Your Story: Rachel Rowles

Readers share with us their own piano journey.
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I live in Devon and teach piano alongside a career in the NHS. I am currently a student on the Piano Teachers’ Course UK, so have been reflecting a lot on my piano journey this far, and on what comes next! Here’s my story…

Continue reading Your Story: Rachel Rowles

Returning to Learning

Supporting Teachers • Promoting Learning
Written by ANDREW EALES


What can piano teachers learn from stepping into the shoes of the beginner and taking up a new skill or pastime? Quite a lot, in my experience…

Like many adults, I periodically look to introduce a new discipline or hobby into my life. And as a teacher, it is always fascinating to put myself in the position of student.

The latest activity to find its way onto my list of exploits is Pilates, the exercise system developed by Joseph Pilates and often mentioned in the same breath as Yoga (though I think, quite different!)

This lot are learning Pilates too. They look happy, don’t they?

Pilates-1

And certainly I was hoping that I would find Pilates enjoyable – and hopefully beneficial for my health and fitness too.

And inevitably I also hoped that putting myself in the shoes of the complete beginner, there would be teaching parallels that I could reflect on, and which would give me fresh insight.

In this post I am going to list a few observations I made, followed by questions for self-reflection which make connections to piano teaching.

Continue reading Returning to Learning

What Can You Play?

Supporting Your Piano Playing Journey
Written by ANDREW EALES


One of the major stumbling blocks for players is that we too often feel that we are struggling, making little progress, and perhaps just haven’t got what it takes to become a “good player” (however we define what that is).

To enjoy playing an instrument, we need to move beyond this negative self-talk. And I suggest that one of the most easy and powerful ways we can achieve this is to adjust the balance between working and playing during our personal piano time.

Which brings us to the question,

“What can you play?”

Continue reading What Can You Play?

Is Mindfulness relevant to piano playing?

Guest Post by Doug Hanvey


Doug Hanvey is a highly qualified and experienced educationalist and teacher of both piano pedagogy and mindfulness. Here he discusses the link between the two…

Continue reading Is Mindfulness relevant to piano playing?

Andrei Gavrilov’s concerns

Supporting Teachers • Promoting Learning
Written by ANDREW EALES


Andrei Gavrilov is one of the world’s finest concert pianists, who has in recent years dedicated himself to giving master-classes to upcoming players around the world. So when he comments on the current state of music education and piano playing, it is certainly worth listening.

Some of his latest comments could prove controversial however. Gavrilov has provided a lengthy list of the “major mistakes” that he feels are “obstacles to artistic development”.

You can read his comments in full on the Cross-Eyed Pianist page here, but the overall impression he gives is that teachers and young pianists are neglecting artistic development, musical analysis and cultural understanding.

He concludes that in four years of giving master-classes, he met:

“…nobody who could even be able to touch a single serious composition without destroying it in all senses.”

While it is beyond doubt that Gavrilov’s robust observations offer genuine insight, I feel sure that he must be overstating his case!

I personally know of many leading players and teachers who go out of their way to place music in its proper historical and cultural context. Nor is there any shortage of upcoming players able to communicate great art with profound depth, with younger artists like Benjamin Grosvenor, Daniil Trifonov, Igor Levitt, Jonathan Biss, Alice Sara Ott, Khatia Buniatishvili, Sunwook Kim, HJ Lim, Beatrice Rana, Conrad Tao, Louis Schwizgebel, Federico Colli and others firmly proving the point.

That said, Gavrilov is not the first, and nor is he alone, in expressing concerns about current trends in music education and performing.

Speaking to International Piano magazine (Jan/Feb 2014) the internationally revered pianist Maria João Pires suggested that in her view it is the “competitive world” that has destroyed a lot of the transmission of our culture, and she sees a clear connection between piano competitions and marketing.

She says:

“To compete always damages your soul. If you compete you are not a musician any more.
We old musicians should perhaps give the new generation alternatives. I think our mission is to transmit what has been transmitted to us. This competitive world, this marketing world, has destroyed a lot of that transmission.
Competitions are not the way, that’s for sure!”

Piano competitions have certainly come to dominate the commerce, marketing and performing culture of our time, especially for aspiring professional players. Given this context, is it really any wonder if teachers encourage competition participation and focus on the aspects of their students development most likely to turn them into “winners”?

According to Pires, competing “damages the soul”, strong words indeed. This is one of the many issues that Pianodao will need to look at in more detail over the coming months. For now it is sufficient to note that for too many players, their experience even at an early age irrevocably equates performing with competition.

Some refuse to play at all in later life, even exhibiting significant anxiety reactions to any request to play in front of others. The field is thus left clear for the “winners” to scale ever greater heights of technical virtuosity, continuing their tour of the competition circuit in the hopes of making a reputation for themselves.

Whether or not Gavrilov’s concerns and those of Pires are connected, there is no doubt that he has touched on important issues that pianists and teachers will want to ponder. It will certainly be very interesting to see how his colleagues around the world respond to his critique.


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