Frankie Bregazzi is a young pianist, who has taken various Piano graded exams and is currently studying Grade 8 Piano.
Trinity qualifications: Grade 4 Piano (Distinction, Grade 5 Piano (Merit), Grade 7 Piano (Merit)
As a passionate young pianist, Frankie has always enjoyed expressing himself by performing his piano pieces. Already enjoying success with Trinity College London having completed various grade exams, he is currently working hard towards achieving his Grade 8.
His creative inspiration comes from the performances of artists such as Jill Morton who he feels plays Trinity grade pieces in an expressive and powerful manner. He also credits Mr Lovell, his piano teacher at Simon Balle School with giving him the freedom to explore a variety of different styles to keep expanding his performances.
When it comes to sitting down in the exam room it is the performance element that Frankie looks forward to most. He finds that choosing pieces which allow him much more scope for characterisation, to suit his performance style and to best express himself, is an important factor in making the exam a personal and enjoyable experience. He found that the varied styles of music available in the Trinity Piano 2021-2023 syllabus gave him that freedom to truly shape his performance.
In choosing his pieces, Frankie looks for more modern styles which better reflect his personal interests. For example, in his Grade 7 exam he enjoyed the pop influence apparent in the piece ‘Soho’ by Charlotte Botterill. Although perhaps not a typical exam piece, Frankie felt it was reflective of the style of music that both engaged and challenged him as a performer:
‘There are these descending chord sequences, and that was quite difficult to do at first, but then you get used to it and it really helps with the manipulation of going downwards in chords.’
Frankie always enjoys choosing from the section B pieces of the syllabus as he believes they are much more expressive and colourful. The syllabus allowed him to pick two of the more jazz oriented pieces from the B section whilst still offering a more modern piece in the A section with Bullard’s ‘Prelude no. 8 (in G major)’.
When it came to the exam exercises, enjoyment over ease was his main priority. His piano teacher would play both exercises from the offered groupings and then ask Frankie which he enjoyed listening to, and explicitly told him not to worry about how they looked. Frankie also turned to YouTube where he could listen to the pieces for comparison to see which he liked most:
'It was about listening to them and thinking about what I’d prefer to listen to and therefore what I’d prefer to play. I don’t want to do it based on how difficult or easy it looks – they’re generally the same but some might be easier for me, but I just preferred the sounds of each of these.’
Frankie says he enjoys taking Trinity's music exams because he feels Trinity are much more holistic in their approach and want students to also come away with a working knowledge of the theory of music, rather than just be able to play an instrument rote. In his opinion:
‘They (Trinity) place an emphasis on understanding the music rather than just playing the notes exactly as they appear.’
Through his piano qualification, Frankie has developed lots of new skills and qualities. Most obviously, he has become a much better piano player, being able to manipulate his fingers more quickly to play more complex passages. However, he has found the exams have also provided a welcome boost to his confidence.
Like most students over the past few years, Frankie found himself in the situation where exams – music or otherwise – were becoming a less frequent part of school life, as the pandemic impacted everybody’s lives. He has found it helpful to be back in that familiar environment again.
‘It was good just to relive something under pressure, to do something I know I can do.’ he says.
As a performer, the Trinity assessments he has completed have really helped to shape him as a musician and informed his musical journey. First and foremost, he feels the exams help to foster an appreciation for music which only grows as you put more into your work:
‘From starting with the selection of the pieces, your musical repertoire really gains from the variety of music that’s available. That then starts to create a cycle, where you listen to more music which then informs your practice, which then leads to more exploration and so on, all of which serves to bolster your musical capabilities.'
This in turn contributes to the theory side of things for Frankie, and he feels that as your knowledge of the music expands, so does your understanding and appreciation of the underlying building blocks that go into a piece:
‘I can start to see how it might branch out, and hopefully it can go into some of my own compositions. I worry if I had not done the exams, I might not have been given the opportunity to see such a wide variety of music. I wasn’t as open to such pathways.’
It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Frankie of course. He has found sight reading the hardest element of the assessment, especially because it is a hard skill to practise. He also confesses that timing ‘isn’t always his strong point’, and he has been inclined to try and rush to get up to full speed.
‘I know this has to be a fast piece in my head, so I’d go ‘right, I have to play this quickly,’ but then I’d rush it and I not get all the detail I wanted.’
His piano teacher Mr Lovell does pick him up on this, encouraging him to slow down so he can add that nuance into his performance. Referring once again to the Grade 7 piece ‘Soho’, Frankie feels it has quite interesting timings, and he got a real sense of achievement from finally being able to master them.
Trinity aims to provide as much support to candidates and teachers as possible and Frankie finds many of the resources to be helpful whilst studying. He particularly appreciates the videos that talk performers through how to play through certain sections of a piece, as well as the exam walk-through showing you what happens on exam day, from start to finish:
‘I hadn’t had an exam in a while, and it was quite nice to remind myself of what was going on.'
Having worked through a variety of grades Frankie is an experienced candidate and continues to study for his Grade 8. He feels that as a performer, the more experience you have in these high-pressure situations, the better you’ll be able to cope with similar situations in the future, and the more able you’ll be to play the way you want to play:
‘I’ve always enjoyed the performance aspect and understanding so much more than the actual notes. It's a really good performance experience and can help build up confidence - which is important when performing to allow you to fully express yourself.'
For any advice he could offer to other candidates, Frankie returns to a previous point: ‘Play what you enjoy.’ He stresses that you shouldn’t worry about how complicated or difficult something looks - you should just focus on what makes you happy:
‘Branch out and try different genres. There’s so many different styles and genres that you might not see if you stick to one thing, so pick what you enjoy, what is new, and what’s different. You never know where it might lead.’
Keen to keep progressing, Frankie is currently working towards sitting his Grade 8 Piano exam with Trinity and from there he hopes to move on to successfully completing a Performance Diploma.