School of Music

Graduate Studies

Piano Proficiency

TO: Incoming graduate students whose main instrument is not piano
FROM: Dr. Jeffrey Savage, Keyboard area coordinator

Greetings from the School of Music!

As part of your musical training, the School of Music expects you to have intermediate competency at the piano. In order to evaluate your piano skills, the keyboard area has designed a proficiency exam to be administered the week prior to the beginning of the fall semester. The proficiency exam is identical to the exam given to all undergraduate music majors at WSU, and is required of all incoming graduate students – including those from our own undergraduate program. A description of the undergraduate exam can be found on pages 7 and 8 of Part VIII in the Music Handbook (

All non-pianists will be given this exam, which consists of two main parts – prepared exercises/pieces and sightreading. The prepared portion of the exam includes: 1) all major and minor scales – ascending/descending in two octaves hands together at a moderate tempo; 2) all major and minor cadences (I IV6/4 I V6/5 I); 3) two short compositions for solo piano at the intermediate level – memorized; and 4) harmonization of the Star Spangled Banner PDF ». The sight-reading portion will include: 1) harmonization (simpler than the Star Spangled Banner); 2) part-reading (two parts from a choral score); and 3) transposition to any key of an easy folk or patriotic melody with accompaniment.

Here are examples of intermediate pieces that are acceptable: any sonatina movement by Kuhlau or Clementi (or others); any prelude by Chopin; Allegro non troppo (Op. 82, No. 65) by Cornelius Gurlitt; Bach minuets from Anna Magdalena’s Notebook; Haydn German Dances; and many others. We do not accept simplified arrangements of mature piano works or pieces for other instruments (unless the transcription is a part of the standard piano repertoire). If you have any questions about acceptable literature, please feel free to contact me.

In grading the proficiency, we expect you to demonstrate good fingerings in the scales and cadences (and in the other pieces), correct realization of harmonies in the harmonizations, and fluent musical playing. If the faculty determines that your skills need to improve, we will assign you to an appropriate piano class. If you can demonstrate intermediate competency at the piano, you will have no further requirements in this area.

You will likely have many orientation meetings and other appointments before school starts. As soon as you know your schedule the week before classes, feel free to email me to schedule a time for the piano proficiency exam. We look forward to seeing you on campus very soon!

Dr. Jeffrey Savage
Associate Professor, Keyboard area coordinator

Dr. Shannon Scott

Dr. Shannon Scott
Coordinator of Graduate Studies


Star Spangled Banner Harmonization


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