1- What was the first piece you learnt to play and how old were you at the time?
Difficult to say, there have been so many! One of the most memorable pieces I was given to learn was the slow movement from Beethoven’s Sonata Pathetique. I was probably 14 at the time and I went home and learned it as quickly as I could! From that point on I was spellbound.
2- Is your family musical?
My mother is more musical than she lets on, and actually some of her side of the family have had musical posts in the past. My father is particularly enamoured with the classics, and it was through him that I began developing my own knowledge and love for the repertoire.
3- You graduated with a Bachelor’s of Music Performance from the Royal Northern College of Music from Manchester. Can you tell us more of your teachers and your time there please?
My time at the Royal northern has been formative. The standard there is incredibly high and as a result I have pushed myself to levels I didn’t think were possible. For me, the most important thing the college has given me is a sense of individuality, and a confidence in my own ability. Of course the tutors are excellent and I have been very lucky to have had one on one interaction with some of the finest minds working in the business today.
4- Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?
There are many of course, but one that springs to mind would have to be Martha Argerich. I find her power and control over the instrument extraordinary. Her recordings of Prokofiev and Ravel to name but a few are masterworks. She is a player who never ceases to amaze me.
5- Following your graduation in 2010 from RNCM you performed in front of the Mayor of Nottingham as well as Sir Harry Djanogly, who then set up a sponsorship arrangement to allow you to undertake a two year masters course at the RNCM? What pieces did you perform in this important performance for you?
I did two short spotlight items. They were:
Chopin – Andante Spianato from Grande et Polonaise
Beethoven – Allegro from Sonata Appassionata
6- You currently study under Sally Ann Macleod, who has mentored you for the last four years. What is it like to study under this person?
Sally is a great mentor for me. She achieved great success as a young adult and her talents as a teacher are immeasurable. I have been with her for 5 years now and I am still learning a huge amount from her. Perhaps her finest quality as a tutor is her ability to identify with her students on a personal level and adapt her approach accordingly.
7- In June 2012 you premiered your new show ‘Debussy and Ravel: Earth and Water, a conversation at the piano with Martin Jacoby’. Can you tell us more of this show please?
The show we put on was an amalgamation of different ideas, all of which stemed from an aspect of music I enjoy. At the heart of it all is the concert platform, but alongside that I conversed to the audience about Debussy and Ravel, their works and their personal lives to try and reveal their characters, which blossom through their music. I compared the works chronologically and performing them against a dramatic backdrop. We used lighting effects and generally transformed the venue into a kind of French salon, where originally much of this music would have been heard.
8- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?
Learning my first Beethoven Sonata is certainly the earliest great memory I have, this was a real milestone. Certainly the first concert and concerto appearances would have to be up there, and indeed premiering the show in London. The kind of sensation you experience when your hard work comes into fruition is a wonderful thing.
9- If you could do a duet with anybody alive or dead, who would that dream partner be?
I think I would like to do an improvisation duet with Claude Debussy. His music has such a great sense of spontaneity to it, I can just imagine him sitting at the piano and experimenting all day long, trying to find the right sound for his ever changing mood! What a fascinating character he must have been!
10- How often and for how long do you practice?
If I can I practice every day, and depending on the workload this may range from 3 or 4 hours a day to 7 or 8!
11- Do you or would you like to teach music?
I began teaching music quite early on and I still do some now. I find it a useful way of improving my own practice methods, often watching someone else make the same mistakes you do and helping them to overcome this problems can be very helpful for your own practice.
12- Last year you established yourself internationally with a French chamber recital in Cape Town, South Africa. Can you tell me what you performed in this performance please?
For this event we had a pianist, violinist and violinist. The program was:
Bach - French Suite for Viola
Debussy – Pour le Piano
Faure – Two songs transcribed for piano and violin
Ravel – Violin Sonata in G.
13- How do you balance your music with other obligations? What are the biggest sacrifices?
I like to have other hobbies; I find it important to help keep a balance. You have to give everything in order to achieve, and this can be a hard notion to accept. The time it takes to become proficient and professional at ones instrument is significant and can be a real grind. But ultimately for me, it’s worth the effort.
14- What advice would you have for those about to embark on a performance career?
I think the best piece of advice I could give to anyone would be to always have conviction in your abilities. If you believe strongly enough that you can achieve something, you probably will. Nothing comes easy; everything worth having requires work!