The piano proficiency examination is given to all music majors who are not piano majors and must be passed before the student is allowed to graduate, preferably by the end of the sophomore year. Recognizing the fact that all fine musicians are not excellent pianists, the purpose of the proficiency is to insure that each student possesses basic keyboard skills and knowledge, enabling him/her to use the keyboard as a functional tool. Since music educators are asked to work with accompanists, each must gain proficiency in score preparation and each will often find a necessity to transpose or harmonize at the keyboard.
The examination is an evaluation of the minimum competence requirement of keyboard skills. It does not necessarily measure the student's total comprehension of keyboard techniques, which is constantly stressed in the studio lesson, working in various ensembles and with the student's own accompanist. An excellent conductor must have technical understanding of all instruments comprising his/her ensemble, but may not be able to demonstrate advanced technical skill on each. The choral director must have a proficient knowledge of the voice, but would not be skillful in demonstrating all voice parts to the choir.
The goal of the piano staff is to enrich and foster an understanding of advanced techniques so each musician may feel competent to use the keyboard as a supplement to the major instrument or voice.
The examination should be taken no later than the junior year. It is administered by the piano faculty during juries and includes the following:
- One or two memorized pieces at the student's own level of advancement thereby demonstrating facility and musical understanding of the keyboard.
- Sight reading, generally a four part hymn.
- Playing a simple melody in alto or tenor clef.
- Harmonization of a simple melody with I, IV, or V7 chords. ("Twinkle, Twinkle", "Happy Birthday")
- Transposition of a simple melody and harmony to any given key.