This past week, many of our students took the state theory test which is held at SMU every fall and spring. Students prepare for this test for months before: learning new theory concepts, filling out their “Just The Facts” workbook modeled after the theory test, and taking practice tests. Students who receive a 90 percent or higher get a medal. It’s a big deal, but why take it? Why is it important?
Taking this test at SMU is kinda cool for the kids; it gives them a sense of ownership, and an opportunity to be with other musicians their age outside of the studio. It’s the “social” part of taking private lessons, especially if you do not take lessons at a studio space. The social part is something that helps them stay motivated- it’s one of the things that kept me going as a young musician! I met a lot of my friends at that test: we bonded over the difficulty of the test as we got older. We studied together, complained together, and celebrated together! Since this is the standardized theory test for all students in the state of Texas, it also helps the student make sure that they know all of the concepts that typically a student their age or grade level should know. It also helps the teacher really see what the student understands, and what concepts need a little extra attention in lessons. No matter what grade they receive, the theory test is a helpful tool to evaluate theory knowledge each year.
As educators, we believe that learning to play and sing music is important, but the written part of it is just as important but sometimes forgotten. From the very first lesson, we are teaching children how to draw notes and rests and clap rhythms. Then we begin building on that knowledge, and before you know it we are working on key signatures and eventually primary triads! It goes fast!
These are all important concepts in learning music. In the early years, it’s great to have on a resume and to show how well rounded your child is! For the older kids, even for those not completely devoted to making a career in music, following through with music theory can have its benefits, like becoming more of an independent learner (and testing out of music in college, ha!