The Aspire Program

violinThe Aspire Music Program Philosophy


Program Components

About the Program

Instruments We Offer

Program Levels




1.0 The Aspire Music Program Philosophy
At the Harper College Community Music and Arts Center we believe that instrument learners develop most quickly and fully in a combination of group and private instruction. Private lessons give students the necessary individual attention for technical development and interpretive and expressive insights. Group lessons, whether musicianship classes or ensembles, offer peer reinforcement, social interaction, group performance experience, team work skills and creative group activities. By combining these two approaches, you’ll receive a full experience that will elevate your performance skills, musicianship, and music-making abilities. You’ll improve from beginning through advanced levels while receiving a rich exposure to an exciting collection of elective courses that will broaden your horizon. In order for us to ensure your consistent progress and excellence, the Aspire Music Program incorporates individual student-assessment methods and allows you to celebrate accomplishment and track your progress with others across the country, and the world. Therefore, we believe that yearly examinations will give you the incentive to set goals and experience the rewards of musical accomplishment. Our Instructors emphasize the importance of a cooperative relationship between parents, teachers and students and they’ll work closely with you to ensure that your achievement and progress are solid and well-grounded. During the course of the year, students will perform two times as soloists, and two times as part of an ensemble. Performances will take place either at the J Theater or at the Performing Arts Center; both are located here at Harper College.

1.1 Program Components
The following is an outline of the main four components of the Aspire Music Program:

1- Private instrumental lessons.
One weekly private lesson, duration depends on level (30, 45, 60, or 90 minutes); 16 lessons per semester (total 32 between the fall and spring terms); 8 lessons in the summer are optional. ABRSM practical exams are scheduled between April and June, Suzuki exams are administered locally and they’ll take place in May. Please visit the link below for further information about dates for ABRSM and AIM:


2- Musicianship i.e., sight-reading, dictation, listening, music theory, performance practices, history, etc.
One weekly group lesson starting in the August and ending in March; 24 sessions total. You’ll receive an ABRSM theory book and prepare for the theory exam however the material covered in class will go beyond the book and additional material will be added and explored. Classes are divided into three segments, the first segment is dedicated for listening, analysis, history; the second segment is dedicated for aural skills, sight reading and dictation; the third segment is dedicated for playing , singing, and performance practices. ABRSM theory exams usually take place in March, June and November.

The AIM theory exams count towards the CMAC Aspire Certificate so all piano students in AIM don’t have to take the ABRSM theory exams however it’s a must that they attend all musicianship sessions.

3- Ensembles i.e., strings, woodwinds, piano, orchestra, jazz, chamber, mixed, guitar and percussion.
One or two weekly rehearsals depending on level. The duration of each rehearsal also depends on level (60m, 90m, 120m). During these sessions you’ll explore a diverse and challenging repertoire that will help you build a good portfolio and enhance your performance skills. Over the course of the year, you’ll perform in two solo recitals and in two ensemble recitals.

4- Electives
These courses are designed to help you focus your studies in a specific area in music, i.e., history, musicology, ethnomusicology, theory, contemporary music, musical theater, composition, orchestration, composing for film, etc. You’ll have to take six elective courses in total in order for you to obtain the Aspire Certificate. See below for a full list of our electives.

1.2 About the Program
The Aspire Music Program* is a certificate program that is designed to provide school-aged students (5 through 18), with in-depth music education with focus on performance, voice and musical theater, and musicianship. You are welcome to join the program at any level according to your current ability. This program can be tailored to complete beginners as well as to those who are well on their way to becoming accomplished musicians. The Program is based on several renowned and time-tested curricula such as the ABRSM (8 grades), AIM (12 levels, only piano), Suzuki (10 levels, only strings and piano), or the Music Development Program (10 levels); you must select only one of these four curricula. Once you make your selection, you’re in the program and expected to take performance exams on your instrument every year starting at the age of 7, or older, and that’s through the curriculum that you’ve chosen. You’ll also be expected to take the theory exams that are offered ONLY through ABRSM and start at age 7-8, or older. AIM students are exempt from ABRSM theory exams and have the option of taking the AIM theory exams instead of ABRSM; however they still have to attend all 24 musicianship sessions every year. In 2015-2016 the only three curricula that CMAC will be offering are: AIM (piano), ABRSM (all instruments) and SUZUKI (violin and piano); the Music Development Program will take off in 2016-2017 academic year. Exam fees for ABRSM, Music Development, and AIM exams are not included in the course tuition or fees and must be handled separately. Course materials, such as repertoire and theory books however, are provided and included in your tuition.

2.0 CMAC Aspire Music Certificate
The CMAC Music Performance Certificate is granted when the following is achieved:
1- Successful completion of 8 ABRSM theory levels.
2- Successful completion of all instrumental practical exams in ANY of the curricula we offer.
3- Successful completion of 6 CMAC elective courses.
4- Successful attendance in ensembles through the course of study.
5- Successful attendance in recitals through the course of study.

3.0 Instruments We Offer (Aspire and Music for All programs)
Ages 5-8: Piano, Suzuki piano, orchestral percussion, violin, Suzuki violin, cello, double bass*, guitar (including electric*), jazz guitar, ukulele, banjo*, jazz piano, mandolin, drums, fiddle, voice*, and hand drum.
Ages 9-10: All of the above plus flute, clarinet, trumpet, double bass, Indian Tabla, harmonica, and oud.*
Ages 11-17: All of the above plus viola, oboe, saxophone, trombone, French horn, voice, euphonium, and tuba.
Ages 17+: All of the above
* These instruments require that we meet with younger children for assessment. Smaller-sized instruments are generally required for younger children on these specific instruments. Please note that not all instruments are included in the certificate program. For further information about this please consult with the Coordinator.
Please note that parents must provide all instruments to students. Parents may consider renting the instruments for the duration of the academic year. Please see below for more information. Students learning the piano must have a piano at home. Students without a piano at home will not be offered piano lessons.

4.0 Aspire Music Program / Levels
The Aspire Music Program involves three main stages: the Elementary, Junior, and Senior levels. The following is a detailed description of each stage:

4.1 Elementary Levels
These levels are designed as an introduction to music. No prior experience is required so it’s an ideal opportunity for children who love music and have the desire to learn an instrument.
Elementary Level - I Program (for 5-6 year olds)
This will comprise the following each week:
1x instrumental lesson for 30 minutes – see below for available instruments
*1x group musicianship lesson for 30 minutes
*Starting 2016-2017

Elementary Level - II Program (for 7-8 year olds)
This will comprise the following each week:
1x instrumental lesson for 30 minutes – see below for available instruments
1x optional second instrument at an extra cost. The lesson duration will be 30 minutes.
*1x group musicianship lesson for 45 minutes

*Starting 2016-2017

4.2 Junior Levels, ABRSM-Theory Grades 1 to 5
If you play an instrument, serious about music, and between the ages of 8 and 18, this program is designed for you. Each of the five grades is broadly equivalent to ABRSM grades 1 to 5. You are required to take an ABRSM practical and theory exams at the end of each grade, with certificates issued by ABRSM (if theory) and any of the other curricula mentioned above if practical. This is what this program entails each week:

1x 60 minute instrumental lesson on your main instrument
*1x 60 minute theory lesson covering music history, aural training, notation, sight reading and analysis.
*1x 60, 90 or 120 minute ensemble session. Students must select which ensemble(s) they would like to participate in. Entrance into each ensemble may require an audition. Check the ensemble information below for the specific information pertaining to the ensembles on offer.
*Starting 2016-2017

4.3 Senior Levels, ABRSM-Theory Grades 6 to 8
The components of this stage are the same as above, however you are required to take six elective courses over a three year period, two elective per year. Please see the full list below. This is what this program entails each week:

1x 60 minute instrumental lesson on your main instrument. Advanced students at Grade 7 and above will be offered 1x 90 minute instrumental lesson or 2x 45 minute lesson on their main instrument.
*1x 60, 90 or 120 minute ensemble session. Students must nominate which ensemble(s) they would like to participate in. Entrance into each ensemble is by audition. See below for the ensembles on offer. Starting 2016-2017, please consult with the coordinator about other ensemble opportunities.
*Starting 2016-2017

5.0 General Electives
Elective courses are designed to support students in their studies and help them dig deeper into the music they’re learning and/or making. Each course is up to one semester long and depending on the student, only two courses can be taken during a full academic year. There are six elective courses that each student may choose from in order fulfill the requirement to earn the CMAC certificate. The following is a complete list of all elective courses:
Ethnomusicological topics (I, II III)
Musical notation using software (Finale)
Harmony (I, II)
Figured Bass (I, II)
Analysis (I, II)
Music technology and recording using software
Music composition using software (I, II, III, IV)
Orchestration (I, II, III, IV)
History of Western Music (I, II)
World Music
Piano For non-pianists (I, II, III)
Introduction to Jazz
Choir (I, II)
Composing for Film (I, II) (pre-requisite: composition I, II and orchestration I, II)
Musical Theater (I, II)
Pop Music (I, II)

6.0 The Aspire Music Program / Curricula

6.1 CMAC Suzuki Program
The Community Music and Arts Center offers Suzuki instruction for children ages 5 to 7 in violin, viola, and cello; younger children may be admitted upon approval from the Audition Committee. The program includes one weekly private lesson in addition to a weekly group class and integrates performance opportunities throughout. The Suzuki method is based on applying basic principles of language acquisition to music in an environment that facilitates learning. A parent must attend lessons with the student and will be coached to be the home teacher. The ideas of parent involvement, loving encouragement, and constant repetition are some of the unique features of the Suzuki approach. In the context of the CMAC, all participants in the Suzuki program will be expected to start theory at the age of 7 following the ABRSM theory Exams. They may still follow the Suzuki instrumental program and sit for all practical Suzuki exams which will be administered locally. Suzuki students beyond Grade 1 ABRSM theory may choose to enroll in any other ensemble of their choosing, including those offered through the Piano Prep Program. Obtaining the CMAC certificate requires successfully completing all Suzuki practical exams and 8 ABRSM theory exams, attending all ensemble and musicianship sessions, and successful completion of six electives.

6.2 CMAC ABRSM Program
The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) certificate program. ABRSM is the world's leading provider of music exams and assessments. Each year over 630,000 candidates take their exams in more than 90 countries around the world. It offers graded exams and assessments and a clear, progressive framework to measure musical development. It also publishes all exam materials together with a wide range of additional repertoire and educational books, recordings, software another digital and electronic resources. In the context of the CMAC, just like all Aspire programs, students are expected to have a weekly private instrumental lesson, and musicianship and ensemble classes. ABRSM theory and practical exams are administered by ABRSM certified judges and certificates are generated by the association itself. Obtaining the CMAC certificate requires successfully completing all ABRSM practical and theory exams, attending all ensemble and musicianship sessions, and successful completion of six electives.

6.3 CMAC AIM Program (piano)
The AIM Piano Program builds upon one of our most successful program namely the Piano Prep Program. Just like all the other programs that we offer, this approach also includes a private lesson, musicianship, ensembles and electives. Testing in this program will follow the Achievement in Music (AIM) [Illinois State Music Teachers Association], and both performance and theory exams will be administered by the association. For theory, as an Aspire piano student, you must take the AIM theory exams and you may choose to take the ABRSM theory exams as well. However, you’ll still have to attend all 24 musicianship classes every year. Obtaining the CMAC certificate requires successfully completing the requirement for AIM performance and theory exams, attending all ensemble and musicianship sessions, and successful completion of six electives. See “Chart II / Chart II / Piano Program / Comparisons” for more details about what each program offers you.

6.4 CMAC Music Development Program
The Royal Conservatory Music Development Program (Music Development Program) provides a recognized national standard of musical success through an effectively sequenced course of study from beginner to advanced levels. Exams of the Music Development Program are administered by certified judges from the organization and just like ABRSM, the certificates are generated by the association itself. Obtaining the CMAC certificate requires successfully completing all Music Development Program practical and 8 ABRSM theory exams, attending all ensemble sessions, and successful completion of six electives.

7.0 CMAC ASPIRE Ensembles
CMAC ensembles are open to all students including those in Music For All. However, not all Music for All ensembles can be counted as an Aspire ensemble, some are and some aren’t. In all, Students will have to select at the beginning of every year which ensemble(s) they would like to join otherwise the “home” ensemble will be assigned based on the instrument and level. A home ensemble is defined based on the family of instruments that each instrument belongs to.