music institutions. The exams are held annually and are graded by certified examiners based on the student's performance and understanding of music theory. Students are NOT required to memorize their pieces and must perform pieces from the current edition of the ABRSM books. The ABRSM also offers teacher training programs and a comprehensive music curriculum for students of all ages.
In summary, while all three organizations are committed to promoting music education and nurturing musical talent, their focus and geographical scope differ. Piano Guild is focused solely on piano performance and is popular in the United States. In contrast, RCM and ABRSM offer graded levels of theory and performance exams in various instruments and are prevalent in Canada and the UK, respectively.
To learn more about the Piano Guild, we have more information here.