PIANO WEEK goes to Frankfurt

PrintA profusion of piano courses and festivals can be found in the UK (and many abroad too), therefore enticing young (and older) pianists to part with their money and time to attend such ventures is an increasingly demanding task.

British pianist Samantha Ward has risen to this ambitious challenge with aplomb. She began her piano course, PIANO WEEK, in North Wales in 2013, and since inception, it has swiftly grown. Now an international piano festival and summer school, it is en route to become one of considerable note in the UK, Europe and in Asia.

This year the festival’s profile has evolved into a touring enterprise with international residencies in China, Italy, Germany and two here in the UK. Moreton Hall and Rugby School are both featured in the UK’s roster of events, which boast state-of-the-art facilities. Each PIANO WEEK residency  proffers a different character; from the intimate setting of a 1892 villa on the bank of the picturesque Rhine river in Germany to a  perfect four-day retreat in Umbria. If a rather more urban setting suits your taste, the bustling city of Beijing hosts what will no doubt be a glittering Asian extravaganza.

piano-week-1Places at  PIANO WEEK’s first residency this year in Frankfurt (in Sankt Goar at a beautiful villa (see photo to the left and below), part of the Upper Middle Rhine UNESCO World Heritage Site), are limited, and the deadline for application is the 20th January 2017. The course runs from the 16th – 19th February 2017, and the faculty consists of pianists and pedagogues Samantha Ward (artistic director and founder), Maciej Raginia (Creative Director), and Niel Du Preez.

For those lucky enough to attend, sessions will run throughout the day, including three one-to-one lessons, two opportunities for solo performance, as well as part of a duo, and also a chance to perform your own composition. The week will therefore include a duet lesson, two composition classes, two master classes, a sight reading class, plus a complimentary duet book, allocated practice time (which will be subject to availability) and access to all faculty recitals and master classes.piano-week-2

Concerts will be held in the evenings for both participants and faculty, followed by dinner. There will also be ample opportunity for sight-seeing, with breathtaking scenery, lovely restaurants, and a chance to enjoy the UNESCO World Heritage Site and the famous Lorelei Statue (all very close to the venue).

You can find out much more about the course and book your place by contacting Samantha by either e mail or mobile phone: pianoweek@yahoo.com or 07775 207066

www.pianoweek.com


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of 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.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Weekend at Jackdaws Music Education Trust

jackdawsI had the pleasure of tutoring a second piano course at Jackdaws Music Education Trust over the weekend. Jackdaws is dedicated to improving participation in and enjoyment of music through residential and one day instrumental and vocal courses, various education projects, a Young Artists Programme, as well as performances by world-class musicians.

Piano courses, whether weekend courses or Summer schools, are proving increasingly popular with pianists of all levels and abilities (from beginners through to professionals). Jackdaws was recently voted second place in a UK Piano Course Ranking. According to the survey, those who attended such courses gave the following reasons as most important;  ‘the opportunity to work with leading teachers’ (something Jackdaws offers at every weekend course)  and the chance to gain ‘useful, critical feedback’.

Jackdaws is situated in the village of Great Elm, just outside Frome, in Somerset (UK). A picturesque venue and setting (see photo above), wonderful food (all home cooked by our chef Loo) and an excellent Steinway, make for a thoroughly enjoyable and, hopefully, informative few days.

My course focused on piano technique, sight-reading and memorisation, which are aspects sometimes forgotten or side-stepped during piano lessons, however, there was also ample time for each participant to work on repertoire too. In all, the weekend courses (which begin on Friday evenings at 6.30pm and finish at 4pm on Sunday afternoons), consist of around 12 hours of tuition, as well as a little time on Saturday afternoon to explore the surrounding area. It’s certainly a musically action packed weekend!

Course participants ranged from teenagers to the more mature, and from elementary level through to advanced; it was interesting to observe how this variety didn’t affect or impede enjoyment; the elementary students seemed to respond well to hearing advanced students perform and vice versa. By working at particular facets of piano playing, it’s possible to involve all standards and abilities, and offer a few ideas for improvement at every level.There were fewer pianists on my course this year, but those who came said they savoured the opportunity for longer one-to-one teaching sessions.

A weekend course doesn’t necessarily aim to overhaul piano playing overnight, but it can offer the possibility of change, and a realisation that certain elements can be tackled in a different way. Performance practice (i.e. the act of playing through a piece from beginning to end in front of a small audience) can be a triumph for some, and courses are useful for this aspect alone.

One of the participants on my course last year realised she needed another approach, and has since come for regular lessons; we have worked hard to alter and improve her playing, and she has just taken an ATCL diploma and is now preparing for music college and university auditions.

The prospect of meeting new and like-minded friends makes this a perfect way to spend a weekend. There are a plethora of piano courses taking place at Jackdaws throughout the year featuring a cohort of leading piano pedagogues (you can find out much more here), so you’ll no doubt find one to suit you.

www.jackdaws.org.uk

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 My Publications:For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of 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.


Jackdaws Piano Course 2016

GetAttachmentThumbnailMy piano course at Jackdaws Music Education Trust will be held in October this year and the bookings open today!  This is my second visit to Jackdaws and I’m very much forward to it.

Jackdaws has a wonderful history and tradition, and is renowned for its instrumental and vocal courses, education projects, young artists programme, and performances by world-class musicians. Situated near Frome in Somerset (UK), the venue is set in exquisite countryside. There are a whole range of courses on offer featuring many outstanding teachers, and lots are residential. You can find out all about the Education Trust here.

My piano course will begin on Friday 14th of October at 6.30pm and finish on Sunday afternoon on the 16th October at 4pm. It consists of eight concentrated sessions throughout the weekend, providing ample opportunity to work on many aspects of pianism. I was fortunate to have a full house last year (10 participants), which was fun (you can read more about the weekend and repertoire presented here).

I’ll be focusing on piano technique, memorisation and sight-reading. These are topics I often offer for courses, as I believe they are frequently neglected. However, there will also be plenty of time for more traditional workshop fayre; where each pianist plays a prepared piece and we work on it in a master class format. Therefore we ask each participant to bring two short  pieces of their choice (however, your pieces do not need to be polished or performance ready – we will work on this together).

GetAttachmentThumbnailThe weekend will commence with sessions on evaluating and honing technical freedom at the piano, with full class participation. This will be followed by plenty of tips and practical guidance on memorisation, again with class participation, and the course will finish with sessions on sight-reading, and a final opportunity to work on chosen pieces.

This piano course is open to any standard or level of playing, and there are a maximum of ten places. The fee for the  course is £200 for the entire weekend, to include all meals except breakfast (there is a selection of B&Bs to choose from if you would like to stay nearby). To find out more about the course, and for booking and registration (which is now open) click here – I look forward to meeting you.

‘A very enjoyable course Melanie. A lot of information was covered. Really appreciated the technical help and also watching your approach to teaching the other students. Alex’s food was indeed wonderful, catering for so many varied food requirements. Such a high standard of skills from the variety of participants. Very enjoyable indeed. Looking forward to another course in the future – can’t have too much knowledge, always willing to learn more.Thanks again Melanie. Highly recommended!’

Maggie George: Participant on the 2015 Jackdaws Music Education Trust Course

www.jackdaws.org.uk


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of 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.


 

Recommended Piano Resources for March 2016

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As March draws to a close, here’s a round-up of useful piano resources. Hopefully there’s something for everyone including a new piano method, a sight-reading collection, piano pieces, as well as a tempting piano course and an inaugural piano festival. Enjoy!


Beginner/Elementary

Lang Lang Piano Method

Lang LangNew to the market this month, the Lang Lang Piano Method (published by Faber Music), consists of five volumes and is designed to take youngsters from the very beginning to around Grade 1 level (ABRSM exams). The brightly coloured publications feature a cartoon character of the Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang, and take beginners (the method is aimed at those between the ages of 5 – 10 years) on a journey of piano discovery.  Musicianship is developed through theory quizzes and games, as well as the chance to hear Lang Lang playing a range of piano repertoire. The books are accompanied by online audio tracks, including performances of the concert pieces by the popular piano star himself. Find out more here and purchase copies here.

Funkey!

Funkey

Banishing onerous sight-reading tests will be simple courtesy of this series! Written by British teacher Lindsey Berwin and published by Kevin Mayhew, the set consists of five books, and level 1 begins at approximately Grade 1 ABRSM standard. Each short piece is designed to develop a students awareness of key. A variety of styles have been implemented including rock, swing and latin, and the books have a useful accompanying CD. These publications will ideally help pupils to incorporate regular practice in this area, improving rhythmic awareness and crucially, the ability to play fluently. I encourage my students to obtain many different sight-reading books within each exam grade (irrespective of which they plan to prepare for), therefore a series such as this will be most beneficial. Get your copies here.

Intermediate

Spinning Sky

Spinning-Sky-for-piano-by-Aleksandra-Vilcinska-768x1077

Spinning Sky for piano, written by Russian composer Aleksandra Vilcinska (featured on the cover) consists of a tuneful, wistful melody evoking hopes, dreams and happiness. Published just last month by EVC Music Publications Ltd. Spinning Sky is a beautifully balanced piece to add to a teenage student’s repertoire, particularly those who enjoy the ‘new age’ genre. Suitable for students at Intermediate level (or Grades 5-6 ABRSM standard). Listen to the piece and get your copy here.

8 Children’s Pieces for Piano

8 childrens

Celebrated British composer Malcolm Arnold‘s highly evocative and colourful 8 Children’s Pieces for Piano have been republished in a new edition by Queen’s Temple Publications. They range in difficulty from about Grades 2 – 6, and represent a wonderful set of imaginative and fun pieces to learn, play and perform. Melodious, often dramatic, and with interesting and occasionally unexpected harmonies, they are audience and young pianist friendly. Titles include Dancing Tune, Two Sad Hands, Across the Plains and The Buccaneer. You can find out more and purchase your copy here.

Intermediate/Advanced

Piano Kaleidoscope

Baerenreiter Kaleidoscope V11 Front

This new volume, published by German publisher, Barenreiter, is a special edition; a mix of classics at an affordable price, featuring a cross-section of Bärenreiter’s extensive piano catalogue. The pieces and movements range from the 18th century through to the first decades of the 20th century.  Fifteen composers are represented in this edition, from J S Bach and Schubert through to Debussy, Satie and Smetana. The pieces also vary in national style and are fairly wide-ranging in terms of technical difficulty, although many are intermediate (grades 5 – 6) level. You can find out more and order your copy here.

Online

TomBooks

newsletter-enTomBooks is a new type of e-book combining text, images and audio content in an innovative manner. The goal of these books is to ‘immerse the reader in a world of culture, music and art through an interactive, multi-sensory approach’. TomBooks’ first editions are dedicated to music and painting: biographies of composers, interactive music scores, galleries and games linked to painting, and books dedicated to works of art.  The majority of the books involve a dedicated network allowing readers to communicate with each other by means of a platform created for each book. The piano music ranges from pop and musical theatre, to classical and film music, and various accompaniments are also available. You can explore the piano music here.

Courses

The Miami International Piano Festival Academy

Miami

This course offers an intensive summer programme designed to explore the Art of Piano Playing. Distinguished teacher Giselle Brodsky is artistic director of this three week session, which takes place from July 3rd – 24th 2016 in Miami. The Academy provides pianists with the opportunity to take part in intensive private and open lessons with international master artists and teachers. There will be opportunities to participate in technique clinics, enjoy discussions with the faculty, and explore the world of different composers and specific repertoire, as well as learn  to improvise, strengthening skills as performers. You can find out much more here.

Festivals

London Piano Festival

kings-place-logo

I enjoy spotlighting new piano festivals and this one looks most innovative. The London Piano Festival takes place at King’s Place in London in October 2016, and has been created by pianists Katya Apekisheva and Charles Owen. Their shared love of the instrument has initiated this weekend especially for the city’s many piano lovers. The music will range from Bach, Busoni and Rachmaninoff through to Messiaen and Piazzolla. A particular highlight will be the world premiere of a new two-piano work by the American composer Nico Muhly. performers include Alfred Brendel, Kathryn Stott, Noriko Ogawa, Julian Joseph, Stephen Kovacevich as well as Katya and Charles. You can find out much more here.


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of 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.


A weekend at Jackdaws Music Education Trust

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Tucked away down a country lane, just a few miles from Frome in Somerset (in the South West of the UK), is a music centre which has inspired generations of singers and instrumentalists. For many years, Jackdaws Music Education Trust has been providing weekend courses, educational events and performances for appreciative audiences and students. The courses attract excellent tutors in many disciplines and an increasingly expanding stable of students.

I was delighted to be invited to join the roster of piano tutors by tutoring my own course last weekend. On most courses there are a maximum of ten places, so when I arrived on Friday evening for supper before the first session, I was greeted by ten very keen pianists of all ages.

Over the course of the weekend, we explored several topics, namely piano technique, sight-reading and memorisation, which were interspersed with a more regular workshop concept where each student presents a couple of pieces. The timetable of eight sessions of different lengths (of between one and two hours) is definitely intense (I still managed to overrun several times!), but we were able to cover a myriad of issues and concerns in this time, and my students all commented on how much they really enjoyed the variety this provided. They also appreciated the beautiful Steinway at their disposal (pictured above).

All students were adults and mostly piano teachers  and amateur pianists of varying levels (from approximately Grade 5 to ATCL level), and on my course, there was also one pre-conservatoire student too.

They presented an interesting array of repertoire including works by J S Bach, Handel, Mozart (Sonata in C major K. 545), Beethoven (Pathetique Sonata in C minor No. 8 Op. 13), Burgmuller, Kuhlau, Sinding, Grieg (Nocturne Op. 54 No. 4), Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninov (Prelude in C sharp minor Op. 3 No. 2), York Bowen, and Harold Arlen. I particularly savoured a work (performed by a diploma student) by Sydney Rosenbloom, a composer I knew very little about.

Rosenbloom was born in Edinburgh in 1886 and apparently studied at the Blackheath Conservatoire and the Royal Academy of Music, making his debut as a pianist in 1920, before working extensively in South Africa. His Polonaise in A flat appears heavily influenced by Chopin, but is nevertheless an effective display piece and great fun to play and teach. You can hear a pianola version of it here. It was a treat to discover this dynamic little-known piece.

Every student was given the chance to ‘try out’ and hone different ideas I presented relating to sight-reading, piano technique and memorisation, all of which I am convinced can be studied and hugely improved with regular attention.

The sessions were punctuated with fabulous food prepared to perfection by Alex, who worked tirelessly to make sure our various dietary requirements were met. During the small amount of relaxation time, some students explored the countryside, and set about a river walk (Jackdaws is situated next to a river), whilst others made use of the facilities at the centre and did some practice (there are several practice rooms).

The course ended with a lengthy sight-reading session; students reading together around the piano, playing trios (by Christopher Norton, Mike Cornick and Sergei Rachmaninov), and many duets, which are great ways to improve reading. Pupils commented on just how beneficial it was to have worked so thoroughly, both on their chosen pieces and other pianistic issues.

Jackdaws is certainly a wonderful experience for anyone wanting to combine vocal or instrumental workshops, with a convivial weekend break (they also run one day courses and a Summer school too), where they can meet like-minded individuals and work with respected teachers. You can find out much more here.


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of 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.