What is your first memory of the piano?
Aged four, coming down the stairs in our house to hear my ten year old sister playing the piano very fast. Then I knew that I wanted to play-the-piano-very-fast!
Who or what inspired you to start teaching?
The discovery that music, more even than dancing (I had wanted to be a ballet dancer), was my love, aged fourteen. I also knew that the psychology of it: the relationship with the teacher, as well as the music, was intrinsically important. By that time I had had a critical teacher who’d put me off, and a relaxed teacher who taught nothing much, but didn’t criticise, which was more successful. And I wanted to explore, understand and develop piano teaching from all of these points of view.
Who were your most memorable/significant teachers?
They all had something very valuable to offer in very different ways. If I were to pick one, it would be Joan Barker who taught me as a postgraduate at Trinity College of Music after I had gained my piano teaching Diploma as well as my Degree. Her superb technical teaching (completely in line with the body’s natural movement) and inspirational musicianship gave me all the tools I needed to perform and teach securely and successfully.
Most memorable/significant teaching experiences?
Seeing students having Aha! moments, grinning from ear to ear, able to play and do what they’ve always wanted to be able to play and do.
What are the most exciting/challenging aspects of teaching adults?
Helping them to play the music that they love, as soon as they can, with fingers that have never done anything like it before.
What do you expect from your students?
That we work together: they tell me what they want to learn, and I help them get there.
That we are realistic: they turn up to lessons even when there has been no time to practise, and we focus on encouragement and support throughout.
What are your views on exams, festivals and competitions?
These are all wonderful if they motivate students, and if students feel that their playing is valued and appreciated. But they can be enormously damaging when students feel unfairly criticised, unappreciated and unsupported.
All such events should be a celebration of the student’s achievements and focus on the positive: If students are told what they have achieved, and what they can do, they do it even more and even better. Nothing else needs be said in a public or formal situation.
What do you consider to be the most important concepts to impart to beginning students, and to advanced students?
Most piano players want to be able to sit down and play wherever there is a piano, whether or not they have any written music with them. So I teach my students to play by ear and improvise, in a very simple step-by-step system, which involves important concepts such as pulse, tonality, harmony, phrase and form. That way they are always to play something whether at home to relax, or in a friend’s house, pub or hotel foyer.
Who are your favourite pianists/pianist-teachers and why?
Martha Argerich for her sheer passion and lightening speed at the piano!
“A teacher and facilitator at heart, I help people help themselves, identify aims and issues, make connections, add depth, develop strengths and skills, and succeed.”
For further information please visit Lucinda’s website
This interview first appeared on my sister blog The Cross-Eyed Pianist in May 2013