The College of Arts and Architecture

Piano Proficiency FAQ

General  Questions

Who hears my exam, and where does it take place?

The exam takes place in either the piano lab or a faculty studio. There are usually 2 or more music faculty there to evaluate the exam. If you are a student in the B.M.E program, a representative of the music education faculty will be present. If you're a B.A or B.M. student, members of the piano faculty will hear your exam. Dr. Shafer listens to every exam.

Changing Degrees/Multiple Degrees

I am changing degree programs but I've already taken a proficiency in my old degree program. Do I have to take the proficiency in my new degree program as well?

You must take any part of the proficiency for your new degree program that you haven't already passed in your former degree. Scales and the 48-hour harmonization are the two common items between the two proficiencies. If you've passed either or both of these items while pursuing your former degree, you'll receive credit for that in your new degree. Any other items must be passed according to your new degree requirements.

I am double majoring in Music Ed and Performance. Do I have to take both proficiencies?
You must complete all requirements for both degrees. Scales and the 48-hour harmonization are the two common items between the two proficiencies. If you've passed either or both of these items under one proficiency, you'll receive credit for them in your second proficiency. All other items must be passed in both proficiencies.

Multiple Attempts at the Proficiency

Is there a limit to the number of times I can attempt the proficiency?

No, but you should check your degree requirements to see if passing the proficiency is a prerequisite for any other courses you must take. In Music Education, for instance, you must have passed the proficiency before taking certain courses in your sixth semester.

If I don't pass some the items on my first attempt at the proficiency, do I have to prepare all the items over again when I come to take the proficiency for my second attempt?

No. You have to prepare all the items you haven't yet passed. You don't have to re-prepare the items you passed in previous attempts.

Proficiency Schedule

When are the piano proficiencies offered?

Piano proficiencies are offered during finals week of every semester. In addition, Music Ed piano proficiencies are offered during mid-semester each fall.

Are there any exceptions made for students who are graduating or who can't get into a required course because they haven't passed the proficiency?
No. Ample time is allotted in the curriculum to prepare for and pass the proficiency in its entirety without scheduling additional proficiencies on an individual basis.

Music Education Proficiency

Are the specific proficiency items the same each time the exam is given?

No, most of the items are different each time. As an example, consider the Patriotic Song requirement. You are provided with four patriotic songs (America, America the Beautiful, Star-Spangled Banner, and the Penn State Alma Mater). You should practice all of these to prepare for the proficiency. A few weeks before each proficiency exam, the specific patriotic song to be performed on the proficiency will be chosen and announced (via Lisa Stamm's office). If you don't pass the Patriotic Song item, the next time you take the proficiency, a new patriotic song is selected. The same process is used for many of the items on your proficiency (scales, improvisation examples, open vocal scores, instrumental scores, choral warm-ups, accompaniments).

How many instrument parts do I have to play simultaneously for the instrumental score reading portion of the proficiency?

Only one staff at a time is required. Each staff must be performed in concert pitch, without note names written into the part.

What information may I write into the score?

You may write chord symbols, (including Roman numerals, inversions, and chord quality), fingerings, interval of transposition. You may not write note names.

Do I have to play any items from memory?

Fingering charts or other written information are not permitted for scales or the improvisations.