Published on Thursday, 14 January 2010 19:31
Written by Bruce Gale
Medan Band (Brass Band Jenderal - BBJ) members take two types of music exams.
This is actually a membership examination. Passing this exam gives learners the right to become full members. Membership is highly prized because it gives members the right to participate fully in all band activities - including concerts, tours and any other functions organised for the band by BBJ's supporters. Members are also given a distinctive uniform and badge to wear at no charge to themselves. Boys Home residents are given these at no charge.
There are also music examinations (theory and practical) for those wishing to join the junior band. In early July 2011, 17 learners were tested to see if they qualified to enter the junior band.
The junior band practical exam involved:
1. Playing three technical exercises in the Salvation Army's "Studies for Band Training" (Album 32). Ex. 1, 3 & 7.
2. Holding a long note in the middle range of their chosen instrument (concert F or concert B-flat) for 10 seconds without wavering in pitch. This was tested with an electronic tuner.
3. Playing the music for their chosen instrument (cornet, alto horn, baritone, etc) for the following numbers in the Salvation Army's band tune book: 16, 199, and 364.
4. Scales in the following major keys: C, G, D, F, B-flat, E-flat, A-flat.
The junior band theory exam involved
1. Ability to name all the notes on the treble clef and give the correct figuring or slide positions for each.
2. Ability to identify and explain the meaning of the following: time signature (4/4, 3/4, 2/4. 6/8), key signature, note names and values (crotchet, minim, quaver, semibreve)
3. Explain the meaning of: pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff, as well as cresc, diminuendo.
All were tested one by one (ABRSM style) by three judges - myself, Danias (BBJ bandmaster) and Dedi (band trainer).
Here is a picture of how we did it
The photograph was taken at BBJ's music studio at the Boys Home. You can read about how we prepared this studio back in 2008 by clicking here.
In 2009, for the first time in the band's 23-year history, 25 band members sat for practical examinations set by the London-based Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM). They entered the examination under ABRSM's ensemble programme, forming themselves in 5 brass quintets. Three quintets entered at the primary level (about grade 4-5) and two entered at the intermediate level (grades 6-7).
The examiner's comments are now being used to identify weaknesses the entire band will work on.
The quintet format was chosen because (1) it was much cheaper than entering individually, and (2) it avoided the many problems associated with fact that the exams were held in English by British-based examiners.
The results were very encouraging. Of the three primary level quintets, two got merit and the third was awarded a pass. The two intermediate level quintets each gained a merit. The examiner's written comments are now being used to identify weakenesses that the entire band will work on.
After the certificates arrived, band members took a special photograph to mark the occasion. Danias Karosekali (bandmaster) is in the centre, together with Major Dalentang, home superintendent and corps officer at the time.
In 2010 eight band members entered grade 4 and 5 practical examinations in cornet, alto horn, euphonium, tuba and piano. All passed. Three passed with merit and one was awarded a distinction.
Two members also sat for ABRSM theory examinations in early 2011, one at grade five level and one at grade 3. Erjoin Marbun passed the grade 3 theory examination, while Lasnointer Marbun achieved a distinction in the grade 5 theory examination. Their achievement is all the greater because the examination paper was written in English - a language that neither one is very familiar with. I got them through the exam by drilling them on past exam papers and getting them to memorise the format of the standardised English language questions.