As a self-taught pianist I have interests in the traditional Roman and Greek literature of music dating from 1200.c to 1900 (Classical Music) and its contemporary forms by composers such as Edward Elgar to Joe Hisaishi (Modern Classical, minimalism, surrealism, anime/film/game). I also arrange, compose, transcribe and midi orchestrate music.
What prompted you to start playing?
Growing up, I was never introduced to any classical music. My family was mostly interested in music from the 50’s to 80’s. I arrived to the point I disliked music a lot; that was until I heard Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and furthermore, Chopin’s works.
When I was 7, I taught myself to read music by seeing a few children’s sheet music, arranged for the candy penny flute such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” by Mozart, and matched the sound I already knew in my head onto the two octave keyboard I had. This even lead me to name the keys with numbers and letters (e.g: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, a1, a2, a3, a4, a5 etc…), until I found out when I was 11 they were named A-G.
When did you take your first exam?
My first exam was held on the 28th, March 2007 while I was at high school in year 10. Since the first and second grades were too easy, I entered the Piano Grade 3 exam of ABRSM (The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music) and passed with a Merit.
I continued with Grade 5, passing with another Merit in the Spring term of 2008.
What did you play in your recent Grade 6 Piano exam and did you have a favourite piece?
My recent exam at Grade 6 was on the 17th, July 2017 at the “Hull Piano School” organised by Mr. Lester Hough. I performed:
A3 – Rondo – Third movement from Sonata in C, K. 545 – W. A. Mozart
B2 – Valse lente – Slow Waltz, Op. 33 – Oskar Merikanto
C1 – Joc cu bâtă – Stick Dance, No. 1 from Román – Béla Bartók
To be honest, they were all enjoyable. The only let down of a Distinction was my aural tests. Singing, my least desired part of the exam. However, I passed with a Merit.
Update: June 2018
My recent exam at Grade 7 was on the 19th, June 2018 at the Cottingham Methodist Church organised by Mr. Lester Hough. I performed:
A1 – Allegro (from Suite no.7 in G minor, HWV 432) – G. F. Handel
A4 – Etude in A minor, op. 58 no. 6 – Schytte ed. Snell
B1 – No. 2 from Kinderstücke. op. 72 – F. Mendelssohn
Again, they were all enjoyable. I even passed with a Distinction. Since Trinity college doesn’t do singing in the exam, the aural test was a lot more successful.
How come there’s such a big gap from doing grade 5 to 6?
I rushed through grade 3 in spring 2007, skipped 4 and passed with a merit at grade 5 in summer 2008! This was so I could get the college I wanted… Unfortunately, because my English and Maths wasn’t up to the requirements, I failed.
For the next 3 years at a college I didn’t really want to go to I studied “Popular Music” (not my area of interests) and it wasn’t much about music either. More like politics and society.
I eventually left college, unable to continue getting where I wanted due to the new £9,000 fee that was brought in by the Government… I struggled to find work and spent a long time on JobCentre Plus. Most advisers, key workers and work programmes were very discouraging. I had been told many times “You’ve got no chance”, “You don’t have the gear”, “It’s an unrealistic goal”, “Do something like web development”, “become an administrator or telemarketer” etc.
I eventually started to give up music.
Around 4 years later (Spring/Summer 2015) I was at the point of completely giving up altogether, I didn’t spend much time playing and very rarely uploaded videos on YouTube.
While I was volunteering at Dove House Hospice. A kind man came in and asked if anyone could play the piano as his local church needed one. It so happens that this was the first place he’d asked and I was right there. From there on, I’ve continued to play the piano again, with lot’s of support from Colin and the Church.
It’s like Gods own calling to never give up. I’ve completed my Grade 6, finally! With the help of Colin (my agent, he likes to call it) and the music lessons with Lester Hough at Hull Piano School.
I also continue to support Sutton Methodist Church with playing the piano during service every fortnight to relieve Wendy the Organist who had been ill. Though, I do not plan to replace her, and I do feel I may be getting in the way even though the Church wants me to continue.
Read the story here: https://www.suttonmethodist.org.uk/…
Do you have any favourite composers?
I’d say J.S.Bach, Chopin, Joe Hisaishi. I also like a lot of other classical composers as well as countless film, game and background anime music authors. Anything orchestral or classical sounding. There are too many to name here.
What is it about playing the piano that you enjoy so much?
Music is like a language, but without words; this is likely the reason I don’t like vocal harmony as much unless I can’t recognise the words.
Music to me isn’t about having a permanent story imposed on you the moment you listen, but one that paints itself on a blank canvas and takes you on an emotional journey through sound. Something that will be different for everyone who listens to it. Of course the music will still convey the same or similar images, thoughts, emotions but it’s interpreted different to whoever experiences the music.
What advice would you give to others thinking about taking up an instrument?
Just enjoy it. Don’t fret about taking exams or trying to be better than anyone else. Mess around and “Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel!” (By Frédéric François Chopin).
Will you be taking any more exams?
I plan to continue through Grade 8. Due to the poor experiences and the way the ABRSM mark their exam result, I’ll be moving on to the Trinity College of Music.