I have been a pianist in an accompaniment role in Scottish Traditional music bands for eight years. I have been influenced and taught by top trad piano players such as Brian McAlpine (Session A9), Andy Thorburn (Blazin’ Fiddles) and David Milligan (The Unusual Suspects). I have also been fortunate to be able to pass of this style to others at traditional music camps throughout Scotland such called Feisean, and abroad at music festivals such as Haapavesi Music Festival in Finland and at teaching camps at several major music festivals across Canada.
As someone who has learned primarily by ear and who considers themselves to be more an ensemble player as opposed to a soloist, I found it very daunting to go back to university to study jazz piano in 2008, due to often high expectations of proficient piano solo skills and sight-reading skills in that genre. I found it necessary to find a good classical teacher to help train me up, and fill in these essential gaps in my musical knowledge. I had done classical piano to Grade 6 when i was 17, but had really let the reading and attention to detail slip over the years, particularly in tone, posture and technique.
Mary McCarthy came highly recommended to me, and I went for weekly lessons. After lots of work on tone, touch and effortlessness, and many hours of listening to Peter Hagn-Meincke’s Suzuki Book 1 & 2 CD, within six months I had learned Suzuki Book 1 from memory (at the age of 26!), including all of the Twinkle Twinkle exercises. It was really good craic actually and perhaps my fellow jazz music students and folk musicians thought I was being totally shameless by learning ‘babyish’ pieces. I new it was doing me good however. I performed all the tunes from the book to several Suzuki teachers at the Kincardine O’Neill Piano Festival in a wee room at the back of the castle. I am currently working on Book 2 while at the same time working on more advanced Classical piano pieces towards my university recital in May.
Through using this method, Mary has certainly opened my ears up to the idea of pianism in general. I have found myself enjoying classical pieces, to both play and listen to. The method has improved my posture, hand position, efficiency, physiological performance difficulties and most importantly, my ability to pass on my teaching methods more patiently and clearly and with a wider scope i.e. I discuss posture, touch, hand balance and even do a bit of basic sight-reading with my pupils now.
The method of observation has been key in making me feel at ease with making mistakes, and I have completely stopped apologizing profusely in lessons like I did last spring when i first started lessons with Mary! Learning an instrument can sometimes be a somewhat lonely pursuit, and it made all the easier if you are able to talk with others about it and observe each other’s lessons and performance and concerts.
For anyone learning through the Suzuki method, i cannot recommend enough making several copies of the CD, in the car, in the kitchen, in a playlist on your ipod, at work or on your computer. If it is only ‘one click away’ you are more likely to just have it on in the background, even if it’s only for 5 minutes (listening to the CD on ‘shuffle’ means that you’ll always get to hear the ones at the end of the CD just as much as the ones at the start).”