SOPP640: There can be no doubt that the sight-reading course helped me particularly with issues of rhythm which I always found a weak point so I am grateful for that indeed
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
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V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
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V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 640 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Pieter, and he writes,:
Thank you for sending me the extra exercise supplementary to the sight reading course. I appreciate that very much. Firstly let me apologise for my late response after finishing the course. It has been rather busy with various things.
You may recall that when I first approached you asking your advice my goal to improve my sightreading skills was very much focussed on obtaining the CRCO (Colleague of the Royal College of Organists) diploma. I had already achieved credits for the paperwork and repertoire but not the musicianship tests. I am pleased to tell you that I achieved the last part of the qualification in the summer session and I therefore now have my CRCO qualification! I was really delighted to achieve this as it was a real challenge for me but after a lot of work, my efforts paid off!
There can be no doubt that the sightreading course helped me particularly with issues of rhythm which I always found a weak point so I am grateful for that indeed. Although transposition was something I found slightly less challenging, this is also a sort of sightreading so I am sure the course helped me there too!
I think I am done with organ diplomas so I will concentrate on learning repertoire now and just enjoying playing the instrument that I love but I have to say that my all round musicianship skills have improved through the experience of preparing for a challenging qualification and that has to help my playing in the general sense.
You would like to have some feedback about the course and I am very happy to give that.
Firstly I would say that the course is excellent and I can well imagine that a lot of effort went into preparing it. I like the graded approach, each week new challenges being added. I thought that was better than anything else I had seen elsewhere.
There was a slight problem with downloading the latter material and this was a little frustrating as it had been so easy up until that point. I am not sure what the problem was or indeed if it had something to do with my computer but anyway I found a way around it in the end.
I think that many people wishing to do the sightreading course (and this probably applies to the other musicianship courses you offer) will be aiming to gain an organ qualification. There is a captive audience out there as for the RCO exams and also probably for the AGO exams as well, there is limited graded material available.
Most people studying for RCO diplomas are constantly searching for materials to help them achieve success and that isn't always easy.
It is worth noting that if one looks at past papers of test material used, it is almost always a section of music from the German romantic repertoire e.g. Merkel etc. At CRCO level they are also looking for competency in the use of the swell pedal and manual changes. Stop changes are not required at this level but certainly would be at ARCO level. Although the baroque repertoire has much to offer it might be a good idea to further the development of exercises to include later romantic organ music where organ management issues are so important and definitely crucial to success in this test. I think that if this were to be available many candidates would be interested in signing up for your course! I would certainly recommend it under those circumstances!
I realise that not everyone wants to improve musicianship skills to pass an exam but the fact of the matter is that these things are part of many organists trajectory and I think there is a real opportunity here for you should you have the inclination to do it. These diplomas are such a gold standard for many and they are very challenging and not easy to acquire as you no doubt know. I think there is a potential for you to develop this area if you so wished.
I hope these comments are helpful and once again, many thanks for your help.
I wish you and Ausra and successful and hopefully a more uplifting 2021.
Vidas: So Ausra, as you understand, Pieter took my “Organ Sight-Reading Master Course” and gave feedback, because he passed the “Colleague of Royal College of Organists” Diploma, which is very exciting.
Ausra: Yes! Congratulations Pieter! We are very glad you made this achievement!
Vidas: And of course, this course is a long course. It has 40 weeks of training plus 7 weeks of bonus material. Not everyone who starts this course ever finishes it.
Ausra: Yes, I implied that.
Vidas: And Pieter is one of them who did finish, so it’s really exciting.
Ausra: And it’s a really nice feedback. Thank you Pieter.
Vidas: I’m not sure what the problem with the download was, but I noticed that at some point my courses suffered downloading issues. Maybe that was the browser issue. But it sort of was a short problem—maybe after a few days it disappeared by itself—so it wasn’t probably Pieter’s fault or my fault, it wasn’t even his computer’s fault. It might have been his browser’s fault, like Google Chrome. Something happened with Chrome at that point, and you can’t load things. That was at least my case when I looked. But I’m glad that it was solved in the end.
Ausra: Yes, all those technical issues can give people a hard time.
Vidas: And a real headache. Obviously, one suggestion sticks out in this feedback, which is to supplement this course with materials suitable for Romantic music—legato technique. What do you think about it?
Ausra: Yes, I think that’s a good idea. Of course you include some things in this material as well.
Vidas: At the end of the course, starting from week 41, I think. We have 7 weeks of bonus materials where I provide sight-reading exercises taken from 30 short Reger’s Chorale Preludes all opus 135a. And these pieces are at first mastered or presented in single line, like right-hand, left-hand, pedals, and then two part texture, and then finally we have three part texture. So it’s kind of a shorter section in the entire course, but it’s still present. Obviously, we might need another course, because it’s already a long course. Right? To require people to do 20 or 30 or 40 weeks plus in addition to this course, it would be too much. Probably we would need another level just for legato playing for Romantic music. Don’t you think?
Ausra: Yes, that’s what I thought, too. It would be nice to have a…
Vidas: Separate course…
Ausra: ...Separate course.
Vidas: And obviously, in this course would be issues like registration changes, swell pedal, crescendo pedal… right? Ideally, that would be a video course, where I could demonstrate how it’s done each exercise, and people would get a video in addition to the PDF score. Yeah, that would be really helpful, because people really take those exams seriously and try to improve. Tests, written tests, the written portion of tests are much easier. Theoretical, right?
Vidas: And practical exercises are always a bummer.
Ausra: Yes, and it’s interesting that even people with university degrees and advanced degrees like having Masters or even Doctorate degrees sometimes take these exams, too. And I know some people who did that.
Vidas: Which means that the general musicianship for Master level graduates are not always equal to their theoretical achievements.
Ausra: Would you like, for example, to take FAGO?
Vidas: FAGO? In order for me to take any course, I would need to see what is the benefit for me. What is the return on my investment? Because obviously, those tests or exams cost money. Right? And sometimes not even a small amount of money, sometimes a considerable amount of money. Usually, the higher the test, the more difficult the test, the more money you have to pay.
Ausra: I’m just kidding, of course, because you have a DMA already, which is equivalent of FAGO.
Vidas: Yes, you know there is one test which is not equivalent to AGO, which is Trinity College, this exam in London. Trinity College London, so TCL. Remember, James Flores took LTCL, and now they have the highest level FTCL, which is Fellow of this college. Basically, it’s a recitalist diploma probably, but at the highest level. It’s probably very expensive to take, right?
Ausra: Yes, I guess so.
Vidas: So I’m not sure if it’s worth it. I’m still playing recitals. Last year I played 20 recitals, so nobody is stopping to play recitals. Right? Even if I haven’t passed this test yet, or ever will take this test. So, people sometimes create artificial boundaries for themselves and think that this external validation with change some things. It’s good if you present this diploma or a test from AGO or RCO to your employer and ask for a raise.
Ausra: Ha Ha… do you think in my case it would help? In my job?
Vidas: What is your job?
Ausra: Teaching music theory.
Vidas: Teaching music theory… you know, it’s not a private institution, therefore those additional diplomas don’t matter. It’s a public institution, and public rules state that your salary is as high as it can be, and it will be raised whenever everyone is raising. It’s a public institution. But if it were a private institution, yes! You could go to your employer and say, “here, I got this diploma, please give me a raise.”
Ausra: Maybe in my next life or in my dreams.
Vidas: So like in the church, if you work at church and you have an organist position or a music director position, yes. You could approach your clergy and say, “give me a raise.”
Ausra: But then they might just kick you out of the church and hire somebody cheaper. Don’t you think so? At least in Lithuania.
Vidas: Yes, and that would prove that you don’t belong there. You belong to a better place. So, yeah, it’s tricky to get the raise in places where people don’t appreciate what you do. Don’t appreciate enough what you do. Right? When you are replaceable. So the solution is always to be irreplaceable. Right?
Ausra: Sure, but I think everybody is replaceable.
Vidas: In those institutions, yes. Yes. Kind of a difficult topic, obviously, because we can’t change the system. But again, we are very happy for Pieter, who has taken our course and given this excellent feedback. Thank you so much Pieter,
Ausra: Thank you very much!
Vidas: This was Vidas,
Ausra: And Ausra!
Vidas: Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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