The Washington State Music Teachers Association (WSMTA) Music Literacy Program is a valuable tool to support students in their growth as musicians in Washington State. Through a series of leveled exams, the program provides a structured system to measure progress, encourage comprehensive musicianship, and promote a thorough understanding of music.
If you would like to participate in this program, or if you have any questions about our piano lessons in Vancouver, WA, please don't hesitate to get in touch.
There are ten levels in the Music Literacy Program examinations, each containing six categories of skills that are evaluated. The categories are: Rhythm, Sight Reading, Technique, Applied Theory (playing intervals and chords on the keyboard), Written Theory, and Ear Training. Each level also contains a seventh category of optional skills and additional activities which may be selected by the teacher and student for evaluation when taking the exams, including, among others: a solo performance, ensemble performance, a composition, an improvisation, additional listening activities, and a written or artistic project. These exams and categories are non-competitive, and are intended to be a checkpoint for students as they advance through the ten levels of curricula. Here are some specifics about a few of the different exam categories.
The theory examination evaluates the student's understanding of music notation, scales, key signatures, chords, rhythm, and other essential components of music theory. To prepare, students will benefit from completing through music theory workbooks (like the Keith Snell: Fundamentals of Piano Theory volumes that we often assign in our studio), and practice identifying the musical concepts and structures they learn about in these workbooks in the pieces they are learning. The ability to see how composers use these concepts and structures in their music is an important application of music theory. Students won't simply be answering true and false questions; they will need to show that they have a dynamic understanding of music theory and how it applies to pieces of music that they haven't studied before. It's also beneficial to compose and analyze pieces of music as part of the learning process.
In this category of the exam, students may be asked to write out specific scales, chords, and intervals, identify key signatures, complete a harmonic analysis of a chorale, or answer questions about musical terminology.
In the ear training test, students are asked to identify rhythms, intervals, and chords by ear. Preparation should involve daily listening exercises that gradually increase in complexity. At Effinger Music Studio, we can help you practice for this exam - we will practice identifying steps, skips, major and minor keys, intervals like thirds and octaves, chromaticism and more. During the test, students might be asked to recognize the type of chord or interval they hear, to transcribe a short rhythm or melody, or to identify the form of a piece. These are all useful skills that will support your study of music at the piano, and are important to develop whether you want to perform, compose, improvise, or be a collaborative pianist.
The sight-reading examination assesses the student's ability to read and interpret music at first sight, without practice. To support students in their growth as sight readers, we provide students with access to our lending library, suggest collections of pieces that a student should sight read, including sight reading supplements correlated to the Faber Piano Adventures method, and the Sight Reading books from the Keith Snell Piano Library, and coach sight reading strategy. For beginning students, we teach a reliable four step process to preview and prepare pieces for sight reading.
WSMTA Musicianship Examinations are conducted at local WSMTA chapters throughout Washington State. This makes it convenient for students, as they can select a location closest to them. Furthermore, these exams are often held at least twice a year, usually in the spring and fall, providing ample opportunity for students to take the tests when they feel ready. In Clark County, the exam is held once annually in March, so new students who enroll in the fall may have time to prepare for the exams. If you would like to participate in the WSMTA music literacy program, please speak with us about it - we already cover many of the topics included in the exams!
If a student wishes to receive high school credits for musical study, they may ask their school to send a request to WSMTA, or the student can fill out the form directly. This is called the Applied Music for High School Credit. Generally speaking, a student can receive 1.5 credits per semester. Requirements include: Weekly lessons following the 36 week school calendar All missed lessons must be made up Exams will be conducted by WSMTA 5 hours minimum of weekly practice Information is a bit sparse regarding which schools and districts support this program, but you are always welcome to ask either your school or local WSMTA chapter. While Effinger Music Studio is not specifically affiliated with any school districts, we can certainly help you prepare for exams, learn music theory, or understand the importance of music theory knowledge. We offer music theory lessons in Vancouver, WA in addition to piano lessons.