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Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH
deals with Disgusted of Greater London

Dear Alice,
Where is your (^%*)(_))+_****""$$ column???
Keithie Baby

Dear K B,
Sorry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! To be honest, I don't know where this week went. This is all I could find in the questions pile:

Dear Alice,

I am admittedly a young and rather inexperienced string teacher, but I was still appalled yesterday when one of my pupils recently came out of a performance exam (Grade 4 -- or, as they put it pompously, IV) saying that the youngish male examiner (a) asked them the wrong scales (b) didn't give them two seconds before commencing the sight-reading (they are meant to have time to try a short section of it) and even (I still can't believe this) stopped in the middle of the exam in order to take a mobile phone call (must admit the pupil said he hadn't heard the phone ring, probably on silent mode). After he'd spoken to whoever it was, the exam went on.

I haven't gotten the result, of course, but what is your opinion?
Disgusted of Greater London

Dear Disgusted,

Of course you're disgusted, and who could blame you???

This is pretty horrific. Reminds me of an examiner of a (rather beautiful, twenty-something, blonde) pupil of mine, who put her off completely by staring at her legs throughout the entire exam.

My first reaction was, ring up (whichever exam board it was) and give them hell.

My second was (what a cynic) to wait until you get the exam result before doing so.

The fact is, some of the examiners are pathetic or failed musicians, who give stingy gradings out of spite, and some (the mobile phone might suggest this is what you're dealing with) are on-the-way-up hotshots who lack interest in the whole business, and are only desperate to land their next session/tour/escape route from examining/whatever.

The would not be the first time an examiner forgot which scales went with which level of performance -- and you have a genuine grievance there (as well as with the phone situation, of course). The sight-reading is trickier, as your pupil may have daydreamed for the thirty seconds or so instead of concentrating on the sight-reading. (It would still be worth mentioning of course, when you complain, as I hope you will.)

The reason I suggest you wait is because there will probably be more evidence in the mark (or in the comments) that you can use. A mark cannot be changed retrospectively, in any case, just because you're blowing the whistle on an incompetent. Some people think that, if you complain about an examiner, the next one you get, in sheer solidarity, will mark your pupils down. This is not my experience. I have complained twice, and both times been rewarded with examiners who have bent over backwards to be both friendly and supportive of my pupils (they are mostly very friendly anyway, I think: it's pretty rare to get a dire one.)

I suspect that the mobile phone call might be lied about (I wonder if the pre-diluvien Rules for Examiners even MENTIONS mobile phones ... ?) My suspicion is that it was about work (for the examiner) and he will vow till the cows come home that his wife/child/dog was taken suddenly ill. I would pin my objections to the mast on the basis that the guy was so uninterested in his examining that he asked for the wrong scales, and see what happens.

Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask Alice


Fine old English cello by Robert Thompson, whose original label it bears in the interior, dated 1756.

The back in two pieces of maple with flames of medium width descending slightly from the centre joint; the sides and scroll of similar wood; the table in two pieces of spruce with grain of medium width at the centre, broadening towards the flanks; the varnish of an amber-brown colour. At the time of stealing it was fitted with a Belgian bridge and had worn varnish on the left shoulder.

74.3cm in length of body, with widths of 35.8cm and 43.9cm.

May be found with a plain silverwork bow in pernambucco with no eye and makers-mark Hill. Also a plain baroque bow and a black carbon-fibre accord case.

If you have any information which may lead to the recovery of this instrument please contact Alice.

Please be on the lookout for this stolen cello ... please email all your friends. What could feel worse (except a stolen child) than having your cello stolen?
Little-known truth: Cellos have souls.

Ask Alice

hi alice,
have you seen these fake obituaries of andrew lloyd webber and nigel kennedy?
its good stuff!

Dear Aileen,
Thanks for this, which I hadn't seen. After suffering Phantom last December (my niece insisted) I was just in the mood!!!!!

Copyright © 1 April 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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