At the Piano with Dr Mark Polishook

What is your first memory of the piano?

My piano journey began more or less when I was 3 or 4 years old. Movers brought a 1932 5’3” Chickering baby grand to our house. It was a gift from my grandparents.

That piano eventually travelled with me from one coast to another in America, which is where I’m from. It came with me when I arrived in the UK 4 years ago.

Last summer I acquired a new Steingraeber Phoenix 205. It’s an amazing instrument. I looked at a lot of pianos in the UK and America  before I selected it. Some of them were very good but none of them had the special, personal “this is the one – this one is it” kind of feeling I was looking for. When I finally met the 205 at Hurstwood Farm Pianos in Surrey it did seem like the one. It’s definitely reaffirmed that to me since arriving in my house.

There are more than a few fascinating lessons I learned looking for a piano which I’ve written up on my blog. Meanwhile, the Chickering has moved to my neighbour’s house for new and more family adventures.

Who was your first teacher and what do you recall about your early days of learning about the piano?

My first teacher was a very nice woman in our town in New Jersey. But after not all that long I mostly taught myself. I wasn’t systematic or organised in what I learned. It was mostly the Chickering was in the house and I’d play by ear.

From the beginning I had an affinity for jazz. I don’t know why or from where or how because I remember hearing Liberace and Victor Borge but not jazz. I also recall trying to pick out bits of the ‘Rite of Spring’ after hearing a recording of it. But picking out tiny bits of the ‘Rite of Spring’ was about all I could do.

Do you remember what you liked to play?

The Joy of Boogie and Blues’ was the book that had my interest. When I played the pieces in it with the right spin they sounded like boogie and blues. But I hadn’t yet heard real boogie boogie such as Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson used to play. And I didn’t know about New-Orleans-style piano playing even though ‘The Joy of Boogie and Blues’ had pieces in that genre. And of course I didn’t know of the great jazz pianists like Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and Bill Evans.

My parents and neighbours used to say I had a “nice touch” when I played boogie-woogie-type things. That phrase resonated with me. I could feel what it meant in my hands. And I could hear how that feeling translated into sound.

Who or what inspired you to start teaching?

While working towards a PhD in composition at the University of Pittsburgh I taught courses in basic theory and musicianship, jazz history, class piano, and a seminar on Mozart. Teaching was part of what PhdD students did while working towards the degree. So that’s where I began with students and learning about teaching and how to do it – and finding that I really liked it.

Who were your most memorable/significant teachers?

The important teacher who fastened my wheels to the track was Floyd “Floogie” Williams. I met Floyd in the second semester of my first year at university which was mid-1970s. He had recently moved to the area from New York City where he had been a drummer and a percussionist in jazz and studio worlds.

Learning with Floyd was immersion all things musical. I couldn’t possibly have had a better teacher. He had experience in the world I wanted to enter. Essentially he put one on the path towards that world.

Lessons with Floyd always included stories and more stories, all them colourful, about how this or that musician practiced and learned. And there was always an important point that came out of it all. With the piano Floyd boiled it down to one essential: Practice and practice some more.

What he meant was put in time and effort. Serious time and effort – as a method it was brute-force “put-your-back-into-it.” I spent virtually every hour of the day playing Bach, and Chopin, Beethoven, and Oscar Peterson piano transcriptions or picking excerpts out of the Dover editions of scores.

Another big lesson from Floyd was to the importance of being around great pianists – to see and hear firsthand how the did what they did. So Floyd arranged for me to visit to New York City to meet John Lewis, who had who played with Charlie Parker and later formed the Modern Jazz Quartet. A few months later Floyd sent me to New York City again. This time for lessons with Jaki Byard.

Jaki is among the great pianists and teachers in jazz. He played like a one-man jazz repertory orchestra, always with allusions to different pianists and styles, all of which he juxtaposed with wit and great humour.

So for example Jaki’s left hand might play in a stride piano style. But his right hand would play over it in very free bebop style – and perhaps in a different key. But the thing was, no matter what Jaki played he sounded uniquely like Jaki and never like he imitating something. Jaki was postmodern long before postmodernism was a style.

Who or what are the most important influences on your teaching?

At New England Conservatory I continued studying with Jaki and then I switched over to William Thomas McKinley who’s a composer and a jazz pianist. Whereas Jaki’s approach to the piano was based on play, play, and play Tom’s way – because  he was a composer – was write, write, write. So I wrote excerpts and examples – I filled notebook after notebook – of what I wanted to improvise.

I also took lessons outside of NEC from Charlie Banacos who had his own fascinating teaching niche. Charlie was a great jazz pianist but he gave up performing to focus exclusively on teaching. And he was well-known as a teacher – as perhaps “the teacher. All his students first went through his two-year waiting list before lessons began. Many of Charlie’s students went on to play with fabulous jazz musicians. And Miles Davis said he wanted to study with Charlie!

Most of what Charlie taught was simple in concept – for example transcribe a McCoy Tyner solo. But to do that required a lot of focused work with a tape recorder. Once the solo was transcribed, the next step was to play it at speed.

With Charlie simplicity of concept definitely wasn’t the same as ease of execution. Some  of the “simple stuff” Charlie showed me a long time ago is still among what I practice now.

The big picture I synthesised from all of that which is right at the centre of how I teach is “Experiment: cast the net freely and widely.” In other words explore, explore, explore – as Robert Frost said very well:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

I moved to New York City in the early 1980s after New England Conservatory and Boston. New York was exhilarating because it was populated to beyond bursting with fabulously-skilled musicians. If there’s a genre or a style of music anywhere in the world someone in New York is exploring and playing it at some unbelievably high level. Probably along with an entire community of equally-skilled practitioners.

After several years of freelancing there and all sorts of gigs I completed a Masters’ degree in Jazz Piano at the Manhattan School of Music. One of the classes I took there was an introduction to composition. The solo piano piece I wrote for it – along with Tom McKinley’s prescriptions to write, write, write – launched me on to composing.

So I went from the Manhattan School of Music to the University of Pittsburgh for PhD studies in composition and theory. But at the time – mid-1980s – composition there was focused narrowly on serialism through the lens and teaching of Milton Babbitt. Which wasn’t uncommon at that time. But it wasn’t the direction the interested me so I moved on to the Hartt School of Music where there was more plurality of approach and style. That’s where I completed the doctorate.

Beginning in the 1990s I taught composition, music technology, and jazz piano at the University of Maine at Augusta. From there I went to Central Washington University where I directed the music composition and theory programs. During that period I had short and long-term residencies in the United States and Europe – at the Crakow Academy of Music, STEIM in Amsterdam, the Banff Centre in Canada, and the University of California Santa Barbara, among others. And I was always playing jazz.

How do you teach?

Everyone comes to the piano and improvisation with their own interests, strengths, and abilities. So how I teach depends on the interests and experiences my students bring with them. It’s very much based on what they want to learn.

I’d say what I do as a teacher is help students acquire a musical voice. That means on the one hand exploring what, why, and how we do music- and piano-related things. And being creative with whatever comes back from those questions. On the other hand it’s about building as much technique as we can to support creativity. Creativity and technique are the two sides on the same coin.

Most memorable/significant teaching experiences?

I’m keen on teaching improvisation through Skype to students around the world. What’s amazing to me about Skype is it works without getting in the way. So looking into my studio from a distance literally means looking through Skype.

For me, there’s magic and the miraculous in working with students who literally are all around the world. Because with Skype connections to distant places don’t feel distant.

From time to time I’ll think “Well we’re working together in realtime but there’s a 12-hour time difference between us.” Which to me is mind boggling. I’ve had some improvised, interesting two-piano duets with students on Skype.

I’d say what Skype brings out is it’s the creativity and enthusiasm we bring to the learning process that counts. Which is the same for everyone really – without or with Skype. Creativity and enthusiasm are essential.

The biggest challenge with Skype has been managing clock shifts and timezones around the world. So, for example, I’ve since learned some countries – Iran is one and I have a fantastic student there – set their clocks to the half-hour rather than to the hour.

What do you expect from your students?

The first thing I teach is relaxation helps improvisation and playing the piano enormously. Because when we’re relaxed it’s easier to play and make music.

But after that expectations can easily become “it-has-to-be-this-way” or “it-has-to-be-that-way.” If we can reduce “it-has-to-be-this” to as few instances as possible we’re that much closer to relaxation where music and everything can seem easy. So removing expectations is about learning to play and practice in the moment with the skills we have instead the skills we wish we had.

A different example of a removable expectation is the idea that knowledge of theory – scales and chords  – precedes meaningful improvisation. The reality is thinking about theory when improvising is about as helpful as applying theory to playing anything.

Of course later or sooner theory is among the great extra stuff that broadens and deepens how we play. But as a prerequisite to improvisation – and particularly for students who come to improvisation with technique already – it’s not the start point.

What are your views on exams, festivals and competitions?

I’m mostly interested in the quality of experience of the individual – instead of the quantity of quality competition judges have to quantify. The thing is, quality of experience doesn’t depend on prescribed skill levels. A different way to say that is I’m focused on processes of music-making – because experience is process.

On the other hand I competed in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition which is the huge international one of the jazz world. I was a finalist in the the Great American Jazz Piano Competition. My Robots-in-Residence installation which I built in Denmark was a prize-winner in a competition in France. I learned a lot by being in those events and I’m glad I had those experiences.

And many pianists know competitions and such to be exactly what they want to enter into. In that case of course I’m happy to assist and support. But to the question of “are competitions and such things fundamentally part of learning to play an instrument?” my opinion is, no, they’re not.

What do you consider to be the most important concepts to impart to beginning students, and to advanced students?

Being in the moment with the music we’re making. Focusing on right now. To do that we have to relax. Which isn’t a question of “Are we relaxed? Yes or no?” It’s that relaxation is a continuum. Which means we can always bring it to deeper and deeper levels.

Also important is listening to the sound that comes from the piano. Listening to how the piano resonates. How it projects. One way forward with this  play and listen to single, sustained notes – long tones at the piano.

It’s like magic but ears and mind usually then go right to the moment – because they’re listening to the attack, sustain, and decay of each note and then each note after that.

How do you approach the issue of performance anxiety/tension?

We all deal with it in one way or another. I wish I knew how to banish it once and forever. But the reality probably is that’s just part of music making and not really all that unusual.

My approach is to work with it in small increments – instead of looking to conquer or suppress it once and for all. Small increments could mean learning to use specific relaxation techniques of which breathing is one of them.

Breathing meaning focusing on and recognising the importance of breath while we’re at the piano. And of course listening to the sound of the piano. Focusing on sound as it floats out of the piano. The more we focus on breath and sound the more we go to those worlds and then on to relaxation and the moment of “right now.”

Differentiating between “practice” and “performance” mode can be helpful. Practice mode is about working out details and looking to improve “this thing” or “that thing” or both things or all things. It’s intentionally focused to things such as “play these notes” or “perform that passage softly.”

Performance mode on the other hand doesn’t require analytic thinking. It doesn’t require that we try to do something better today than yesterday. It’s sitting down at the piano and being in the moment: Comfortable, and relaxed with the music we make, the sound we hear, the ability we have. Then “letting” everything flow together into a performance. Instead of “making” it flow together into the performance.

Are there any books you’d recommend to pianists or musicians or anyone interested in improvising?

The book for the desert island, assuming the piano’s already been delivered, is The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music by W.A. Mathieu. It has listening exercises and philosophy for everyone at every level of ability and experience.

How can we contact you?

My Mark Polishook Studio website is a blog about improvising, jazz, and all things of interest to pianists. My email address is mark@polishookstudio.com.

Dr. Mark Polishook, a pianist, composer, and music technologist, teaches improvisation in his studio in Leicester and on the internet through Skype. Among his compositions is Seed of Sarah, an electronic chamber opera that was made into a film seen across North America, Europe, and Australia. As a jazz pianist Dr. Polishook has performed with many eminent artists. 

To the experimental side of sound art Dr. Polishook has worked with graphics tablets, robots, and open-source software. His Robots-in-Residence installation which he created in Denmark was a prize winner in the 2004 International Bourges Electro-acoustic Music Competition in France. 

Dr. Polishook directed the music composition and theory programs at Central Washington University. He’s been a professor of jazz piano at the University of Maine at Augusta and a Senior Fulbright Lecturer at the Crakow Academy of Music in Poland. Dr. Polishook has been a resident artist in the Aarhus Computer Science Department, at STEIM in Amsterdam and at CREATE at the University of California Santa Barbara. 

He has a DMA in Music Composition from the Hartt School of Music, a masters’ degrees from the University of Pittsburgh and the Manhattan School of Music. His undergraduate degree is from the New England Conservatory of Music.

Dulwich Piano Festival 2014

Now in its third year, the popular and extremely well-organised Dulwich Piano Festival takes place on Sunday 15th June at The Old Library, Dulwich College, London SE22. There are classes for all levels from beginner to advanced, and adult learner, and there is even a harpsichord class. This year’s adjudicators are Emmanuel Vass, Elena Cobb and Rosa Conrad.

Dulwich PIano Festival is a competition for amateur musicians of all ages including adults. All musicians perform for the adjudicator and an audience. All competitors receive a Comment Sheet and Certificate with a category award. Certificates and Comment Sheets will be distributed from the front desk at the end of each class. Adjudicators may choose only to give verbal feedback on medal place winners if the timings of the class do not allow for individual verbal feedback. Medals are awarded for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place (subject to class numbers of 9 entrants and above for the full 3 medals). Cups are awarded for many classes thanks to the generosity of our event supporters. Outstanding: 90+ Highly Commended 87-89 Commended 84-86 Pass 83 and below. A trophy will only be presented for a mark of 87 or above. For a mark of 86 and below, the Adjudicator will offer a Medal for first place and 2nd and 3rd if class numbers are sufficient.

Full details of all the classes and syllabus plus online entry can be found on the Dulwich Piano Festival website

Adult amateur pianist Jack Thompson performing in the first Dulwich PIano Festival in 2012

New Piano Techniques app from ‘Pianist’ Magazine

All the enjoyable and engaging features of ‘Pianist’ magazine are included in this new piano techniques app: informative and easy to understand articles on technique and repertoire, how to play a particular work with guidance from a top teacher, free sheet music (18 pieces in fact, from beginner to advanced level), an interview with Lang Lang, contributions from expert teachers, and more, all presented in an interactive and accessible format.

The organisation of the content will be familiar to anyone who reads Pianist magazine regularly. Clear, well laid out articles are enhanced by video tutorials by renowned teachers and pianists, and soundclips, which enable the reader to listen to the pieces presented in the free sheet music section.

The app is easy to navigate, with clear swipe commands and helpful notes and asides which enhance the articles. In effect, the app offers the very best of ‘Pianist’ magazine in a user-friendly and portable format – read it at the piano or in bed – and is ideal for the beginner, intermediate or more advanced pianist.

Download the app from the iTunes app store

Win a Ukulele!

The Ukulele, a stringed instrument hailing from Hawaii, has enjoyed a massive surge of popularity in recent years,  with ukulele festivals around the country and many new artists taking up the instrument or using it within performances and compositions.

Making Music Magazine and Alfred Music are offering readers of this blog the chance to win a Daniel Ho Starter Pack.

One lucky winner will receive a Daniel Ho Ukulele Starter Pack.  The Starter Pack Includes:

  • High-quality Firebrand concert ‘Ukulele
  • ‘Ukulele strap
  • Full-length instructional DVD, ‘Ukulele: A Beginning Method, by Daniel Ho
  • Sheet music and promotional sticker for the hit song “Pineapple Mango”
  • Daniel Ho’s CD, ‘Ukulele Collection
  • ‘Ukulele Chord Chart

Click the picture to go to the Making Music Magazine website and enter the competition

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MJusic Shorts

My talented friend Madelaine Jones, a final-year student at Trinity-Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where she studies with my piano teacher Professor Penelope Roskell, has begun a series of short films covering various musical genres and concepts, aimed at intermediate level music students (GCSE/A-level).

She begins with Neo-Classicism, offering a clear and concise introduction to the music of composers such as Stravinsky, Poulenc, Hindemith and Busoni. Her engaging manner and approach, interspersed with musical examples played by Madelaine herself, makes this short film both informative and enjoyable. Follow Madelaine on YouTube for updates.

 

madelainejones.co.uk

 

Courses and Summer Schools for Pianists

Is your practising getting you down? Do you need inspiration and encouragement? Would you like to meet other pianists and learn from the professionals? Then why not try a course or summer school this coming year…..

There are courses and summer schools for pianists of all levels, from single days and “taster” courses to piano weekends and whole weeks of piano goodness in the company of some of the finest pianists and teachers from around the world. Courses are a great way to connect with other pianists and like-minded people and are brilliant for improving skills such as technique and performance. Here is my round up of some of the best courses in the UK and beyond:

Marina Petrov’s Piano Course & Workshop (new) Sunday 23rd March 2014. Workshop with teacher Marina Petrov covering aspects such as improving technique, relieving tension, developing memory skills, developing aural and self-listening skills. Minimum ability level: Grade 6. Deadline for applications 10th March. Participants £25, observers £10. Full details and booking here

Jackdaws Music Education Trust. Courses throughout the year for pianists, instrumentalists and singers of all levels. Piano faculty includes Philip Fowke, Elena Riu, Margaret Fingerhut, Mark Tanner and Julian Jacobson. Details here

Chethams Summer School for Pianists. Known affectionately as “Chets”, this is probably the most famous summer school and boasts a fantastic faculty of international artists and teachers. Masterclasses, concerts, ensembles and more. 2014 faculty includes Leslie Howard, Carlo Grante, Leon McCawley, Murray McLachlan, Ashley Wass and Noriko Ogawa, amongst many others. Full details here

Walsall Summer School for Pianists. Formerly the well-established and popular Hereford Summer School for Pianists, the course successfully moved to a new home at the University of Wolverhampton in 2013. Mixed ability classes. Tutors will aim to cover both technical problems and interpretative points which will be of interest to the entire class. Faculty for 2014: James Lisney, Christine Stevenson, Graham Fitch, Lauretta Bloomer, Karl Lutchmayer. Details here

Penelope Roskell’s Advanced London Piano Courses. An inspiring and supportive weekend course (3 full days) focussing on repertoire, technique, and yoga for pianists. Ideal for pianists preparing for concerts, competitions, diplomas or auditions, or for anyone suffering from technical problems, physical tension, injuries or nerves. The course is run as a series of masterclasses with plenty of opportunities for discussion and exchange of ideas, and ends with a concert on the Sunday afternoon. Ability level: post-Grade 8 to post-diploma. Due to the popularity of these courses, Penelope will be running three courses in 2014. Full details here.

Penelope also runs one-day workshops for pianists and piano teachers exploring aspects such as performance anxiety and teaching technique. Further details of all courses here

Piano Week. Based at Bangor University in North Wales, Piano Week offers courses for adults and children of all levels. Masterclasses, recitals, talks and workshops. Artistic Director: Samantha Ward. Full details here

Hindhead Summer Piano Course. Held at Hindhead Music Centre in the picturesque South Downs, the 2014 course will have a special accent on the last three piano sonatas of Beethoven. Masterclasses, lectures, faculty and student concerts, discussion groups, “recorded treasures”, and more, plus fine food and a relaxed country house atmosphere. Taster and single day options. Faculty: James Lisney and Simon Nicholls. Ability cGrade 6 to post-diploma. Details here

Lot Music. A convivial course, now in its 17th year, in a beautiful part of France. Fine food and a relaxed atmosphere for pianists of around Grade 8 ability. 2014 faculty: Susan Tomes and James Lisney (1 week each). Further information here

Music at Ambialet. Summer school for professional, advanced and amateur pianists in the Tarn region of France, established by renowned teacher and Debussy scholar Paul Roberts. The courses are select, with a maximum of 20 resident participants on each of the three eight-day courses throughout August. Full details here

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Summer Schools This five and a half-day intensive summer schools aims to inspire pianists who are currently studying at conservatoire level or considering studying at a conservatoire. Students on the music summer school will benefit from using the Royal Conservatoire’s leading training and performance facilities, including a fleet of new pianos, wonderful concert venues and a state of the art recording studio. Full details here

London Piano Meetup Group. Not strictly a course, the LMPG, run by myself and Lorraine Liyanage, offers monthly performance platforms and masterclasses with visiting tutors for pianists of all levels in a friendly and supportive environment. Full details of all our events here

Dartington Summer School. The Summer School runs for five weeks, with 20-30 courses week-long courses taking place every day during each week – from individual instrumental and vocal classes to chamber music, large ensemble courses and composition. You can take part in up to four courses per week, and stay for one or all five weeks! Full details here

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How to help your child enjoy and succeed at piano lessons

The role of parents in piano lessons is crucial, by encouraging their children to practise, reinforcing the teacher’s instruction, and offering support and encouragement.

The decision to start piano lessons should not be taken too lightly. Learning and playing the piano is highly enjoyable and satisfying, leading to a deep sense of personal fulfilment, but it is also hard work which requires commitment and consistent practise to progress and succeed.

Chose the right time to start piano lessons. I have noticed an increasing trend amongst parents to seek piano lessons for very young and pre-school children. While I do not have an issue with this per se, I do feel that young children should have mastered basic reading/literacy before they start piano lessons. Children who start piano lessons at a very young age or pre-primary school should, in my opinion, be encouraged to enjoy exploring the instrument and its special soundworld before formal note learning begins. There are a number of specialist learning methods for very young children, including ‘Dogs and Birds’.

Find the right teacher. Sounds obvious? Piano teaching is unregulated and I am sorry to say there are charlatans out there and people who set themselves up as piano teachers without the appropriate qualifications and/or experience. Personal recommendation is often the best way to find a good teacher. Always arrange to meet a prospective teacher, with your child, and do not be afraid to ask the teacher about their qualifications and credentials, and for references/testimonials from other students and their parents. A pass at Grade 8 is the very minimum requirement for a piano teacher. A good teacher will also have an up to date DBS check (formerly CRB check).

Establish a routine from the outset. Ensure your child attends his/her piano lessons on the right day at the right time each week. This is a basic courtesy to the teacher, but also encourages commitment and routine. Make regular attendance at piano lessons a rule, and avoid over-scheduling your child with too many extra-curricular activities. Try to organise piano lessons on a day when there are not other after-school activities (in particular sport: I have had rather too many tired (and muddy!) students come to me for lessons straight after football or hockey).

Provide the right environment for learning. A well-maintained acoustic piano or quality digital piano/keyboard with weighted keys is essential, as is an adjustable piano stool. Many piano suppliers offer rental schemes and interest-free loans. Good lighting and a quite room are essential to good practising. Provide your child with a space away from interference from the rest of the family, and distractions such as television, computer etc.

Establish a daily routine of practising. Your child’s teacher will advise about the appropriate amount of practising required and should offer guidance on productive practising techniques. Encourage your child to practise regularly: little and often is far better than a lot the night before the lesson and leads to noticeable progress. Practice not only makes perfect, it also makes permanent. Supervised practice is essential, especially for young children, and parents do not need specialist musical knowledge to help their children with their practising. Many children need a parent to read out the teacher’s notes in the practice notebook.

Do not over-correct or re-teach. Over-correcting your child and constantly highlighting errors can be highly dismotivating and is the fastest way to kill a child’s enthusiasm. Praise good playing and offer positive suggestions for dealing with errors. Allow your child to learn and discover at his or her own pace. If the teacher has made specific suggestions/requests for practising, do not overrule the teacher’s directions by re-teaching your child between lessons (this can be incredibly frustrating for the teacher: I speak from experience!).

Encourage your child to prepare properly for each lesson. Practising is the equivalent of school ‘homework’ and should be undertaken with the same degree of care and attention. Make sure your child completes the practising set out by the teacher, and encourage your child to make a note of how much practising has been done each day (most practice notebooks have space for this). Also note down any aspects which are proving problematic so that the teacher is aware and can offer appropriate guidance at the next lesson.

Show enthusiasm for your child’s progress. Promptly purchase new music and other materials as requested by the teacher, and pay tuition and exam fees on time. Encourage your child to enjoy not just the piano but music in general by buying CDs, listening to music together on the radio and via streaming services such as Spotify. Attend concerts as these can inspire and motivate your child.

Get involved. Attend workshops and student concerts whenever you’re invited. Your presence demonstrates interest and support to your child and your child’s piano teacher. Think of performance as an opportunity to share music rather than a showing off exercise. Encourage your child to take part in performance opportunities organised by the teacher, and follow the teacher’s guidance in aspects such as readiness for exams or competitions and festivals.

Talk to the teacher. Don’t be afraid to ask the teacher for progress reports, verbal or written, and to discuss your child’s progress with the teacher. Be honest with the teacher if you feel your child is being asked to do too much, or learn music which is too difficult, or not challenging enough. Respect the teacher’s methods and decisions regarding exam entry etc.

Why piano? One of the great pleasures of the piano is that it is possible to make a pleasant sound on it from the get go, which provides in instant sense of accomplishment (unlike string or wind instruments which require a greater degree of mastery before the instrument begins to sound nice). The piano repertoire is vast and varied, offering music to suit all tastes and abilities, and learning the piano provides an important foundation in the fundamentals of music, music theory and artistry.