Piano Workshops and Classes
A faculty member at the 2012, 2014, 2016 & 2018 Overseas Masters Winter Piano Academy held at the Yehudi Menuhin School, Melanie regularly tutors weekend piano courses at Jackdaws Music Education Trust in Somerset (U.K.), Finchcocks Music in Kent (U.K.), Piano Week (U.K.) and the Montecatini Piano Festival (Italy).
Over the past few years, she has directed a bilingual community piano project in Germany, giving workshops and master classes at the IKM Gelsenkirchen, near Düsseldorf, and has given piano technique workshops and presentations around the U.K. at the following: Yamaha Music London, Forsyths Music (Manchester), Windows Music (Newcastle), Banks Sheet Music (York), Millers Music (Cambridge), Ackerman’s Music (Brighton), and for the European Piano Teachers Association (EPTA) at Schott Music, in London.
Melanie enjoys working with piano teachers and frequently presents workshops and classes around the world. Recent pedagogy presentations include; the 2017 UCSI University Piano Pedagogy Conference in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), the 2019 Frankfurt Music Messe (Germany), and in Jakarta (Indonesia) at the I-MEC, where she gave a week of classes and workshops for teachers and students as part of the 2019/2020 Cantata Youth Music Scheme.
She has led workshop programmes specifically for teachers and students in the Far East, most notably at the Cristofori Academy, Kawai Music School, and The Musique Loft, all based in Singapore, and the Sinfonia Music Studio (Johor Bahru), Encore Music Centre (Melaka) and Gloria Musica School of Music (Kuala Lumpur), all based in Malaysia. During 2018, Melanie undertook a book tour of Malaysia and Indonesia for her publisher, Schott Music, presenting workshops and lectures for teachers in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Surabaya.
Melanie is currently conducting an online piano programme for teachers and students at the Tom Lee Academy in Hong Kong, and, during 2021, will be hosting a series of online masterclasses for the First Education Group based in Hong Kong and Macau. She is looking forward to directing the Chetham’s Piano Teachers’ Course at the Chetham’s International Piano Summer School (U.K.). And, from 2020, she has been appointed a faculty member at the Tokyo International Piano Association (TIPA).
Piano Faculty Teaching
Melanie Spanswick is a member of the piano teaching faculty at the Junior Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at Eton College, both in the U.K., and she is an Honorary Master Teacher at the Tom Lee Academy in Hong Kong.
Previous piano teaching positions include Reading University (2003 – 2007) and the Royal College of Music Junior Department (1991 – 1996).
Melanie’s aim, and teaching philosophy, is to help students develop a workable technique alongside honing fine interpretative skills. She is very interested in the development of keyboard choreography, eliminating and alleviating tension and stiffness, especially in the arms, wrists and hands, whilst keeping fingers firm.
Tightness in the upper body can cause many problems when playing the piano, and she usually works through a series of simple exercises with students, focusing on assimilating the necessary flexible, relaxed movement, with the intention of avoiding injury and pain. Once students master these movements, they generally find that their piano playing moves to a different level in terms of employing the wrists and fingers optimally and producing a fuller, deeper sound, which enables swifter learning.
Tendonitis, repetitive strain injury and focal dystonia are generally symptoms of technical issues, and Melanie has had much experience helping students who have suffered from these conditions.
Adjudicating and Examining
Melanie adjudicates for the British and International Federation of Festivals, acting as a mentor and coach for BIFF adjudicators, and has also examined for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), undertaking both the graded and diploma exams. She has been a member of examining panels for both BMus and MA/MMus final recital examinations at both Reading University and Royal Holloway (London) University.
Jury member participation includes the following:
Hong Kong Schools Music Festival in 2013 & 2018 (Hong Kong)
EPTA Piano Competition 2014 (U.K.)
Chicago Amateur Piano Competition 2016 (U.S.A.)
London Junior Department Piano Festival 2016 held at Wigmore Hall (U.K.)
Singapore Performing Arts Festival 2017 (Singapore)
Stars of the Albion Grand Prix 2016 – 2019, chairing the jury (U.K.)
Beethoven Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition 2017 (U.K.)
Around the Globe Piano Music Festival 2017 – 2020 (U.K.)
Third Overseas Performers Music Festival 2019 (Singapore)
Student successes have included many competition prize-winners, and most recently, BBC Young Musician 2020 piano finalist, Harvey Lin. Melanie’s students have performed at some of the world’s most prestigious concert halls, and have won undergraduate and postgraduate places (and scholarships) to study the piano at various music conservatoires.
She enjoys working with piano teachers and adult students, many of whom obtain piano diplomas, from the ATCL and DipABRSM, to the FTCL and FRSM, in both piano performance and piano teaching, and some have subsequently entered the profession as piano teachers.
Workshops and Course Participants
‘Just to thank you very much for an excellent weekend. I enjoyed a very positive experience of my first ‘on line’ course. I know that I certainly need to do lots of work on technique etc. so must now start putting some of your advice into practice. I will certainly look out for your future courses.’
Marion Blake: participant on the 2020 Jackdaws Music Education Trust ‘Online’ Piano Course (U.K.)
‘Thank you very much for a splendid weekend! It might seem strange to an outside observer to have a piano course at which not a single piece was played but your suggestion at the start that our time would be best spent following your four piano technique workshop notes was an excellent one. I’ve been through the first two workshop examples again during my practice and I’m optimistic that as they and the later two become routine I will see significant benefits.’
Aidan Rose: participant on the 2020 Jackdaws Music Education Trust ‘Online’ Piano Course (U.K.)
‘Thank you so much for brilliant workshop yesterday. It was absolutely wonderful! I was very impressed with your method and how you developed the Russian piano school’s basic postulates. I have found out a lot of very important things and remembered some things that I previously used but had forgotten! Also, you created very friendly, amazing atmosphere – I love how you were working with all the teachers. Everything was just wonderful, and I really enjoyed it very much and especially looking through your amazing Play it Again: PIANO Book 3. Marvellous job! I wish you many new horizons in your passionate mission.’
Alla Levit: Russian Pianist and Piano Teacher, and Workshop participant at Banks Music Shop in York, February 2020 (U.K.)
‘Thank you so much for your technique workshops and the masterclasses. Your handouts are very helpful in understanding how to practise that deep touch feel at home. It was clear that your students were able to feel the contact with the key more readily than others and (perhaps because of that) there was a confidence in their playing that was quite admirable.’
Janet Gilman: Participant on the 2020 Jackdaws Music Education Trust Piano Course (UK.)
‘I wanted to thank you for your patience and encouragement. I really enjoyed the weekend and came away feeling inspired. Above all I learned some very useful tips which hopefully will help me to take my playing onto the next stage – particularly the importance of positional playing.’
Jocelyn Dawson-Wood: Participant on a 2019 Finchcocks Intermediate Piano Course (U.K.)
‘Melanie Spanswick came to Manchester on January 26th (2019) to do a workshop at Forsyths music shop and what a treat it was! Nobody was disappointed and any reader who gets the opportunity should go to one of those workshops. We can’t wait for her to return. Having retired and taken up the piano I became despondent with the teachers I had. I was about to give up when I discovered Pianist (Magazine) and Melanie’s books’.
Michael Owen: Audience member at a Forsyths Music Shop Workshop in 2019, printed in the ‘letters’ section of Pianist Magazine, March 2019 (U.K.)
‘I learnt so much from you in the past 48 hours, and really enjoyed myself too. A brilliant teacher, luxury accommodation and all those pianos is a perfect combination. Thank you again for your wisdom and patience.’
Judith Serota: Participant on the 2018 Finchcocks Intermediate Piano Course (U.K.)
‘Many thanks to Melanie, the most inspiring teacher, helpful, patient, understanding and full of advice for us all. A weekend which is forever in my precious memories.‘
Sylvie Volve: Participant on the 2018 Finchcocks Intermediate Piano Course (U.K.)
‘That was a really good weekend, Melanie. As an adult beginner I leant an awful lot and it was inspirational seeing the others play their pieces. I move forward now with renewed optimism and a new teacher. Thanks for your patience !’
Andrew Carr: Participant on the 2016 Jackdaws Music Education Trust Course (U.K.)
‘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 (U.K.)
‘The guest speaker for the April 2016 guitar workshop was the fabulous Melanie Spanswick (pianist). She gave a brilliant workshop about sight-reading and memorisation and everyone took away a lot of ideas. Coupled with my talk on fretboard knowledge and strategies to learn the fretboard more thoroughly, everyone felt more comfortable with the prospect of sight-reading by the end! Hugely enjoyable.’
Fiona Harrison: Guitarist, teacher and educator (U.K.)
‘I had not been to this kind of master class for a little while and the one that you held was an update for me. And it was superb.’
Maria Yau: Piano Teacher (Hong Kong)
‘Thank you for your passion and hard work. You are very detailed in your teaching and persistently expect students to meet your standard. We appreciate you taking the time and effort to give us insights about technical exercises that will benefit many. Such detailed technical studies bring us basic knowledge of how to use our hands and fingers effectively, yet they all are rich in knowledge. We hope you don’t give up on us because we still have so much to learn and absorb from an experienced expert like you.’
Febe Warman: Director of the I-MEC and Cantata Music School (Indonesia)
Books, Articles and Blog
‘Melanie, I’d like to thank you for your piano methods, without them I wouldn’t be playing piano to the standard I am. A few years ago I looked into your methods as I felt many piano teachers don’t have the best techniques to show! However yours has helped me so much and has helped with my piano exam work too I will be taking grade 5 next month then going on to grade 7. My piano teacher is also a big fan of yours! Dr Antonina Lax, she also showed me the music you have written for her and her duet partner, which was beautiful to play! I really appreciate any of your help and advice as piano is my passion! I couldn’t be more grateful! Thank you!!’
Adam Harle: Pianist and Piano Teacher (U.K.)
‘Just a very brief note to say thanks for your comments on fingering in Pianist Magazine. It was the best summary of fingering strategy I’ve ever read!’
Gabe Litvin: (U.S.A.)
‘What do I love about Melanie’s blog? Want practice motivation? It’s there. Want advice on some aspect of piano playing? It’s there. Want to research Melanie’s many compositions? You’ll find them there. And the best part? Every article is written in a friendly, direct way that invites readers to be part of a communal piano adventure.’
Rhonda Rizzo: Pianist, Recording Artist, and Writer (U.S.A.)
EPTA Workshops and Classes
‘HUGE thanks to Melanie for her thoughtful and inspiring coaching this afternoon at EPTA Brighton’s first ‘Young Pianists Performance Day’. It was lovely to watch the instant rapport Melanie developed with each performer throughout the workshops, and great to hear such varied repertoire in all performance categories. Melanie’s coaching on rhythmic discipline and encouraging a greater sense of freedom in the performers’ shoulders/arms/wrists was really valuable to all. I’m sure all performers came away with very constructive and helpful advice to take into the new year.’
Helen Wilson: EPTA (European Piano Teacher’s Association), Brighton.
‘Many thanks to Melanie for super ideas on tone production. A really good afternoon!’
Beate Wilmshurst: EPTA, Derby.
‘Learnt such a lot from Melanie, we can all use her tips in our teaching and own playing.’
Kath Hoblyn: Piano Teacher and EPTA master class audience member in Derby.
‘An enjoyable afternoon indeed, a very positive workshop – and further workshops hopefully will ensue. Thanks a lot Melanie, you were excellent.’
Liz Dewhurst: EPTA, Swansea.
‘I would like to thank Melanie for helping me to get a Scholarship to study the piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. During my early years of piano studies, I encountered regular stiffness and strain in my hands. After starting taking lessons from Melanie, she taught me how to be flexible with the hands, wrists and arms and the importance of maintaining a good posture, which are crucial elements to making a good sound. She had been working extremely hard and carefully with me towards my college entrance audition in a very detailed way, and thanks to her sheer dedication and a great focus on technical foundation and precision, my playing progressed immensely in a very short period of time.
It was daunting when I first heard that we had to work remotely, but Melanie has made it work through her clear explanation of each movement and description of sound. She has always shown great patience and never forgot to bring me encouragement. In the last stage of preparing my audition, she asked me to record my myself two to three times each week to be more confident with this new audition method. She continues to inspire me with her passion for music and dedication to teaching.’
‘I was completely blown away; in eight months of having lessons with Melanie, I had taken my diploma and received offers from six conservatories. I know that there was no way I could’ve done it without her, or without my own determination, and I’m also on the way to building a secure technique free of any pain, discomfort or tension.’
‘Thanks so much for your help. I already feel with the daily exercises and slow methodical practice my technique has improved. Only yesterday I tackled a piece of Bach that has evaded me for years and it clicked.’