HomeEducationReview: Keep Calm and Pass Your Music Exam

Review: Keep Calm and Pass Your Music Exam


Written by Fiona Lau.

Stage fright, nerves, performance anxiety etc. used to be something that musicians did not discuss very often. A friend of mine once described talking about it in conservatoires as opening a can of worms. Once opened, we are all faced with a mass of wriggling squirminess that many would rather not see. However, most of us experience it at some point in our performing lives or in certain situations. While we may have developed some coping strategies, we would all appreciate more advice. So bravo to Tomlinson for addressing this important subject so effectively.

Renowned Oxford-based Performance Coach, Charlotte Tomlinson helps musicians realise their full potential. She has used her vast experience as a classical pianist and teacher of piano and chamber music to develop her approach. She runs online courses; takes master classes; and gives talks on the subject as well as being available for private consultations. More details are at charlottetomlinson.com.

Keep Calm And Pass Your ExamKeep Calm and Pass Your Music Exam is a pocket sized book with beautifully clear and apt original illustrations, written in an easy to read and digestible style, with guidance on:

  • How to use adrenaline to your advantage
  • Ideas for coping with your “inner critic”
  • Physical and mental strategies to support yourself
  • Suggestions on to practise effectively
  • Ways in which you can help to “nail” the exam

The first chapter, “Getting To Know Yourself”, explains how we are all different and that we have our own set of nervous symptoms. The book encourages us to recognise these symptoms and offers helpful advice on dealing with them and turning them to our advantage.
Tomlinson’s description of the Inner Critic is very recognisable. Her suggested strategies for rebuffing them are also practical and extremely empowering. Practising effectively is something we all need reminding of and there are many constructive ideas here all laid out with great clarity. “The Nailing The Exam” chapter is absolutely bursting with useful suggestions to help cope on the important day.
So who is the book suitable for? Every teacher should have it on their shelf. It offers invaluable advice which you can pass on to your pupils when appropriate. This is not just for exam situations. You can use this book for any performing situation: auditions; GCSE or A level music practicals; concerts; recitals; competitions or grade exams. You never know when a pupil will bring up the subject of performance nerves and, with this book, you”ll feel more confident about broaching the subject with your pupils. The language and the layout of the book also makes it a very accessible read for interested pupils aged 13+. And, at a mere £3.99, it is a bargain and a treasure trove of tremendously practical ideas and pearls of wisdom.



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