I grew up listening to my Mum (a piano tuner) practicing Bach and Debussy and my Dad was always playing music and taking me to concerts. Surrounded and inspired, at 7 I started music lessons myself under the tuition of a local piano teacher.
Between the ages of 7 and 10 I remember piano practise being a real challenge. It became one that I truly enjoyed and as I progressed musically, I began to understand the fun side to it all. Soon practice became the first thing I did when I came home from school.
By the age of 12 I’d achieved my ABRSM Grade 5 and taken up drum kit, receiving lessons from a local session musician in Halifax. It was also around this age that I started exploring new genres. I discovered bands like Led Zeppelin and Steely Dan, and also started dipping my toes into the realms of classical music and jazz. Hearing Miles Davis’ ‘Kind Of Blue’ was a huge inspiration to me, and a turning point in my musical taste.
I started experimenting with playing pop songs from chord sheets I’d print off online, and also improvising my own compositions using knowledge of harmony and melody. High school was a great period for my musical development as I took a weekend course at Leeds College of Music for two years, progressed through my grades with ABRSM on piano and Rock School on drums, performed in school productions both solo and with other musicians, gigged regularly with a brass band and achieved an A* in GCSE music.
Whilst doing my A Levels at Greenhead College I was lucky enough to meet and play with many great musicians both my own age and older. A highlight for me was playing drums for Damo Suzuki who cut his teeth with the pioneering krautrock band Can. Between the ages of 16-18 my taste in music broadened to the extent that genre was irrelevant and I was performing more and more regularly alongside my studies. This included a band tour to Paris, Eastern Germany and solo piano performances for my college. It was also during this period that I started studying jazz theory and technique both in my private lessons and through self-directed study. Bands such Snarky Puppy and artists such as Brad Mehldau and Keith Jarrett informed and inspired this music making!
Studying music at the University of Sheffield again presented me with the opportunity to meet and share knowledge with many fantastic musicians who I now call my friends. Highlights of my student life included performances at Oxford University and Sheffield Cathedral. Receiving tuition from Valentina Kalashnik allowed for an eye opening experience that led to a completely different perspective on my technique and approach to learning pieces. My final year dissertation gave me the opportunity to look further in to the question of “Why do we like the music we like?” This ethnographic piece of work was highly commended by academic staff.
Most importantly, studying in Sheffield was a catalyst for my career in music education. I had always dreamed of teaching, so when an opportunity arose during my sophomore year I leapt for it. Since then I haven’t really looked back! Teaching piano is one of the biggest pleasures I have in life. I have the privilege of working with some of the kindest, friendliest and funniest people I’ve ever met. I delight in watching the progress of each and every student especially when they start to see their hard work paying off. Even when progress is slow, I enjoy the challenge of finding different avenues and exploring concepts with my students so that they can move forward with their playing. Just as I did, I want you to discover what makes playing the piano fun for you!
Playing an instrument is the best thing I’ve done with my life. Not only do I believe that music-making has inherent worth but various studies and real-world situations have shown that musicians benefit from increased confidence, communication skills and improved cognition and coordination. I firmly believe it is a myth that some people are musically “gifted” whilst others aren’t. Everyone has musical ability. Sometimes it merely takes the right teacher to encourage it to grow!