Examining Australia: The activities of four examiners of the associated board for the royal schools of music in 1923

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    In the mid-nineteenth century, a system of music examinations was initiated in Britain that came to encompass the far-flung reaches of the British Empire. These examinations offered an internationally recognized system of professional and musical standards. For the next several decades the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) and Trinity College London (TCL) maintained this extensive system of graded instrumental and vocal examinations across large parts of the globe, principally those countries that were part of the British Empire (later the Commonwealth). Both the ABRSM and TCL continued examining for many years and this article discusses the work of four examiners appointed by the ABRSM to travel throughout the Empire, with a particular focus on Australia. The year selected is 1923. This is for several reasons. By 1923 the system of traveling expert examiners undertaking examinations across the country was well established; the vicissitudes and hardships of World War I and the influenza pandemic had passed; the practice of examiners traveling long distances by boat and train had resumed. At this time the British examinations were at their height despite the establishment of a rival Australian system, the Australian Music Examinations Board. The examiners not only undertook all the examinations across the country but also were influential public figures who spoke about music education and modern music in Britain. They gave concerts and public lectures and their activities were influential because of repeated reporting in the popular press. As a historian I am interested in the history of the commonplace—those well-established and pervasive activities that are taken for granted. Learning a musical instrument and taking annual graded practical and theoretical examinations was and continues to be a commonplace occurrence in Australia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)51-77
    Number of pages27
    JournalJournal of Historical Research in Music Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • music examinations
    • Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music
    • 1920s Australian music
    • Australian music examinations
    • history of the commonplace

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