I have had several requests to hold day workshops and classes on aspects of piano playing, so I decided to run a short market research survey to find out what sort of event people want, and what are the most suitable times and venues. If you would like to take a few minutes to complete this and join my mailing list, you’ll be the first to hear about these events.
Masterclasses and Performance Classes
I actually don’t like the term “masterclass”. Such a class can often turn out as a platform and an ego trip for the teacher, the student having to submit to instruction and undergo some sort of public ordeal. My number one priority is to collaborate with and support the player on all levels so they come away feeling empowered, and not minimised. I will never impose my interpretation of a piece onto a student, but I will work with them to assist them in bringing the music to life in the way they see and feel it (aiming to illuminate things along the way).
At any one time, I have at least three or four in my studio who are working towards a diploma. In addition to regular lessons, a class is a very good way of trying out selections from your programme in front of a small audience of peers.
There are a few options for feedback, each player deciding in advance which sort they wish:
- Feedback from me – we will then work together for the allotted time on points of interpretation and technique, including suggestions for practice.
- Open feedback from peers.
- Safe circle feedback (see my previous post on this).
- No feedback at all.
I plan to run classes for the following categories of player:
- Advanced players and diploma candidates
- Young players (intermediate and advanced levels)
- Adult amateurs
Over the past two summers at Jackdaws, I have run a weekend course for adults (mostly amateurs) with the focus on practising. It is a small group of about 10 players, each person having two or three opportunities to get up and play in front of the group over the course of the weekend. Performances do not have to be polished, or even complete, since my focus is on problem solving via effective practising. My next Jackdaws course (not yet on the website) will be October 9-11 this year, early booking advised.
Here are some testimonials I had from my last course:
I attended a weekend course given by Graham about a month ago on “Practising the Piano”. It was one of the best things I could have done to help me improve the way I practise and to remember to enjoy the process. We all learned, whether observing or playing and frankly it was difficult to write down all the information which flowed constantly from Graham. He ensured we were all involved, understood particular points and most of all made it fun and very enjoyable. I came away feeling inspired and very encouraged.
Graham Fitch is the piano tutor we all needed but never had or knew existed. He combines deep knowledge and understanding of all things pianistic, developed not just through his own innate musicality, experience and dedication but having imbibed so much from great figures from the past. He has an untiring love of communicating how to be a better pianist to his students not just with infectious enthusiasm but hard-nosed practical tool-based proven-to-work advice all wrapped up in unfailing politeness and patient encouragement. Taking on board properly even just one half of his advice (take a big notebook because the gems keep flowing) will make you the pianist you never dreamed you could be. What’s more the time will fly by. Who could ask for more?
Graham Fitch is an acknowledged piano practice ‘guru’ who can help you achieve so much more from your hours at the keyboard. Graham’s focus never flags and he is listening with precision and making quality input right up to the last minute of the day. His insights on some of the standard repertoire were amazing. Not only have I learnt to play the pieces I brought better but I am confident that Graham’s piano practice ‘tool kit’ will improve all my playing and above all do it quicker and more efficiently. I came away from his course with masses of notes – all really practical stuff – which I started to apply immediately I got back home.
Since there seems to be high demand for such a course, I am willing to deliver this in a day workshop format in London and elsewhere. The best day seems to be a Sunday, and I would suggest you select the time frame that works best for you in Q3 and Q4 of the survey. To keep it fun and civilised, tea, coffee and lunch breaks will be included.
I envisage most of the classes happening in London to begin with, but I am open to the idea of travelling if there is enough interest. Please contact me via the website if you are part of a group of players and know of a suitable venue (a small space with a good piano, or a private home).
Presentations in lecture format don’t interest me nearly as much as working with people hands on. I prefer to give workshops that interact with my audience. This includes frequent Q&A and a performance class at the end, along the lines of the classes I give on The Piano Teachers’ Course (EPTA) UK.
Topics that might be covered include:
- Developing piano technique
- Aspects of style and performance practice (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary Periods)
- ABRSM and/or Trinity syllabus (grades I-V; VI-VIII)
- Exercises and studies
- And so on (suggestions welcome)
Another type of workshop I envisage is a practising clinic, similar to those I have run before at college level. I direct a small group of pianists (performers and teachers) gathered around the piano, finding creative and practical solutions to technical and learning problems generated from specific pieces presented by the group. This could be run as a one-off event, an ongoing event or a short course.
These would be similar to the workshops, but more in-depth and spread out over time.
- 4 classes at the same time weekly (say two hours on a Saturday or a Sunday afternoon)
- 4 classes at the same time monthly (as above)
- 6 classes at the same time bi-monthly (spread out over the year)
The subjects I have in mind include:
- A course entirely focussed on practising, based on my eBook Series Practising the Piano. A handbook of materials would be provided.
- Developing piano technique – covering beginning stages, intermediate and advanced levels (this course probably targeted at piano teachers).
This is still in its idea stage. There are already piano summer courses out there (I am a regular tutor at the excellent Summer School for Pianists in Walsall) but I have in mind a short course with the focus on practising, along the lines of my Jackdaws course. It would need to be fun and social -anyone with any bright ideas regarding a suitable venue, please get in touch!