Electric Piano


 TMTA Theory Test 

In the Fall and Spring, the Texas Music Teachers Association (www.tmta.org) administers a theory test to evaluate students’ musical knowledge of and the ability to apply theory, aural, and musicianship concepts across a broad musical spectrum.


The goal is to take the theory test on grade level, but not everyone has to! If you started your journey in theory at age 5, of course you will most likely be on grade level. But if you didn’t have the privilege of starting lessons until you were in 9th grade, there is no way I’d sign you up for the 9th grade test – it’s hard. In many cases, you might start at the 4th grade level, or at the very least two grades below your current grade level. We have options. Currently, we take the theory test at HEP.

Image by Alex Zamora
 PMTA Jazz Pop Musicale 

Every year in October/November, the Pearland Music Teachers Association (pearlandmta.org) provides an opportunity for students to perform popular music in a non-adjudicated format. That means you get to get all dressed up, play a memorized Disney, Star Wars, Chris Tomlin, or Scott Joplin piece before a live audience, and listen to the crowd cheer wildly. It’s a fun opportunity to perform fun music with being graded.

Gold Cups 001.jpg
 Gold Cup 

What is Gold Cup, and who is it sponsored by?

One of the most popular events for student pianists is the Gold Cup program, which is hosted by local organizations affiliated with the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC). Since its inception in 1888, “NFMC has become the largest nonprofit organization in America to promote and support American music, performers and music education.” Amazingly, there are more than 135,000 student members who participate in NFMC events throughout the US every year!

Every state has its own state-level NFMC organization – for example, the Texas Federation of Music Clubs – and within each state, there are multiple geographical districts, which are then broken into multiple local associations, known as “clubs”. I am a member of the San Jacinto Federation of Music Clubs (SJFMC), whose member teachers hail from all over the Houston area, but most notably the Clear Lake, Friendswood, and Pearland areas. There are a number of other clubs in the Houston area.

Our local Gold Cup festival is non-competitive; however, students who score a Superior or Superior Plus are eligible to attend the competitive state-level festival at Texas State University in San Marcos.


When does it take place?

The SJFMC Gold Cup takes place over the course of two Saturdays in mid-February. Students who miss their audition due to unforeseen circumstances will be provided with a make-up date in March.


What happens at the festival?

After checking in at the registration desk, students and parents wait in a waiting area until the student’s performance time is called.  A moderator will then take the students to their assigned judging rooms (please note: parents are not allowed to sit in on their children’s auditions). The student will perform their warm-up, then their assigned pieces for the judge. As soon as the audition is over, the student returns the waiting area. Students will not receive judges’ comments otherwise, until after the festival day has concluded. Critiques are provided directly to the teacher.


If the student scored a superior plus, s/he will be handed a blue Recital pass. When the student returns to Corbin Hall, if s/he has the Recital pass, s/he will perform for the audience. Gold Cup Festival is meant to be a positive, affirming event!  A superior rating is a huge accomplishment and should be celebrated!

What types of repertoire can a student perform?

There are multiple performance events at Gold Cup, with the most popular being Piano Solo. Many intermediate/advanced students perform concerti as well. Students may select form a number of events, including American Patriotic, hymns, and ensembles (duets, trios, etc.). For each level, there is a defined list of pieces, from which each participant must choose one. Each student must perform a second choice piece. For students participating in levels Elementary I and above, the choice piece cannot have been written by an American composer.


Do students have to be advanced to participate?

No - this festival is for students of all ages and levels! Students with basic note reading skills (e.g. Alfred’s Level 1A) can perform in the Pre-Primary level. It is not unusual for a student to start in Pre-Primary and, over the years, advance to the Musically Advanced level, which includes professional-level works by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Grieg, etc.

How do we get a Gold Cup?

Gold Cup trophies are available after students have scored 15 points towards the particular performance event. Students earn 5 points per Superior, 4 points per Excellent, 3 points per Fair, etc. Your teacher will obtain the trophy from their local association and provide it to you following the festival.

Please note: points do not apply across events.  If a student scores a Superior in Piano Solo the first year, then in Hymns the next two years, s/he will not be eligible for the cup until s/he has reached 15 points for either Piano Solo or for Hymns.