ASTACAP Educational Benefits
By Clarisse Atcherson
This year more of my students participated in ASTACAP, and all of them learned a lot from the experience! I encouraged participation by mentioning that passing Level 10 can be used on college entrance applications, since ASTACAP is a nationally recognized standard of excellence. The exam was by videos submitted online, so students learned more about making recordings, too. As a teacher, I appreciated that scales and etudes were specified as part of the exam, which reinforced their importance. Too often, students focus on repertoire without realizing how much of their development comes from technical studies. Special recognition was also given for those students that played from memory.
Making video recordings was an education by itself. Students learned to self-evaluate, and the value of preparing farther in advance. They also learned to follow instructions about how to make the recordings, with camera placement, body angle, order of repertoire, and metronome speeds.
There were several adjudicators, and they all offered lots of positive comments and helpful suggestions. The positive comments showed that the adjudicator recognized the hard work that the student had already done, and that was wonderful. The suggestions were specific about a wide range of issues—bow stroke, left hand technique, posture, and musicality. The suggestions were clear and detailed, which helped the students to continue to make progress after the exam was over. I enjoyed learning a few new ways to talk about technique and musicality from the adjudicators. I was also happy to see the recommendation to practice slowly and carefully! Learning how to practice effectively is a long-term project!
Next year ASTACAP will probably be in person again, but I will still encourage my students to make recordings as part of the educational process. My students were happy when they achieved each level, and they plan to apply again.