Piano Workshops and Summer Adventures

I’ve come to the end of a very busy Summer. It has been stimulating and enjoyable on so many levels, and it’s a privilege to travel to interesting parts of the world, meeting and working with different piano students, teachers, music lovers, and (hopefully) spreading the love for the piano.

With fellow faculty members on PIANO WEEK at Moreton Hall. Left to right; Maciej Raginia, Grace Yeo, Vesselina Tchakarova, Madalina Rusu, Mark Nixon, and Samantha Ward.
Image: PIANO WEEK

Music courses, particularly piano courses, are thriving and I’ve written about  them on countless occasions. For teachers, courses can be a great way to connect with both students and fellow teachers, sharing ideas and thoughts about teaching, discovering new repertoire, and discussing various aspects of piano practice and performance.

After nine intense days in Singapore and Malaysia, mainly giving workshops for piano teachers, I spent two weeks on back to back courses serving as a faculty member at PIANO WEEK which is held at Moreton Hall School in Shropshire (UK). This course, lasting seven days, offers piano students comprehensive study with an excellent faculty (usually six or seven tutors: see photo above left).

Working with a student at my composition workshop at the Montecatini Piano Festival
Image: Aisa Ijiri

The next stop on my Summer adventure was to a new festival held in Italy at Montecatini, near Florence in Tuscany. The Montecatini Piano Festival is still in its first year, but has already attracted considerable attention worldwide, with international artists and faculty members, including Hollywood composer and ‘cellist Martin Tillman, pianist and Leeds Piano Competition first-prize winner Sofya Gulyak, concert master and violinist Emanuel Salvador, and the Serbian piano duo, LP Duo.

Organised by Japanese pianist Aisa Ijiri, this festival enjoys an idyllic setting at the Montecatini Terme (or spa, for which the town is famous), and it was a pleasure to work in such surroundings with beautiful Steinway pianos (both PIANO WEEK and the Montecatini Piano Festival are sponsored by Steinway & Sons). At this course and festival, I gave several piano lessons focusing on my music, as well as a new venture for me, a composition workshop for students.

Speaking at the Schott Music Showcase at PIANO WEEK.
Image: Maciej Raginia

Finally, this past week was spent at Rugby School on the last of three PIANO WEEK courses. The course at Moreton Hall consisted of mainly children and teenage students, but Rugby was essentially an all adult course.

A comment reiterated time and again from students, particularly on intensive courses such as PIANO WEEK, is just how much is learnt, digested and, ultimately, improved in a short space of time. Few participants have the luxury of studying with several teachers simultaneously, as well as attending piano seminars, workshops, composition, sight-reading, memorisation, duet classes, and many other musical (as well as non-musical!) activities, which are all included on this course.

My Summer ends this week with two UK workshops. The first takes place on Thursday 29th August at Ackerman’s Music Shop in Hove, near Brighton on the South Coast. I gave a workshop for teachers last year, and in this workshop we will continue exploring flexibility and relaxation in piano technique. The day begins at 10.30am and features several presenters. You can find out more information here.

On Saturday 31st August, Forsyth Music Shop in Manchester will be hosting an afternoon workshop (see image to the right). This is for students and teachers, and I will be continuing with the subject of piano teachnique and flexibility. The afternoon starts at 2.00pm and you can find out more here.

These workshops are both free, and are practically based with plenty auidence participation. I look forward to meeting you.

Participants and faculty members after the final concert at PIANO WEEK held at Rugby School
Image: Maciej Raginia

 


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

The Montecatini Piano Festival

I’m delighted to be attending the new Montecatini Piano Festival this year. As many will know from reading this blog, I love to travel with my work and consider it a privilege. I feel travelling is one of the best ways to explore a particular place, culture, or country.

This festival is to be held in Montecatini Terme situated in Tuscany, in Italy. The town is within easy reach of the historic art mecca, Florence and fascinating Pisa (both around 40 minutes by car), and the walled city of Lucca, (around 20 minutes by car). Montecatini is located only a 10 minute drive from the city of Pistoia which has been the Italian Capital of Culture since 2017, and it’s approximately an hour’s drive from the medieval heart of Tuscany, Siena.

This area of Tuscany is known for its splendid Italian Art Nouveau architecture. Montecatini is a noted spa resort famed for special therapeutic water, and particularly for the Parco delle Terme spa complex. It became a renowned spot for La Belle Époque and was subsequently visited by great artists and composers such as Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Richard Strauss as well as fashion designer Christian Dior. Other local sites of interest include the Funicolare and the Valdinievole. And for the more active, there are also breath-taking walks, hikes and cycling routes.

The piano festival takes place in several venues across Montecatini, and festival concerts are to be held in the open air theatre of the Terme Tettuccio (see photo above). Participants can take advantage of a series of concerts, individual lessons and chamber music coaching given by musicians and faculty members.

Guests, students, course professors and performers all stay at the festival’s affiliated hotel, the Hotel Arnolfo & Aqua Laetitia. This five-star resort offers luxury accommodation and a host of spa and beauty facilities, including massage, saunas and a variety of beauty treatments, all of which are available to course attendees.

Japanese pianist Aisa Ijiri (pictured to the left), who is artistic director of this festival, (and is also artistic director of TIPA in Japan), makes the comment:

‘Music is a universal language. It is also a beautiful journey into art. I hope our visiting musicians and participants will consider our festival a home in which to feel united with a shared journey of our whole artistic experiences, all in the beauty of Tuscany.’

The 2019 festival will offer an attractive series of concerts, individual lessons, masterclasses and chamber music coaching given by resident artists. In particular, pianist Sofya Gulyak (pictured below), first prize winner at The Leeds International Piano Competition in 2009, and who is now professor of piano at the Royal College of Music, will give a recital and master classes. As will violinist Emanuel Salvador, who is concertmaster of the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra.

This festival also offers performance opportunities for the participants, and a new competition for young musicians to win the chance to give a concert, providing a stepping stone towards a professional concert career. I will give a composition workshop, and I’m looking forward to hearing some of my compositions performed in the opening Gala Concert.

You can find out much more about the festival by visiting the website, and you can secure your place by clicking here.

www.montecatinipianofestival.com


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.