“The Thinking Pianist” Summer Course

PATHWAYS FOR PLAYING • by ANDREW EALES
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Summer schools and courses for (especially) adult piano enthusiasts have become an embedded feature of the music education landscape in recent years, and last year saw the launch of the latest.

The Thinking Pianist is the brainchild of David Jones, an established pianist, educator, and presently Head of Keyboard Studies at Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

I am delighted to announce that for this, the course’s second year, I will be joining the faculty. Here in advance, I talk to Jones about what it is that makes this particular course special, and distinct from other successful summer schools…

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Fermata • Time to Pause

The FERMATA SERIESby ANDREW EALES
Taking the time to pause and reflect


The fermata sign is an indication that we should take a little time to pause before playing on.

Pausing is a musical activity.
When we pause we should notice that we have paused.
And our audience should notice that we have paused.

The pause should not be ignored.

An effectively measured pause on a note or rest will often radically alter the quality of the narrative flow, performance choreography and communicative power of a piece of music.

Take a moment now to consider whether you make the most of fermata in your piano playing…

As in music, so it is in life.

Just as the expressive power of music depends upon the pace of its delivery and the space allowed for silence to speak between the notes, so too human wellbeing depends on the timing of our activity, the tempo of our thoughts, and the permission that we give ourselves to pause.

We all need to regularly reboot. Just like the misbehaving computer we have to switch ourselves off and, after a short pause, start back up again. We need to empty out the cluttered cache of our minds and allow the kinks of our ever- developing tension to naturally and gently unwind.

And when we forget to do that, things start to go wrong for us. Many of us have experienced significant burnout during the last couple of years for exactly this reason.

The Fermata Series on Pianodao is the outworking of my original vision for this to be a site which positions our piano playing and teaching within the context of our broader lives, incorporating articles that probe the intersection between my expertise as a piano educator and my interest in the natural philosophical wisdom of Daoism and health benefits of qigong practice.

After (ironically) pausing the series I am now rebooting it, believing that it is needed more than ever. Previous fermata posts can be discovered here, and as time allows I will add more, inviting readers to pause and reflect.

Quoting from pianists, poets and philosophers, sharing my own ideas and music, the Fermata Series is returning to Pianodao to encourage wellbeing for every season, and to inspire all our ongoing piano pathways.

Just for now, take a moment to pause.


Andrew’s essential handbook of practising tips:




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The Pianist’s Air

PATHWAYS FOR LIVING • by ANDREW EALES
Setting Our Piano Journey In Its Living Context.


“Installing air filters in classrooms can raise children’s scores in tests by the same amount as cutting class sizes by a third, research has found… Mike Gilraine, author of the paper and assistant professor of economics at New York University, said the improved scores were equivalent to ‘roughly two-and-a-half months of extra learning’.”

So blazes a news story published in The Times on January 10th 2020. The article quotes from research suggesting,

“The results indicate that air filter installation is a highly cost-effective policy to raise student achievement “

And it goes on to point out that several London schools, having installed air filters in classrooms. have reported reductions in absence because of sickness, which teachers attributed to cleaner air.

Given my previous writing about the centrality of breathing in piano playing, regular readers will no doubt anticipate that none of this comes as a surprise to me; indeed, I believe that quality of air in my teaching studio is a paramount concern, and have encouraged players and teachers to take the issue seriously long prior to these new findings.

In this article I will offer some simple advice about air quality and the need to create a suitable environment for piano learning. But rather than focusing on the educational benefits in isolation, we need to consider the health benefits first and foremost…

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