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What is RCM?

RCM Gold Medal shown in a case

Founded in 1886, The Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) is known for being the national standard for music education. It provides a consistent way of recognizing achievement and progress in musical development and upholds examiners, teachers and music students to the highest standards. Music students receive well-rounded music instruction that encompasses the practical side of learning an instrument and the study of music theory and composition style. In short, RCM ensures that students develop into great performers who are also musically literate. Progress is tracked as students pass a series of exams. The highest achievement is earned when students obtain the recognized Associate Diploma (ARCT) for Performer, Pedagogy (violin and piano) and Teacher (strings, winds, brass, and voice) and the Licentiate Diploma (LRCM) which is evaluated as a professional concert performance.

RCM Exams

RCM exams are administered by an independent third-party, who has gone through competitive admissions procedures with stringent requirements for qualification, completed training, participated in professional development, and underwent annual reviews that ensure consistency in marking exams. They are also under a full year of observation before being promoted to full examiner. RCM takes pride in its reputation for fairness and integrity.

There are 3 or 4 opportunities available annually to take exams. Practical examinations evaluate a student’s performance, sight-reading, and aural (ear-training) skills. Theory examinations assess a student’s understanding of notation, rhythm, melody, music language, music history, and harmony analysis. Examination results are available around 4 to 6 weeks after the practical exam.

Due to COVID, this coming December 2021/January 2022 exams will be held remotely.

Benefits of Learning Through RCM

Below is a list of the benefits of following the Royal Conservatory of Music program:

  • A national standard with a set syllabus ensures comprehensive musical training

  • Progress is easily tracked and achievements are recognized in a measurable fashion on account of students receiving a numerical mark on exams

  • Students build self-confidence and pride by preparing and completing exams

  • Exams serve as a great motivator for students and encourage goal-setting and practice

  • Personalized constructive feedback from an objective third party examiner inspires students to strive for excellence

  • Recognized credits that can go towards completing the Ontario Secondary School Diploma

    • One grade 11 music credit is awarded to students who complete the Grade VII Practical exam and Intermediate Rudiments (theory exam)

    • One grade 12 music credit is awarded to students who complete Grade VIII Practical exam and Advanced Rudiments (theory exam)

  • Regional scholarships for specific instruments are available to students who perform at the highest level

  • Students are recognized for outstanding achievement when they receive the highest mark in the country or within a region.

    • Regional Gold Medals are awarded to students who have the highest mark in the region for their discipline (with a minimum score of 85) and who have also successfully completed the theory exam.

    • National Gold Medals (for levels 5 to 10 and Piano Pedagogy) are for those who have the highest mark in the country on their practical exam (with a minimum score of 90) and who have also successfully completed the theory exam.

    • National Diploma Gold Medals have the same requirements as the National Gold Medals but are geared towards ARCT and LRCM.

RCM has an impressive roster of alumni including:

  • Diana Krall (singer and pianist)

  • David Foster (musician, producer and composer)

  • Measha Brueggergosman (Juno Award winning opera singer)

  • Mychael Danna (Academy Award winning composer)

  • Rob Baker (Guitarist of The Tragically Hip)

  • Gordon Lightfoot (singer and songwriter)

  • Oscar Peterson (pianist and composer)

  • Shania Twain (singer and songwriter)

  • Concertmasters and conductors for orchestras around the world

In summary, RCM is a wonderful way to provide students with a structured method of building a solid foundation in music education where musical literacy is as important as performance. It ensures that progress is measured and tracked in a clear and fair manner. Students build self-confidence by successfully completing RCM exams and continuously building their skills through logical advancement. Awards and scholarships are awarded to those who achieve top marks, thereby instilling a sense of musical accomplishment after months of hard work. RCM’s track record is proven by its impressive list of Canadian alumni who have made indelible contributions to the Canadian and international music scene across different genres of music.


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