LONDON COLLEGE OF MUSIC EXAMINATIONS
By Professor. John Howard, BA, PhD, FLCM.
JULY 9, 2017
London College of Music Examinations, founded in 1887, can look back to the 1890’s for the beginning of its involvement with Asia, and the region continues to be a highly important one for the development of the examinations. They are offered in every major country in the region, with many exams taken in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, India, Hong Kong, Macau, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Japan, South Korea and increasingly in China.
The strengths of LCME include the breadth of subjects offered (music, drama and spoken English, plus the development of media qualifications), with many musical styles being featured equally (classical, pop, jazz and a number of traditional music qualifications), and the fact that all awards are made by a university, The University of West London, of which, uniquely amongst graded exam boards, LCME is a fully integrated department.
If you add OFQUAL accreditation from the UK government to the university status, you have an examination board with powerful credentials and secure quality assurance.
A further unique feature is the ability of the exam board to interface with the rest of the London College of Music, in particular the music department, so that any candidates who wish to pursue degree level study in London can be given a fast-track to opportunity; one example is that anyone with a Grade 8 UWL/LCME performance qualification is exempted from any audition for BMus entry at UWL. Diploma level qualifications are given credit within the BMus and MMus degrees.
Every year, LCME/UWL holds a major graduation event in Asia, mainly for candidates successful in acquiring diplomas, their families, and all local representatives. The 2016 graduation in Kuala Lumpur featured more than 300 diplomates.
The examination board depends highly on its local representatives, who run exam centres in many different places across Asia. They are united in the strength and enthusiasm of their efforts, assisting many musicians and facilitating the smooth organisation of the exam sessions. Indeed, the whole operation is a team effort, rather than something imposed on Asia from London.
LCME prides itself on being an innovative and responsive organisation, as a result producing new kinds of assessments and qualifications. In general, the exam board places great value on traditional musical styles, offering assessments in Irish and Scottish traditional music.
We do not regard all different musical styles as being hierarchical; classical, jazz, popular, or traditional, all are of equal importance. Our ensemble assessments, six levels, are a good example: no fixed instrumentation or musical style, and no fixed repertoire, so that the assessment reflects the make-up and nature of the ensemble, rather than being imposed by the exam board. Even numbers of musicians are flexible, ranging from two up to any number. Many Asian ensembles, such as choirs, symphonic bands, Chinese orchestras and rock bands, are finding these qualifications very valuable. The music drives the assessment, not the reverse.
Our four levels of conducting diplomas are also making a significant contribution to music education in Asia, particularly with music directors of bands, choirs and Chinese orchestras. Again, any kind and size of ensemble is appropriate for a conducting diploma.
Another example of innovation are our Music Teaching Diplomas for early childhood music teachers, pioneered in partnership with Seimpi Academy in Singapore, and offered first in Singapore and Malaysia.
The kindergarten sector is very important to us, and we make the awards for the Stave House system of music learning for young children. There are four levels of award, and this is also innovative in using locally based teachers as trained assessors. There is also a special teaching diploma for Stave House. We offer our more general early learning qualifications, for 3-6 year olds, via many kindergarten organisations in Asia.
Another of the challenges for a British examination board in Asia is that of language: obviously, we deal with many people whose first language is not English, and in some cases, whose fluency in English is a challenge. One response has been to offer music theory examinations in Chinese, and we are also currently translating all our syllabuses and lists of repertoire into written Chinese.
Within our drama qualifications, we offer students an option to perform one of their pieces from literature in their own local language, and this has become increasingly popular in such countries as Sri Lanka and India. In addition, a current major initiative is to produce oral qualifications in Spoken English as a second language, and these are becoming increasing popular.
The colonial image and style of the past, which existed when the London College of Music was founded, is no longer part of our thinking. We are a British-based organisation with international scope. Within that context, Asia is a centrally important partner in our mission to offer significant opportunities to students of all ages. We continue to be responsive, friendly and approachable, and to engage in dialogue with all of those with whom we work.
Our purpose-designed website contains lots of detailed: www.LCME.uwl.ac.uk.