Spotlight on … 18 year old student and pianist, Anna Braddick
Explore her experience
Upon arrival on a sunny Friday afternoon, the stunning views of the Finchcocks estate and Georgian manor house greeted us. Who knew the most extraordinary sight was yet to come – downstairs in the cellar, where the jaw-dropping (!) range of grand pianos are housed.
For a while I have been hoping to move my piano playing out of my comfort zone and beyond learning for grades and school exams. My weekend at Finchcocks offered a much greater level of immersion and inspiration than I could have anticipated. Here’s what happened …
All about the notes…
Our course tutor Dave Hall began Saturday morning with ideas on how to practice, providing us with a toolkit of ideas. Many were completely new to me, but including them in my practice has refreshed the way I approach learning a new piece of music.
We were given free range of the pianos to try out Dave’s techniques, such as: changing the textures and rhythms, so-slow-that-it’s-right, or, my particular favourite – learning the piece backwards, as I discovered I am more motivated to reach the start of a piece rather than to work forwards.
The theory lesson provided a whistle-stop but comprehensive guide to Grade 5 Music Theory, which convinced many in the group who were apprehensive about taking the exam to at least give it a try. As someone who has recently completed GCSE and A Level music, it was refreshing to learn about challenging, yet important, topics such as the circle of fifths and intervals in such a relaxed and entertaining environment.
Beyond the notes…
The afternoon seminars provided us with a contrasting opportunity – to play though pieces we felt fluent in, then to discuss with Dave and the group how we could interpret and perform them. It was a fantastic opportunity to practice performing in a relaxed environment. I delighted in discovering new and unusual music from everyone’s repertoire, such as Alexander Scriabin’s Prelude No.4 and Max Reger’s Moment Musical.
Trying something scary – improvisation!
We all trembled with fear when Dave suggested we try some improvisation, but his ideas – taking a texture round the circle of fifths or taking the opening melody of your favourite piece somewhere new – made improvisation into a fun and creative exercise – it turns out it wasn’t so intimidating after all!
The session inspired me to spend an entire afternoon at the Grotrian Steinweg expanding and improvising over a simple accompaniment from a Clara Schumann Romance. It simultaneously built my confidence in working outside my comfort zone and provided all of us with a range of ideas to being practicing improvisation at home.
My proudest (and most unexpected) achievement of the course was learning an entire piece – Amy Beach’s Scottish Legend – from start to finish during the weekend, and I even found the confidence to perform it to the group on Sunday afternoon.
This was not only down to Dave’s fantastic teaching and the pianos that are irresistible to play, but crucially from practicing alongside learners and teachers who care about the piano as much as I do – especially as the piano tends to be quite an unsociable instrument! Everyone was supportive and encouraging of each other, particularly when it came to performing, which many find to be a nerve-wracking experience, even in front of a friendly audience.
As a group we spent meals and free time together, and chatted about piano, politics, and everything in between! It was a wonderful experience to spend time with fellow piano lovers, and I can’t wait to come again and immerse myself in another piano course at Finchcocks.