The Piano Teachers' Course UK
15 years of leading professional development for piano teachers worldwide
Beate Toyka LRAM, Grad. Cologne Conservatoire
Beate was born in Germany, to a family in which music and internationalism were a way of life. Good teachers in her early teens assured technical and musical training, e.g. in Russian scales, cadences in all inversions and keys, early memorization, and challenges with demanding repertoire. She undertook the 3 year piano teacher training course in Cologne Conservatoire, a course with the intensity and academic standard of a degree, finishing with “summa cum laude” (Distinction equivalent). Due to her family’s international outlook she followed her dream of studying further in London and gained a place at the Royal Academy of Music for postgraduate studies with Hamish Milne. Whilst there she won the Leslie England prize for interpretation and was soon accepted by the ‘Avanti’ concert agency for outstanding young musicians. Wonderfully and at the perfect time in her life she met her husband-to-be Tim, violinist and engineer, and at the end of her RAM year they got engaged and married the following year.
Beate’s link with ‘Avanti’ gave many early career opportunities to perform in large houses and Halls. Having forged links with Polish musicians in a summer course with Ivan Moravec in Prague Beate travelled several times to Poland for concerts, also inviting Polish musicians to England in return. She was accompanist in an international summer school run by Polish musicians in the Loire Valley. German contacts meant chamber concerts and some solo appearances there. With Cambridge as the couple’s next base concerto opportunities arose and she began her career as concerto soloist with various Cambridge orchestras. Now a young family they moved to Botswana and Beate could forge her performing skills in unexpected ways: she was soon offered concertos and/or recitals, in Harare, Bulawayo, Bophuthatswana and Gaborone itself. There she formed an exciting piano trio with a Bulgarian violinist and cellist, the ‘Trio con Brio’, even playing the Beethoven triple concerto in Bulawayo Town Hall.
Now living in Derbyshire, Beate has played with most orchestras in the Midlands, in Nottingham, Sheffield, and mostly around Derby, her home town. Her concerto repertoire is quite remarkable, from Bach to Shostakovich, encompassing all 5 Beethoven concertos. She has also played exciting orchestral piano parts in Stravinsky’s ‘Sacre du Printemps’ and the ‘Firebird’, and in de Falla’s ‘Nights in the Garden of Spain’. With Ravel’s Concerto in G and Beethoven’s C minor concerto around the corner there is never a dull moment.
Beate has several times performed the complete 48 Preludes and Fugues by J.S. Bach and in the Chopin Bicentenary year in shared recitals with all of his Etudes and 4 Ballades. She is steeped in the best of the German classical tradition and in her recitals would often include major works by Schumann or Beethoven. She has had a special interest in music from the Baltics, Whitol and Medins, as well as German contemporary composers, Baur or Lachenmann, and balancing these with a more traditional programme is her speciality.
Beate is part of several successful and popular chamber music ensembles, playing in venues across the Midlands. She was a member of the Attenborough Piano Quartet, and formed the Mercian Piano Trio. She has also lately played with violinist Lucy Phillips, violinist Mifune Tsuji, clarinettist Pete Glenville, and singers Agnieska Kodnowska, Karen England, Richard Roddis and Dana de Waal.
Beate works as a coach and accompanist for Nottingham University when music students prepare for their final year recitals.
2 Pianos and more
Having had the luxury of two grand pianos side by side Beate was inspired, in her early Cambridge years, by Cambridge University composer Robin Holloway and pianist colleague Phyllis Palmer, to delve into the 8 hands repertoire. She formed quartets in Cambridge with fellow musicians from Anglia Ruskin University, then in Botswana with pianists who were at hand there, and back in England founded the Derby Piano Quartet, which has been going strong for 15 years now. Beate’s enthusiasm for multi piano playing has got teachers playing together at EPTA workshops held in piano shops and indeed at Steinways in London. She was invited to teach in a multi piano workshop in Berlin by Brazilian pianist Jairo Geronimo and was adjudicator in a 6-8 hands competition in Bochum in Germany. Her regular 2 piano partner is Derbyshire pianist Gillian Bithel.
‘Getting to the heart of music’ is Beate’s teaching philosophy. Exploring a beautiful tone and the shape of a melody right from the early stages is essential, as is the formation of a good technique. Listening to good music is as important as playing it, and encouragement at all stages is the key. Beate is a devoted teacher from beginners to diploma levels. Overlapping lessons will often lead to duet forming or, with a bit of planning, even 6 hands teams. Beate is particularly skilled at taking students to a new and unexpected level of achievement, for example:
a shy and nervous teenager transformed in a year to a confident improviser
a young French piano teacher finding the courage to perform in front of others
a local music teacher taking the plunge and daring to enter for a diploma
Through the local EPTA group (Beate is the Regional Organiser) a players’ circle has formed where teachers can perform to each other. The trust between teachers in the Derby region has hence become particularly strong. Pupils’ concerts often showcase pupils of several teachers.
Lecturing is teaching in a nutshell, and Beate has given lectures on different topics for EPTA, Trinity College and Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, her old employer.
Beate has also taken all the Suzuki training levels and part of her teaching practise is devoted to this type of learning and teaching. She is a regular invited guest-teacher at national and international courses.
Event promotion and management
For 7 years Beate and her team ran a residential Piano Suzuki Summer Course for children and their parents in the Peak District. Every course would include intensive teaching, duets, trios and quartets, also with visiting violins and cellos. It would finish with a hilarious ‘Talent Show’ by parents and children with some unforgettable sketches.
In the past five years Beate has been the artistic director of Belper Music Festival, part of Belper Arts Festival. Organising and presenting concerts as well as playing in them is a hugely fun activity and brings good music into the community. The latest highly successful concert promotion was with the Kanneh-Mason Trio.
Beate has always been interested in the Arts Festival movement in the UK, very particular and unique to this country. She is now able to put her ideas into action as she is the organiser of the instrumental section of the Derby Arts Festival.
Folk and Fun
With her fiddler husband Beate plays ceilidhs for weddings and birthdays, and occasionally even calls dances. This is utter fun and everybody should give it a go. You just need a good fiddler!
Beate has contributed numerous reviews and articles for the Piano Professional Magazine and has contributed to several symposiums on teaching issues.