Guest Post by Karen Marshall
In memory of Christine Brown – Died in September, 2009
My first meeting of Christine Brown was in my early teens. I was playing at a concert for EPTA students in Ilkely. And she at that time, I believe, organised the events. I remember her smiling face and also rather big round glasses, with a large number of other teachers surrounding her.
It would be many years later that I had a lesson with Christine. At 15 years I started having piano lessons with Christine’s best friend, Enid Oughtibridge, who would regularly mention Christine in our lessons – so there was still a link even then.
I began lessons with Christine twenty years after that first meeting, and a few years after moving back to Yorkshire.
I remember our first lesson well, when I played her Shostakovich’s Prelude and Fugue in C major. She smiled and told me all the things in my playing that were thumbprints of my former teacher Enid, and then turned to a picture on the wall – Christine with a grey haired lady.
“Do you know who that is?” she said. I had absolutely no idea.
“That’s Tatiana, the person Shostakovich wrote the piece of music for, the piece you’ve just played me. I met her at the Leeds Piano Competition.”
An extraordinary influence
What I’ve realised since my lessons about Christine was her ability to be a “bespoke teacher” for each student.
Even on our last conversation in August 2009 (from her Hospice bed, shortly before her death) she still talked to me about what I needed to do about my own piano playing – but also talked about my writing.
I can honestly say it was Christine Brown who gave me the confidence to write and literally pushed me into it. My first article that appeared in LCM Forte Magazine on “Music and Dyslexia” was supervised by Christine. She went through it with a toothcomb, with great care and attention. Also giving me lots of praise but also making intuitive comments to help me improve. I was so grateful.
It was Christine who encouraged me to join the British Dyslexia Association’s Music Committee. After initially making contact with them, it took some time to get involved. Christine would continually ask. “Have they got in touch with you yet?”
Not wanting to push things, I did not chase it, but Christine continually reminded me. “You have been given knowledge (via my contact with Margaret Hubiki and teaching dyslexic students) that can really help people Karen.”
When I finally joined the committee Christine was delighted. “You have your life work now’ she commented.
The thing I found remarkable about Christine was the way that she made me feel so nurtured in a lesson, with huge amounts of praise, but also the ability to tell me ‘exactly’ what I needed to do for technical success.
Christine’s teaching of technique transformed my own teaching and playing. All these little student grand children (my own students) understood the different finger, wrist and arm movements because Christine had so carefully explained them to me. She went through her own books on teaching technique, Real Repertoire Technique Grades 2 -4, 4-6 & 6-8, explaining why she had included each piece within the collection. She particularly stressed the importance of the first book.
“Early technique is so important Karen, that’s the reason I wanted to write this one,” she said.
If ever you get chance, do look at the Faber Edition of Czerny’s 101 Studies, which Christine edited. She told me how ingenious these studies were, Christine has brilliantly fingered this edition with user-friendly titles given to each piece.
The Living Legacy
Just a few months before Christine became ill she handed me some old green and cream books.
“You need to photocopy all of these Karen because they are out of print, this is my piano method, and you need to have them”.
The first book included all her notes about early stage piano teaching in the front. I almost think now this act was telepathic. When writing Get Set! Piano Christine’s progression was knitted in there.
Perhaps she knew something, and saw in me something I was totally unaware myself. Her ability as an untrained psychologist was hugely evident on reflection. Perhaps what she did for me more than anything else was create self-belief.
I remember an occasion where she squeezed my hand and just said: “Your pupils are lucky to have you as a teacher.”
Her total warmth with hugs as I left, and words of council if she felt I was working too hard, were very special.
If you go into my music room you will see a beautiful 6-foot walnut Steinway grand (model O). I was able to purchase the piano from Christine’s family. It is Christine’s piano. So even though Christine has left this mortal plane, I often feel she is very close. As my students play from her duet books, as I write my next music book (this time for Christine’s publishers, Faber) I feel Christine is very close.
As teachers we need to know what an imprint we can be on our pupils lives, for good or for bad. All I can say in Christine Brown’s memory is:
“Thank you; you have touched my life in an extraordinary way. I will be eternally grateful, your love for people and for music made the world a better place”.
That truly is a legacy that we all should strive to achieve.
She works as a peripatetic and private piano teacher, classroom music teacher, and is a music and dyslexia specialist.
Hilary Garrett’s formal obituary of Christine Brown (published January 2010) can still be read on the Faber Music website here, and gives a full overview of Christine’s extraordinary career and achievements.
Andrew Eales will be giving an overview of Christine Brown’s published legacy in a forthcoming follow-up article.