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Title: Assessing improvisation in graded music examinations : conflicting practices and perceptions
Author: Olsen, Patrick Garrett
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 4382
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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For a practice that has influenced the development of most of the musical techniques and compositional forms of Western music (Ferand, 1965, p.5), 'improvisation' is challenging to define. Recently, the graded music examinations offered by the two largest UK-based music examination boards, the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Trinity College London (TCL), have added options to assess improvisation within their instrumental curricula without clearly defining what they mean by 'improvisation' or how they assess it. This thesis argues that the lack of consistent definitions by the two leading examination boards results in a lack validity and meaning since it is unclear to examination stakeholders (music teachers, students, examiners and syllabus authors) exactly what is being assessed and how. This thesis investigates how 'improvisation' is defined, practiced, assessed and perceived within instrumental graded musical examinations. Evidence addressing the perspectives of the teaching-and-learning stakeholders is drawn from case-study observations and interviews of instrumental music lessons while candidates prepared for and completed an examination requiring improvisation. The perspectives of the examination board stakeholders are investigated through document analysis of the syllabuses, curricula and institutional websites of the examination boards in addition to interviews with examination board executives. The findings provide an initial investigation into an unexplored intersection of music education, improvisation and the business of graded examination boards. A clearer understanding emerges of the cultural and social practices of improvisation both inside and outside of the hegemony of graded examinations and the teaching-and- learning communities that support them. The findings of this thesis challenge the examination boards and bring more clarity to their assessment practices. and can help guide music teachers and students through the currently unclear landscape of improvisation in the ABRSM and TCL examinations.
Supervisor: Brindley, Sue Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: assessment ; music ; improvisation ; graded examinations ; Jazz ; jazz improvisation ; UK