All about… Student Concerts

Why have them?

piano pupil concertsStudent concerts should be a joyful celebration of music and everyone’s achievements. They provide a real motivator for pupils to practise, and a wonderful opportunity for them to make friends and bond within your pupil group. So set them up to enjoy the whole occasion, succeed themselves, and support everyone else.

A particularly enjoyable way to begin is to have every pupil involved in playing a duet or trio (perhaps with you or a fellow pupil) before they play their solo, though playing on their own could be optional. When deciding with whom to pair your pupils, practical considerations will probably have to come first, meaning that you will be pairing or grouping together pupils who come for lessons one after the other. This can be very interesting and offer a wealth of opportunity to explore repertoire where one part is harder than the other (e.g. teacher-pupil duets played by two pupils), or where some pupils make their own parts more challenging by improvising with them. You may also consider locality and friendship groups, which could involve parents in making plans to get pupils together for home practices.

Practising performing

It is also important to arrange practice performances. These not only help pupils get used to performing, but they give them an opportunity to discover any weaknesses which may not normally show up, with enough time to strengthen them before the big day. They also help ensure that pupils put in some serious practice time earlier than they might otherwise!

Practice performances could be to the following or preceding pupil in overlapping lesson times (along with the duet rehearsal), and, with parental support, they could be to family and friends at home. You might also be able to organise ‘group practice performance lessons’ (for a small extra fee?) which, in addition to providing the performance opportunity, help your pupils develop the all-important sense of mutual support and appreciation. It may also be worth finding out whether there are any local piano meet-ups that your students can join in with.

piano trio student concert

A positive environment

In this spirit, practice and real pupil performances tend to work best if everyone follows the “safe-circle” rules: everyone only feels, thinks and says supportive and appreciative things about the performance.

As you know from your own experience, the performer is likely to be dwelling on what didn’t go as well as hoped, rather than what did, and so their need is to hear what others enjoyed about their performance, to help restore their confidence and motivate them to continue working.

Planning the order of the performances also needs care if everyone is to feel confident and maintain their self-respect. Rather than organising the concert in age or ability order, especially if some of the younger pupils are more able than the older ones, the programme could be decided by ‘lucky dip’: every pupil could pick a number out of a pot the week before and you could create a programme based on that numbering (perhaps editing it a little, as would work best). Then at the concert, you could explain how the order was decided and take that opportunity to tell the audience how much you appreciate and enjoy teaching all of your pupils, with all of their different musical interests, aims and ambitions.

Should the teacher also perform?

Deciding whether or not to perform yourself is another thing to consider: It may be a wonderful opportunity for your pupils and their parents to learn and hear more about your work as a professional, but your first requirement is to be 100% supportive of your pupils, however they are feeling, and whatever happens in their performances. So you might not have the emotional space and stamina to do that as well as perform a solo. But perhaps you could play with your pupils, especially the less experienced ones, in teacher-pupil duets and trios, making their simpler offerings sound magical, and inspiring an ever-deeper love of making music.

When and where?

public pianoIn contrast to the usual venues you might consider, hosting your student concert somewhere a little different can also heighten the sense of occasion. For example, although an informal setting, many shopping centres display pianos which are free for public use and are also a great way to advertise your teaching business. Ensure that any background music is switched off, the piano is tuned and there are some seats nearby for performers and their families; something like this can be a much more relaxing experience for nervous performers, particularly when silence is usually expected at concerts and the audience stares back at your from rows of seats!

You can also motivate your students to do this themselves by setting them a challenge to play one local public piano, and provide them with a list of the options. Or extend to a summer challenge – can you play 3 public pianos during the long holidays?

School assemblies can also be ideal as they are during school hours, and can be relatively straightforward to set up if you work in the school. If not, encourage your students to ask if they can perform either to the Head, or in assembly to the rest of the school.

Finally, you and your students can perform to friends and family around the world with Facebook’s ‘live’ function: this is an incredible way to connect with people who wouldn’t usually be able to hear your performances, and is very easy to set up!

So remember…

All student concerts should be:

  • Fun
  • Supportive
  • An opportunity to share music!
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What do you say inside your head to yourself as you perform?

In the season of student concerts, this blog post from Lucinda Mackworth-Young (25/03/2018) is particularly relevant to many teachers and students at the moment.

‘What do you say inside your head to yourself as you perform?

Anything at all?

I’m hoping the answer is: “Nothing”. I’m hoping that you don’t talk to yourself, but concentrate on conveying the musical message, listening to how it sounds and adjusting your playing in response. And I’m hoping that your focus is on making your playing feel good, because the better it feels, the better it sounds, and the better it sounds the more deeply it will be resonating both within you, and those around you.

In psychology there is broad agreement that we have two main modes of operating:

1. Logical, thinking, analytical and step-by-step, associated with seeing and talking

2. Intuitive, feeling, experiential and holistic, associated with hearing and doing/music-making

Preparation for performance requires a great deal of number 1 above. You need to understand what you are doing and have prepared thoroughly, mentally, emotionally and physically. Otherwise your performance is likely to fall apart. “It went alright at home” is a familiar cry.

However, enjoyable performances (enjoyable for both performer and audience, that is), need a number 2 approach.

How much do you enjoy performing? Assuming you enjoy practising towards a performance, and look forward to performing while practising, do you actually enjoy the performance itself? Or does the fearful and critical talk in your head come between you and the music, making you worry about mistakes and wish it was all over?

Or, perhaps you do enjoy performing, but have found that if the thought: “This is going well!” crosses your mind, you slip off the rails for the next few notes?

The point is that it is not (normally!) possible to give a deeply satisfying musical performance while also talking to yourself inside your head. So concentrate on hearing and feeling when performing, keeping a clear head, but without talking to yourself!’

The more we ourselves play and perform, the better positioned we are to help our own students prepare for performances, exams, auditions and competitions, and the richer the musical experiences will be for both student and teacher.

That is why, on The Piano Teachers’ Course UK, the second half of the year is dedicated to guiding participants to deeply develop and enrich their own pianistic skills, with invaluable opportunities to perform trios, duets and solo works in an infinitely supportive and positive environment.

So remember:

Less talking, and more hearing and feeling!

For more wisdom from our PTC Director, visit Lucinda’s website.

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Why should teachers continue to learn?

Every one of us continues to learn as we teach, because each new pupil brings a different set of challenges requiring us to adjust and find new and different ways of doing things. But this sort of ‘learning as we go along’ can be slow, and we can sometimes feel a lack of know-how.

By actively choosing to continue with professional development,  whether online or in person, we come into contact with a range of ideas, some of which may be known to us, so reinforce what we are doing; and some of which may be new, making us re-think and re-evaluate. The most useful ideas are always those which solve the problems we know we have, or answer the questions we’ve already been asking.

The best form of Continuing Professional Development for each one of us is the one we choose which promises to fulfill the particular needs we have in mind. These needs may be to discuss matters with like-minded teachers, or to teach more musically and imaginatively, or to be better equipped to tackle technical problems, or to be able to have fun improvising with pupils. Or it may be that we simply need to feel inspired and refreshed by somebody and something knowing that if we don’t have a fresh in-flow, we will stagnate, and dry up.

Though it can be difficult to find time and justification in our busy lives toPTC teachers commit to professional development, the rewards of deepening our knowledge and our pupils’ enjoyment cannot be underestimated and the results will be wide-reaching and a worthy investment.

Perhaps the main reason why The Piano Teachers Course UK remains so stimulating and satisfying is because tutors and students spend many days and evenings together interacting, discussing, learning from each other and generating new ideas as a result of our mutual love of piano teaching, respect and support.

Given such an environment (it does no-one any good to feel foolish) I would urge everyone to take one CPD course – whether a day’s refresher, an online module or a year’s part time commitment (like The PTC UK) every year. It will empower you!

– Lucinda Mackworth-Young, Director of The Piano Teachers’ Course UK

PTC Online

Benefit from the expertise of the Tutors, wherever you are! A brand new venture from The Piano Teachers’ Course UK, these in-depth online modules allow you to explore specific topics within piano teaching and quickly apply them to your own pupils’ lessons. Click here to find out more!

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The Piano Teachers’ Course Launches ‘PTC Online’

PTC Online is a brand-new initiative bringing you
easy-to-follow video tutorials and exclusive downloadable content from expert tutors Lucinda Mackworth-Young, Graham Fitch, Sally Cathcart and Ilga Pitkevica.

This series of in-depth online learning modules has been developed in partnership with the Practising the Piano Online Academy and is based on content from The Piano Teachers’ Course UK.

This series of in-depth online learning modules has been developed in partnership with the Practising the Piano Online Academy and is based on content from The Piano Teachers’ Course UK.

The tutorials bring you world-class guidance and handy teaching tips to view, download and use at your convenience!  There are 6 modules available, covering teaching beginners, practising, piano technique, improvisation and playing by ear, and psychology for teaching and learning.

If you have wondered how to instil a genuine and long-lasting love of music in your beginner pupils, or you’ve been baffled about how to teach good technique even at advanced level, help is now available all in one place! The videos with accompanying downloads allow you to progress through each module at your own pace, return to the materials as often as you like, and start using the information straight away in your teaching.

One particular topic that teachers often shy away from is playing by ear and improvising.  Wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t feel so intimidating, and if you could teach it to your own students?  In her tutorial, Anyone Can Improvise,  Lucinda Mackworth-Young will guide you through a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to harmonising familiar songs and giving you the tools and confidence to create music on the spot that makes people stop and ask, ‘What’s that wonderful piece you’re playing?’ 

To give a taste of what you can expect from the videos, the introductory sections of Anyone Can Improvise, and the first two videos of Graham Fitch’s Practice Tools and Piano Technique lecture series are freely available and can be viewed using the links below.

These modules are all included as part of an Online Academy subscription or can be purchased individually. A complete bundle of all six is also available and can be purchased at an additional 50% off (exclusive to PTC followers until 28th June 2019):

Click here to buy the complete bundle for £30.00, a saving of 50% or use voucher code UGAR9QRAF667 at our store (valid until 28th June 2019). Alternatively, if you’d like access to these modules along with a further 300 articles, hundreds of videos, musical examples and downloads then you may wish to subscribe to the Practising the Piano Online Academy. Click here to sign-up and save £20 on an annual subscription or click here to find out more about subscription options.

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An apposite endorsement…

This is a ringing endorsement from a member of the PTC Class of 2013-14. 

1512631_10152112285464019_1906314642_n“Three months after the end of the course I’m so glad that I did it, and although last year I wasn’t sure whether to apply, it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Before the course, I was teaching a small number of students in the evenings after work, but I wouldn’t have called myself a piano teacher, even though I looked forward to my lessons and they were way more important to me then my ‘day job’.

All the hard work and lots of traveling for the course was well worth it because not only did I get an abundance of ideas and resources that will continue to keep me exploring and discovering new methods of teaching for years to come, I also got the confidence that I needed to call myself a piano teacher, get lots of new students and become self-employed full time! I’m really enjoying teaching all of my students, who have a wide variety of different interests and goals, because thanks to the PTC I feel equipped to make sure that they all progress and enjoy playing the piano. I still can’t quite believe how much things have changed in the last few months and I’ve never been happier, so I’m really grateful to the PTC tutors and organisers for giving me the confidence to do what I love.”

Posted in Concerts, Discussion Forums, Finding a piano teaching course, Performances, Piano playing, Piano Teaching, Teaching Piano, Tutors | Comments closed

ANDREI GAVRILOV Masterclass and Concert


Andrei rarely performs in the UK, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to see one of the most experienced and individual pianists of our time sharing his musical ideas and words of wisdom.


Sunday 9th March at

Sheffield High School Hall
10 Rutland Park
S10 2PE

Spectator tickets for this are now on sale and are available solely from Christine Shaw. Please contact her to check availability:

Prices are per half-day (morning or afternoon) session:

  • Full/adult………… £15.00
  • Student/OAP…… £12.50
  • Under 18’s……..   £10.00


  • Morning session: 10.30am – 1.30pm
  • Afternoon session: 2pm – 5pm



Sunday 18th May at the Colston Hall in Bristol

Andrei plays Tchaikovsky’s 1st and Rachmaninov’s 3rd Concertos, conducting from the piano! He will also conduct the third item on the evening’s program: Mussorsgki’s ‘Night on the Bare Mountain’

For tickets and further information, please click here: Colston Hall



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What Resources and Materials do Piano Teachers really need for today’s pupils?


1 week to go until Music Education Expo. Our TeachMeet session is on Saturday 8th @ 12.45 exploring: What Resources and Materials do Piano Teachers really need for today’s pupils! Facilitated by Lucinda and Sally. See you there…



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PTC at Music Education Expo 2014


We’re just a couple of weeks away from the 2014 Music Education Expo – held at The Barbican Exhibition Halls on Friday 7th & Saturday 8th February.

Lucinda-Mackworth-YoungPTC will be there on both days – we’re on stand S3.B.


On Saturday 8th at 12.45pm, Lucinda will be hosting another TeachMeet session



Sally Cathcart

On Friday 7th at 3.30pm,  Sally will be presenting a workshop entitled: Let’s play: songs and games for instrumental teachers.


See you there…




To find out more about what’s on – and register for free, go to: Music Education Expo



Posted in Concerts, Discussion Forums, Finding a piano teaching course, Performances, Piano playing, Piano Teaching, Teaching Piano, Tutors | Comments closed

A Piano Curriculum for the future – by Sally Cathcart

sally-cathcartFor the last couple of years I have been working on developing a piano curriculum. Why – you might ask?

Well, we all need a map to guide our teaching, something that tells us where we are heading and gives the details of the stages by which we are going to get there. A CURRICULUM is just that and is an essential component of any effective teaching approach. It provides a strategy for knowing what pupils need to learn in order to make progress musically and technically.  In the UK we have never quite worked out what we need to teach, when and how – maybe it is time we should start!

Of course, what we do have is the instrumental exam system represented by ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall, London College of Music and others. What they provide us with is a SYLLABUS – a selection of pieces, technical exercises and supporting tests that represent a particular level of playing. Whilst instrumental exams don’t give us the map and all the details they do provide us with some stopping points on our journey. 

But, a teacher at the Oxford Piano Group once asked me, ‘how do I get pupils from Grade 1 to Grade 2?’ and this is a common query I believe.  It is this grey area, ‘between the grades’, that a curriculum will help to address. With a strategy for teaching firmly set out (WHAT I am going to teach) it is much easier to work out HOW to teach. I find that the more I plan, the more effective my teaching becomes. I look at my ‘map’ and from that work out the best, individual route for each pupil. 

It has been with all this in my mind that I started to put the Piano Curriculum together. I don’t pretend that it is perfect nor is it a complete document (I hope it never will be) but it does provide me with a starting point for planning my pupils’ journeys.

It isn’t all ready to be published yet but the time has come to share some of this with my fellow piano teachers!

So here is the Piano Curriculum for Grades 1 – 2When looking at this please keep in mind that a lot of skills and concepts will have already been covered in the Beginners and Pre-Grade 1 curriculum and that it is a guideline only not a fixed sequence of development!

I would love to hear from all of you who read this blog what you think about this. Is it helpful? Is it something that you will use? Would you like more?

Please email me directly with any comments

In my next blog I will show how ‘Messy Piano’ and ‘the Piano Curriculum’ can be used together to great effect.

Posted in Concerts, Discussion Forums, Finding a piano teaching course, Performances, Piano playing, Piano Teaching, Teaching Piano, Tutors | Comments closed

The new Tutor line-up for PTC 2013-14

The core of any good course is the quality of the people who teach it. PTC has been blessed with a quartet of Principal Tutors for the past five years, who have – with insight, care and tenacity – forged the course into what it is now.

Therefore it is with great sadness that we say goodbye to one of that quartet – Cathy Riley. We wish her all the very best in her new ventures.

Roshan MagubDue to the heightened interest in the course, we have extended the number of students for 2013-14 – but to support that, it also requires additional tutelage.

Graham Fitch was appointed back in the summer to join the team, and we are delighted to announce our new principal tutor – Roshan Magub.

Roshan brings a wealth of different experience to the team, and both she and Graham were such a hit during PTC 2012-13, additional sessions were scheduled with them.

Joining the guest tutors this year is the Latvian pianist Ilga Pitkevica.

It’s going to be a great year….


Posted in Concerts, Finding a piano teaching course, Performances, Piano playing, Piano Teaching, Teaching Piano, Tutors | Comments closed
  • PTC 2019-20

    Dates for The PTC 2019-20 and the Teaching DipABRSM 2019-20 are now available…

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