A recent Facebook post of mine created a response in form of questions, so I have decided to write about it.
I made a Facebook status update mentioning that I was going for a piano lesson while I was in Cape Town for a series of concerts. Two major responses followed: the first group was astonished to think that I would be interested or willing to have a lesson and the second group was excited to know who the teacher is. Here is my response:
I have been fortunate to attend lessons and master classes with some great pianists of our time. Internationally renowned teachers like György Sebök, Andrej Jasinski, Pascal Roge, Dan Hearle, Ulrich Koellah and Joseph Banowetz form part of the list as well as local heroes of piano teaching. During my formal study I was a student of Joseph Stanford at the University of Pretoria for more than 10 years with intermittent breaks. What I found most beneficial about Stanford’s approach was his ability to only make changes in my playing where he felt necessary. This enabled me to form a unique personal identity as well as a clear vision about thoughts on interpretation and stylistic performance practice for which I will be forever grateful.
Objectivity is the one thing I find most attractive in performing for other pianists/teachers. I can place my trust in the ability of some other specialist to give his/her honest opinion about a work, my interpretation or even just what effect it has.
The one aspect of piano I have always been fascinated with is the working of the body and freedom of movement during performance. In my pursuit to understand more of this I was fortunate to have master classes with the great South African pianist Albie van Schalkwyk. He encouraged me to study with leading Alexander Technique teachers in Gauteng and Cape Town who aided my awareness of tension in the body. I started seeing and hearing the effects of focussed use of energy and a significant reduction in unnecessary use of tension. I felt free at the piano and could hear an audible difference in the quality of sound I was creating.
Many pianists seek alternative methods of performance due to injury or constant pain when they play. I was lucky to benefit from Albie’s uncanny ability to see exactly where I am holding on to tension years ago. This past weekend I could experience the physical release during playing only found in his studio. I was once again perplexed by how subtle bad habits creep in. With his care, attention and knowledge of the body and piano technique Albie is in my opinion the ideal teacher for me at this moment in my career. Like many pianists I often feel an inner struggle to fully trust my technique and not tense up and this where the approach of this master pianist answers all questions.
I will forever be a student of music. The more I learn the more I become aware of how little I know.