For the musician looking to further their studies after Grade 8 Performance Diplomas offer a pathway to fully accredited professional qualifications, recognised by other musicians and music professionals around the world. A diploma, even at the lowest Associate level, is significantly more involved than Grade 8, requiring a high degree of attainment, combined with a professional attitude to preparation and practising, communication, musicality, presentation and stagecraft.
Trinity College London (TCL) has recently updated its Diploma syllabus, with a revised repertoire list and some changes to the assessment framework. Unlike the ABRSM and LCM Diplomas, there are no pre-requisites for Trinity’s Associate and Licentiate diplomas, which means candidates need not have taken Grade 8 to apply. This flexible approach makes Trinity’s diplomas appealing to those candidates who may not have taken all the grade exams, but who relish the challenge of preparing for a performance diploma.
TCL’s Performance Diplomas are just that – a performance, which carries a maximum of 96% of marks (previously 90%), with 4% of marks allocated to presentation skills (previously 10%). This marking structure which puts performance front and centre of the assessment process clearly differentiates the TCL Diplomas from those offered by the ABRSM where only 60% of marks are actually allocated to the performance element. Candidates receive detailed feedback in the form of a written report on their performance, highlighting areas such as fluency and accuracy, technical assurance and application, and musical sense and communication. Based on my own experience of taking all three TCL performance diplomas, I feel the format of the exam offers candidates the best preparation for performing in public.
Apart from the changes to the marking scheme, the repertoire lists have been slightly updated, and it’s good to see the inclusion of more works by female composers, including Louise Farrenc, Amy Beach, Lili Boulanger, and Jean Coulthard. The repertoire lists for the Associate, Licentiate and Fellowship diplomas have not changed significantly from the current syllabus, with popular piano sonatas by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert remaining, together with selections from Bach’s WTC, the Partitas, Chopin’s Etudes etc., and thus offering candidates plenty of cope to create an interesting and varied programme to demonstrate their strengths. As before, candidates also have the option of submitting a programme which includes some own-choice repertoire or a programme consisting entirely of own-choice repertoire. Such programmes must be submitted for approval in good time prior to the diploma recital.
The comprehensive guidance notes on the new syllabus provide plenty of useful information about the structure of the diploma exam, learning outcomes, the marking scheme and how marks are allocated, programme notes and stagecraft. I always advise prospective diploma candidates to read these notes/regulations very carefully: overlooking important details such as programme timings or the dress code can lose one valuable “easy marks”.
Alongside the updated syllabus, TCL has put together some useful resources for diploma candidates to support their preparation and learning. These include making the progression from grade exams to diplomas and advice on planning a programme.
Overall I feel the update to the TCL piano diploma syllabus is a good one. I must admit to a certain bias as I have taken all three TCL performance diplomas and found the experience extremely positive and very useful in my development as both a pianist and teacher.
The new syllabus is valid from 1 August 2019 and there is no syllabus overlap period.
For full details, reportoire lists and diploma resources, please visit the Trinity College of Music website
Performance Diplomas- changes from the 2009 syllabus
Why take a performance diploma?