Getting ready for exams with Peter Brunt

17 April 2020

Today, we are virtually meeting our Main subject teacher Classical Music Violin Peter Brunt in his study chamber in Haarlem, from where he currently gives online lessons since the school closed last month.

Peter is now preparing for the busiest time of the year: exams and admission interviews are just around the corner. For the first time, everything will be held online.

Even in normal times, this is a very stressful period for most (prospective) students and the uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis doesn’t make it easier to concentrate on your studies.

Peter makes sure that he stays connected with all of his 16 students. He has fixed appointments to check up with everybody on a regular basis so the students do not lose their routine.

Every student sends him an audio recording of her or his week’s work. While Peter is listening to the audio, he records his comments for the students. ‘I find pre-recorded audio files have a higher quality than teaching via live video chat. I can really concentrate on the sound and intonation. As a teacher, you listen very carefully and pay attention to every small detail. You can even hear which bowings and finger settings the student uses. So, you do not always need the video. The students have the chance to listen back to my comments and their recordings and continue from there. That way, a conversation between teacher and student starts and I am happy that all my students are progressing in their work.

Each student copes differently with the current situation, some are very expressive and others become very quiet. It is therefore important to not lose touch with each other.

For this purpose, Peter set up a chat group where all his students can exchange ideas, discuss books and recordings. He also encourages them to share their own audio files and give peer feedback. ‘Being able to evaluate the work of others in a constructive manner and give helpful feedback is essential for every musician. I see a lot of positivity in the group.’

To keep yourself motivated throughout those difficult times, Peter has some tips for us: ‘Normally, you enter the room and you have one shot at your exam or audition. Now, everybody has to make audio files and it is tempting to record it over and over again until you reach perfection. This is not a good idea. It will only make you crazy. The jury wants to hear someone who actually enjoys playing. Just close your eyes and play for a person you really like.’