John Holmes

John Holmes - Chief Examiner, ABRSM 

John Holmes is Chief Examiner and a Director of ABRSM, the UK’s largest music education body.

As Chief Examiner, John has strategic leadership of the ABRSM examining community of around 700 examiners, who deliver over 600,000 music exams in over 90 countries each year, and a department of 20 staff who manage the examining standards, quality and approach of ABRSM assessment. A teacher himself of over 30 years’ experience, John is committed to supporting progress in music teaching and learning worldwide, setting the musical and educational direction of ABRSM’s professional development offer for music teachers.

John has experience of ABRSM exams from a wide range of perspectives; as a candidate himself, as a parent, as a teacher, and since 1990, as an ABRSM examiner. Arriving as Chief Examiner in 2010, John’s vision was to transform the traditional perception of the examiner as ‘scary’, and his ABRSM Examiner’s maxim ‘I’ll do my best to help you do your best’ is at the heart of ABRSM examiner training and practice.

A champion for assessments that are both valid and reliable, which also inform and encourage future musical development. A large focus of John’s work has been to devise clear, transparent and helpful criteria for assessment; designed not only to facilitate objective and consistent examining, but also to be a useful tool for both teacher and learner in music lesson and curriculum planning, as well as practical exam preparation.

John read music at King’s College, Cambridge, studied piano with Bernard King and Alexander Kelly, and clarinet with Jack Brymer. As clarinettist he performed with professional orchestras, and for many years John was Head of Woodwind and Head of Academic Music at Tonbridge School. He is passionate about nurturing the next generation of teachers and musicians, and leads the ABRSM team delivering presentations, teaching courses and online resources in the UK & overseas, with an active schedule himself as a presenter, trainer and adjudicator. John is co-author of Aural Training in Practice (ABRSM 2012), and regularly publishes articles and blogs about music education and assessment. In 2018 John was made a Visiting Professor of Music Education at the University of Wolverhampton.