The Piano Guild (a division of the American College of Musicians), was founded in 1929 by Dr. Irl Allison.
Guild has grown to more than 850 audition centers where thousands of students enroll annually in our international auditions, which are held throughout the U.S. and abroad.
The Piano Guild is open to students of all ages and levels. The purpose of the auditions is to establish goals for the earliest beginner as well as the advanced student. These goals attempt to give music study some definite direction and provide a measurement for progress. As a result, a piano curriculum encompassing the best of piano literature and stressing American compositions has been standardized. All piano students have a yearly opportunity to attain these goals through non-competitive adjudication in the National Piano Playing Auditions. Auditions are private (student and judge only) with well-qualified musicians serving as judges. Students are judged on individual merit in the areas of accuracy, continuity, phrasing, pedaling, dynamics, rhythm, temp, tone, interpretation, style and technique.
1. Everyone can participate.
Students may participate in Guild Auditions in many classifications; the pieces selected may be memorized or unmemorized, they may present a duet program, a Jazz/Pop program, an all Bach program, an all Sonatina program, or a program in social music (consisting of hymns, patriotic and folk songs, PopularSongs). A program is decided and agreed upon by the student, teacher and parent. There are plenty goals for the classically trained students as well as those that want to study other genres.
2. The syllabus is very flexible.
Unlike many other assessments out there, which of course have their merits, the Guild Auditions do not have a set list of pieces that students must choose from – the teacher is responsible for selecting the repertoire for each student. For the Elementary levels, students can even use Method book pieces. There are a few rules but they are very reasonable, for example, students that are at Intermediate levels and beyond must balance their program by choosing at least one piece in each of the four main stylistic periods, and those that study for advanced diplomas must have their programs pre-approved.
3. The teacher and student decide how many pieces they want to play.
Students can play anywhere from 1-20 pieces. The standard audition requires everything to be memorized, but there is also a category called Hobbyist where memorization is not required. So, even if a student has tremendous difficulty in memorization, they can still participate and receive a certificate and adjudicator feedback just like everyone else. Students who enter the audition playing only one piece receive a “Pledge” certificate, if they play 2-3 pieces, they get a “Local” certificate, then District (4-6 pieces), State (7-9 pieces), National (10-14 pieces), and International (15-20 pieces). Therefore, the audition can be as easy or as difficult as the teacher feels a particular student is ready for.
4. Mandatory as well as optional musicianship skills.
Beyond Elementary A, students must be able to play the scales and cadences associated with their chosen repertoire (so if their piece is in C major, they must demonstrate to the judge how to play a C major scale followed by cadence). The length and speed of the scales and the complexities of the cadences increase as the levels go higher. These are called the IMMT – Irreducible Minimum Musicianship Test – everyone must do it, unless they are only Elementary A level. This ensures that students have the “bare minimum” technical skills. Other than that, teachers and students can choose whether or not they want to do Sight Reading, Ear Training, Improvisation, or more techniques such as Arpeggios, Chords, and even Transposition. The Diploma levels have more strict Musicianship requirements, but for the average student, the program really can be tailored to showcase their strengths, so if a student is just terrible at Sight Reading, they can choose to not do that until they become better at it next year. I am not saying Sight Reading is not important, of course it is, but the syllabus allows beginners and intermediate students flexibility in designing an audition program that celebrates their strengths. As the students progress through the levels, of course teachers should gradually increase more musicianship skills as part of the audition program, and those that do choose to do these extra things get rewarded by getting extra “Commendation” checks on the report card under “Added Phases.”
A Membership Certificate according to classification.
An NFSM Membership Pin in Bronze (Pledge, Local & District), Silver (State), or Gold (National or International.) Hobbyists also receive a bronze pin.
A copy Analysis Chart and Report Card signed by the Guild examiner.
The student’s name on his/her teacher’s NFSM Certificate.
His/her name listed and photo published in Piano Guild Notes in the fifth, tenth, or fifteenth year as a National or International Winner.
National Piano Guild Auditions