I reckon I have one of the best jobs ever. I get to stay at home most of every day so as to welcome the succession of remarkable people – people who want to play piano are always remarkable! – who come bursting in through my door with music in mind. They play music, they sing music, they talk about music, and I try to help them to find what they’re looking for in their playing, in their writing, and in their understanding. Or I introduce them to new musical experiences, (or they introduce me!) or we just celebrate whatever astounding thing they’ve achieved, be it ever so humble, ever so glorious.
The rest of the time? Well, I do quite a lot of practice and I write quite a lot of music but I also do all the normal stuff: eating, sleeping, a little DIY…. Some of the time I’m agonising about how to help X with her music reading phobia, Y with his Bach fugue, Z with her weird and wayward rhythms….
Fortunately I have quite a lot of experience to draw on, which includes many years of teaching music in schools (all the way from the wee ones in nursery to the big sixth form kids), being in both a jazz trio and a classical piano trio, solo performance, accompaniment work and playing and writing for musical theatre – the latter included writing the script, lyrics and music for ‘Cinderella and the Fierce Bad Sheep’ which still amazes me whenever I think of it! I’ve written music since I was a boy, but it was writing for schools that liberated my musical voice and so the majority of my compositions – songs, ensemble pieces, music drama, cantatas etc – have been related to educational projects. I still write a lot of solo and ensemble music for my students including the currently 3-volume – though ever-expanding – collection of solos and duets called ‘The Exuberant Pianist.’
All along I’ve been fortunate to have had some very good teachers myself, with pride of place going to my students who regularly force me to rethink aspects of my playing and teaching, and also the excellent European Piano Teachers’ Association of which I’ve long been a member. Further, through working with teachers one-to-one and in a variety of workshops and seminars I’ve been privileged to have some small influence on how music is taught today.
I’m incredibly lucky to be married to Val, who amongst so much else helps me to keep my feet on the ground, and we have two grown-up sons who remain an inspiration and a delight. Our current cat-in residence is Honey who owing to congenital shyness you’ll probably never see. Meanwhile, we’re still at the setting-up-our-new-house-in-Skye stage, so if you’ll excuse me…