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Top marks for ARSM diploma

4 years ago
Lucy North

Lucy North

Lucy is Content Producer at ABRSM looking after the blog, our online magazine, Libretto, and a range of other written materials and resources. She has a musical background and studied the piano at the Royal Academy of Music. When not writing, commissioning and editing for ABRSM, Lucy enjoys spending time with her two young boys, baking and exploring the Essex countryside.
At the end of 2017, 17-year-old flautist Alvin Peng took our ARSM diploma in New Zealand and was awarded full marks – 50 out of 50! Alvin was the first candidate in the world to receive this mark for an ARSM exam. We find out more from this remarkable young musician and his teacher, Grace Liu.
The student’s story: Alvin
At the beginning of each year, my teacher – or mentor – Grace develops a teaching plan for every one of her students. Following her plan, I successfully achieved Grade 8 with Distinction in June 2017. She then encouraged me to take an ARSM. 
Grace introduced me to a list of possible pieces, analysing the age and style of each work and the skills needed. I found some techniques extremely challenging. Grace was a great help in finding me specific pieces to practise certain skills. With my teacher’s help and my perseverance, all those difficult points became smooth to play, one by one.
In the last stage of practising, my piano teacher spent a lot of time accompanying me. She showed huge patience in solving many problems in my playing. I am very grateful to all my teachers for their help. I truly was overwhelmed by the full marks awarded to me in my ARSM, which inspired me to work harder in my flute studies. It’s through ABRSM that I experienced the beauty of classical music – I grew up from a little flute boy into a young lover of classical music.
The teacher’s story: Grace
I was intrigued at the idea of the new ARSM exams. ARSM fits perfectly between Grade 8 and the DipABRSM. In preparation for the exam, Alvin and I had a lot of discussions during lessons about building the right repertoire. It gave us the opportunity to explore different music and gave a young student like Alvin the chance to think about picking pieces not just to pass an exam. 
Every month, Alvin joined an advanced flute performance class in the school with other students of similar levels. They worked together and got feedback from each other and their teachers, which helped to build musicianship. Another thing he did every month in preparation for ARSM was to have accompaniment sessions with a piano teacher. We focused a lot on the heart of the music and repertoire.
ARSM has given Alvin confidence in his musicianship and in taking his next ABRSM diploma exams – and achieving great results. 

ARSM is a performance-only diploma that bridges the gap between Grade 8 and DipABRSM. It's an opportunity to perform a 30-minute programme where you're assessed on your musical communication skills, interpretation and technical delivery. There are no written or spoken elements, and no scales, sight-reading or aural tests. Learn more.



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