December 7, 1896
Charles Birchwood

I have never much liked the concept of grading. Music is as much about talent as it is about effort and it seems a touch unfair to mark a student down for a lack of talent when tremendous effort has been put forth. Likewise, it is insanity not to recognize and reward those with talent. My conundrum is not easily solved.

The girls here at Primrose have all been willing to put forth effort but few of them have excelled. It is I suppose to be expected. There will be no grand symphonies performed at a woman’s college anytime in the near future and I should not berate myself for the failing to allure exceptionally talented young ladies to the college in my first semester.

Still I am dreading the coming week of testing. Listening to Caroline practicing all weekend has been horrendous enough. Even the children have begged her to stop. Caroline is many things but a pianist is not among them and I fear she is likely more apt than the majority of my other pupils.
I can imagine the grating frustrations all ready. The pianos will sound flat or sharp, the violins like they are strung with straw and the flutes as dog whistles. I will smile and try to reassure them they are doing fine all the while grinding my teeth and praying for my eardrums to burst.

I envy the deaf Beethoven who never had to once hear his beautiful arrangements by the inept musicians of my world. I have even considered it might not have been winter which chased the birds from the trees this year but the imminent threat of Miss Chesterfields’ off key vocals.

Strange to think of my father now, but he told me something once which I might well have to adapt for a modern purpose. It was shortly before a recital in my teenage years and I was exceptionally nervous because of the large assemble audience. “Picture them naked.” He had said. Naturally, I asked why and her replied, “It will give you something to take your mind off the pain.”

On that day my imagination had not quite been up to the task. Shortly after appearing on the stage, I vomited. The room cleared out and then I played one of my best performances ever. My father and mother were embarrassed but I was quite pleased at the time. I wish I had thought of it deliberately, but no one is perfect.

However, my father’s idea of nudity does have merit for the exams. What better way to get through the examination process than by having the girls perform in the nude? I can grade them on their maturity, redness of cheeks, and physical attractiveness. The method seems as random as attempting to grade their talent versus effort in the musical foray.

And, it should be noted their young nubile bodies will certainly provide sufficient distraction from their almost certain lack of musical talent. I wonder how Dean Steadward would react to the suggestion? Perhaps other teachers would appreciated the concept as well. All final examinations could be given with the ladies nude. I am certain it would hardly change their view of examinations; they are widely hated. The teachers though might find it a reason to look forward to the whole experience.

Yes, I must mention this at the next board meeting.

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