Piano Proficiency

The piano proficiency examination is given to all music majors, including piano majors. (Organ majors are exempt providing they achieve a passing grade in Service Playing (MUSC 342A).) Students must pass the piano proficiency exam to graduate. Recognizing that not all fine musicians are going to be accomplished performance pianists, the purpose of the proficiency is to ensure that each student has the skills to use the piano as a functional tool. Since musicians work with choirs, instrumentalists, and accompanists, among others, each student must gain proficiency in basic sight reading, clef reading, simple harmonization, and transposition at the keyboard.

The goal of the piano faculty is to enrich and foster an understanding of piano skills and techniques so that each musician is competent in using the keyboard as a supplement to the major instrument or voice.

The music department recommends that students take Piano Secondary (MUSC 114) to prepare for the exam, which should be taken at the end of the sophomore year and no later than the junior year. Students may consult individually with a member of the keyboard faculty for an assessment of their current skill level. Upon first taking of the proficiency, students must take all aspects of the exam. If a student does not pass the repertoire component, new repertoire is required on a subsequent exam. The piano proficiency exam is administered by the keyboard faculty at the end of each semester and includes:

  1. One or two memorized pieces at the student's own level of advancement thereby demonstrating facility and musical understanding of the keyboard. Piano majors may use jury repertoire to satisfy this component of the proficiency. For students not majoring in piano, minimum repertoire requirements can include works of Bach, the Anna Magdalena Notebook, and the easier pieces of Haydn, Mozart, Schumann, Burgmüller, Kabalevsky, and Bartok.
  2. Sight reading – four-part hymn (minimum tempo, eighth note = 60 or quarter note = 30).
  3. Playing a simple melody in alto or tenor clef.
  4. Harmonization of a simple melody with I, IV, or V 7 chords.
  5. Transposition of a simple melody and harmony up or down a whole step from the original key.