Practicing an instrument–in my case the piano–tends to be a process that is constantly changing. But just like any type of learning, it is good to have some semblance of structure. This is why the Certificate of Merit program was so valuable for me. As outlined in my artifact, an informational pamphlet about the program, the CM is for students of piano, voice, strings, and woodwinds and is “designed for progress at the rate of one level a year.” Students are tested at their specific level in sight-reading, technique, ear training, theory, and performance of four pieces, one for each musical era.
The CM program kept me honest and engaged with learning the piano every year and throughout each year. It focused my attention in a more purposeful way than any class I took in high school. The reason for this is that each of the five categories is designed to force you to learn a specific set of musical skills. Each year that I studied the CM repertoire, I made substantial and exact progress on each category. By the time I finished all 10 levels, I was not only advanced at playing the piano, but advanced in my musical knowledge and ability to learn a lot about a piece by listening to it, among other things. Kind of like Mike Rose believes that our education system should be worked on alongside other programs, the CM is clearly structured to teach budding musicians that there is way more to learn than just performing a piece.
The ways in which the CM focused my attention were, without a doubt, incredibly useful to my progression as a pianist. If there was anything that was missing, it would be one more category that somehow focused attention on the creative aspect of piano playing. I don’t exactly know how this could be accomplished, considering the nature of the CM program. Maybe there could be some sort of on-the-spot test on the day of the examination in which the adjudicator surprised the student with a few different challenges that would bring out the creative side of piano playing. This would be difficult to figure out, though, and overall, the CM did an amazing job of providing me with a structure to learn the piano.