There were two things I wanted as a little girl: to play the piano and have a dog. My grandmother, who lived next door, had a formidable looking upright: it was big, and black with yellowing keys, but magic happened with the pressing down of those keys. I started having piano lessons when I was 7, and ‘my’ first dog joined the family a year later. Both dogs I’ve owned as an adult enjoyed singing along to my music. This is not always helpful.
My first piano teacher taught me every Monday and Thursday, and within a couple of years had persuaded me to give up my dancing classes to devote more time to the piano. Two years later, following the advice of a Famous Concert Pianist, I left him for another teacher. I went to the Royal Northern College of Music as a junior student, from there to Oxford for a music degree and then did a post-graduate year at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I stayed in London for the next forty years.
The original plan was to be a concert pianist, so I gave solo recitals and played a couple of concertos interspersed with various other gigs such as being Musical Director for Newsrevue and recording Victorian piano music for Radio 2. Peripatetic and private teaching filled in the gaps and eventually I gave up the freelance life and settled down to teach Music in secondary schools.
After more than a decade of relative stability, I left the classroom to spend more time at the piano again. Pupils of varying ages and abilities came through my door every week, and occasional accompanying work gave me the chance to collaborate with other musicians. This lifestyle was much more conducive to having a dog, and when Candy arrived as a puppy in 2012, she was a great hit with my students. Apart from the mother and daughter whose shoes she ate….
And then we moved to Northumberland. I continue to work at the piano – I’m not sure musicians ever ‘retire’ – and still hope to improve. It all worked out in the end, until Candy departed this life in December 2021.
If you’ve read this far, thank you. Music is, and has always been my life, and I’m reflecting on the repertoire I play, how I practise and the joys and frustrations I experience. I hope that some of my notes will be helpful to other musicians, either to encourage or infuriate you! Please contact me via the form to comment, agree or argue with me.