The Music Certificate Program has long been an important part of the Preparatory’s music curriculum. It was developed to provide incentives for students who are motivated, practice regularly, and who have an interest in performing and acquiring a comprehensive music education. Through the program’s two core components—individual instruction (private lessons) and music theory classes—students develop skills that improve not only their playing, but also their ability to listen and communicate music effectively.

Beyond individual instruction and theory classes, students in the Certificate Program must also participate in performance exams. Given at the conclusion of each semester, performance exams—sometimes called “juries”—test the technique and repertoire studied in private lessons.

Getting Started

There is no enrollment form or fee for the Preparatory’s Music Certificate Program. Instead, students are enrolled automatically the first time their teacher signs them up to take an exam. Parents should discuss their interest in having their child participate in the Music Certificate Program with the student’s instructor. Beyond that initial discussion, it is advisable that parents trust the teacher to make decisions about repertoire and the best time for the student to take the exam.

Is the Music Certificate Program Right for my Child?

Here are some general guidelines to help determine if a student should participate in the program:

  • Students who practice diligently and find music to be an important component of their daily lives will probably enjoy participating in this program.
  • Students who benefit from the added motivation of receiving an award or printed recognition of their accomplishments tend to flourish in this program.
  • Students who enjoy setting and reaching goals enjoy the Music Certificate Program.
  • Students who are interested in pursuing music in college should strongly consider participation in this program.

Students who usually do not thrive in the program can be described as follows:

  • Students who need to set their own pace.
  • Students who find performing for an exam committee too stressful.
  • Students who tend to be overly critical of themselves.
  • Students who are so busy with other activities and school work that music practice does not occur almost daily.
  • Students who are changing technique or moving from one instructor to another need to gain security in their new situation before considering the Music Certificate Program.

Certificate Levels

There are three levels in the Music Certificate Program: Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced/Pre-Conservatory. Within each level, there are as many as three sub-levels (depending on the instrument studied). Sub-levels exist to provide students with a gradual way of building to the culminating exam at each of the major levels. It is not required that students take every sub-level exam offered. However, in order to receive a certificate at each of the three culminating levels, the student must pass the culminating exam with a grade of 80% or higher and have completed the required theory classes.

More About Exams

Performance exams require students to prepare a combination of technical exercises and repertoire. Sight-reading is usually required as well (except for voice students). Teachers have copies of the requirements for each exam and will prepare students for what is expected well in advance.

For the exam itself, a jury of two to four faculty members will be present to listen and each will give a numerical score and comments for each element performed. The scores are then averaged to form a grade for each element and finally for the exam as a whole.

Exam Grading

A minimum average of 80% must be achieved to receive a passing grade for each element of the exam. Every requirement on the exam must be passed before a grade for the entire exam is given.

The minimum standard for passing a performance exam is high because music is a discipline that progressively builds upon itself. It is not enough for students to simply learn the material, but instead, they must master it.

Music Theory Requirements

Music theory classes are designed to complement individual instruction by teaching concepts that are complimentary to those taught in the private lessons. Courses are organized for students at varying ages and ability levels. To see the current listing of theory courses and how they fulfill the certificate program requirements, please visit the Theory Department registration webpage.

Theory Requirements for Each Certificate Level

Elementary Certificate Requirements

Completion of any course(s) from any Elementary or higher level Music Theory course(s) that fulfill a total of one full theory requirement (theory fulfillments indicated within the course description on the registration website), any year-long YPSP group class (strings students only), or the year-long Chopin Musicianship for Pianists class (piano students only).

Example: YPSP course OR Ear Training 1 = one full theory requirements.

Intermediate Certificate Requirements

When combined with the previous elementary theory requirement, completion of any Intermediate or higher level Music Theory course(s) that fulfill one full intermediate theory requirement, or two full theory requirements total (theory fulfillments indicated within the course description on the registration website).

Example: YPSP course + Ear Training 2 = two full theory requirements.

Advanced/Pre-Conservatory Certificate Requirements

When combined with the previous elementary and intermediate theory requirements, completion of any advanced Music Theory course(s) that fulfill one full advanced theory requirement, or three full theory requirements total (theory fulfillments indicated within the course description on the registration website).

Example: YPSP course + Ear Training 2 + AP Music Theory = three full theory requirements.

What Does Receiving a Certificate Mean and When Does it Happen?

Receiving a Certificate is recognition for the time and effort students put into earning it. While it is not a diploma or degree, it is significant as the skills and discipline learned during exam preparation and theory classes stay with students long after they have left the Preparatory.

Each school year culminates with an Awards Ceremony in June to celebrate student accomplishments. Students who have successfully completed the requirements for one of the culminating certificate levels are invited to the ceremony where they receive their award from the Director of the Preparatory.