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The Piano Teachers' Course UK

16 years of leading professional development for piano teachers worldwide

History of The Piano Teachers' Course UK

The Piano Teachers’ Course UK (PTC) had its origins in the EPTA Pedagogy Course, which was begun in the 1990s by founding EPTA members, and Trinity College of Music Professors, Wanda Jeziorska, Lettice Stuart and Frank Martin.

 

AIMING TO RAISE STANDARDS

Concerned that piano teaching was an unregulated profession in the UK, and that most piano teachers lacked fundamental skills in musicianship, Lettice, Wanda and Frank sought to provide the opportunity for all EPTA UK members to raise their teaching standards through exposure to leading piano teaching pedagogues.

 

WORKSHOPS on TEN SUNDAYS a YEAR

Originally hosted in Florence Creighton’s home in Fulham, it was an annual part time-course, which took place every other Sunday between January and May. It was comprised of a series workshops by a variety of pedagogues on their specialist subjects. They included Carola Grindea, the founder of EPTA, (tensions in performance); Peter Feuchtwanger (technique); Douglas Finch (improvisation); Philip Fowke (performance); Paul Harris (pedagogy); Nadia Lasserson (piano needn’t be lonely); Lucinda Mackworth-Young (psychology for teaching and performing); Frank Martin (musicianship); Raphael Terroni, and others.

The course then moved to The University of West London and finally The Royal College of Music. Notable former Directors include Penelope Roskell, Dr Patricia Powell and Heli Ignatius-Fleet.

 

TWO MODULES: TEACHING and PERFORMING

With Heli as Director, there were two core tutors, Sally Cathcart and Cathy Riley. At this point, the course began to develop academic as well as piano teaching credibility, and, at Sally’s suggestion, was divided into two modules: Module A focusing on teaching, and Module B on performance skills. Assignments were introduced.

 

NEW DIRECTOR and The PURCELL SCHOOL of MUSIC

In 2007, two things happened that significantly re-shaped the course: First, Lucinda Mackworth-Young was invited to be the Director. Not only had she been a visiting tutor, but she was also experienced at running her own Music, Mind and Movement Courses. Second, William Fong, Head of Keyboard at The Purcell School of Music, Bushey, Hertfordshire, offered his school as the Course venue.

This opened up many possibilities: residential weekends throughout the year, use of a vast fleet of Steinway and Fazioli pianos together with administration from The Purcell School’s Administrator, Jane Hunt. Several Purcell School tutors became involved at this point, notably Ed Longstaff, also Simon Colam (Jazz), Ilana Davids, Roshan Magub (who subsequently became a Principal Tutor), Tessa Nicholson and Carole Presland in addition to William.

The renewed course was first named The Practical Piano Teaching Course, or PPTC, but soon changed to become simply The Piano Teachers’ Course, or PTC EPTA UK.

 

A TEAM of DIRECTOR and PRINCIPAL TUTORS

At this stage, the Principal Tutors comprised Sally, Heli and Cathy. Sharon Mark-Teggart was also invited to join the Team which she did for a year, before having to return to Belfast. Together with Lucinda, they focused on constructing an holistic and comprehensive piano teacher training that led to the professionally respected “Certificate of The Piano Teachers’ Course EPTA UK”.

ETHOS and PHILOSOPHY

The ethos and philosophy was agreed: Piano teachers should be trained to teach all-round skills, playing by ear and improvising as well as playing from notation, in a positive atmosphere which focused on the pupils’ enjoyment: If pupils are enjoying themselves they will be engaged, if they are engaged they will be learning, and developing a life-long love of piano playing.

 

CORE SUBJECTS

Delivered in the positive spirit of the ethos and philosophy, core PTC subjects included:

  • What and how to teach to inspire and motivate pupils of every age and stage;

  • Sally specialised in teaching how to teach young beginners, beginning with developing their sense of music before introducing them to notation, and recommending an array of the best tutor books and repertoire;

  • Lucinda addressed the older beginner;

  • Cathy specialised in how to inspire and instruct intermediate pupils, recommending a wide variety of suitable repertoire for them and more advanced players;

  • Heli developed the teaching of musical interpretation - how to extract and convey musical meaning;

  • Style, interpretation, technique and how to practise were originally taught by the Purcell School tutors;

  • Practical psychology for Teaching, Performing and Dealing with Difficulties - This was Lucinda’s specialist area, and included “Safe Circle performing”, one of the hall marks of the PTC approach. Students begin by performing duets and trios with each other, before progressing to Grade 1-3 solos and finally Grade 6-8 solos in a mutually supportive and appreciative environment.  This approach enables them to develop confidence as they explore practice and performance techniques, and gives them the tools they need to encourage their own pupils to perform successfully;

  • Playing by ear and improvising - also developed by Lucinda;

  • Information on all the major music exam boards’ piano syllabuses, including Jazz, Leisure Play, Improvising as well as the standard Grade exams;

  • Running a Teaching Practice - how to be professional in a non-regulated profession.

ASSIGNMENTS

Assignments were developed over the years to be as practical and useful as possible for teachers, and comprised:

1. The Teaching Assignment, involving lesson preparation and planning, and reflection on the efficacy of teaching through video observation and a write-up.

2. The Performance Assignment, involving preparation for a stylistic and musical performance, the giving of the performance, a reflection on the efficacy of the preparation and the implications for teaching in a write-up.

3. An Essay, to explore an area of particular interest, from a list of titles.

 

CHANGE of ADMINISTRATION and PERSONNEL

In 2012, Jane Hunt retired as administrator due to her heavy work load for the Purcell School, and Jennie Parke-Matheson was appointed the PTC’s Administrator. Experienced in the field, Jennie proved herself to be very good at administration, and was a particular source of empathy and support for students.

Around this time Graham Fitch (co-founder of Practising the Piano) was appointed as a Principal Tutor to replace Cathy Riley. Also, with the growth of the course, Roshan Magub and, shortly afterwards, Ilga PItkevica joined the Team as Principal Tutors.

Graham, Roshan and Ilga took on and developed the lectures previously given by the Purcell School tutors on Period and Style: Roshan continued with her Classical Period lecture and developed advanced repertoire and technique, Graham took over the Baroque and Romantic Period lectures, and Ilga took on the Impressionist and Twentieth Century/Contemporary Period.

The only remaining visiting tutors at this point were Simon Colam (Jazz), Nicola Gaines, an Early Dance specialist was invited to teach the dances we play (Minuet, Mazurka, Polonaise, Waltz etc.), and Paul Harris (Simultaneous Learning).

 

THE PTC GUIDING PRINCIPALS

At Sally’s suggestion, the Team then drew up The PTC Guiding Principles which reflected and summarised the course ethos and core teaching:

Through a pupil-centred and multisensory approach, teachers should endeavour to:-

 

  1. Place meaningful music-making at the heart of the lesson - more music than talk.

  2. Establish musical knowledge and understanding in theory and practice.

  3. Develop technical and pianistic skills, and effective practising strategies.

  4. Create a positive and professional atmosphere through good teacher facilitation.

 

FURTHER SUBJECT DEVELOPMENTS

It was decided to introduce Pre-course Preparation to help students feel ready for the course by brushing up their theory and technical skills prior to arrival.

Sing then Play, the brainchild of both Sally Cathcart and Lucinda Mackworth-Young, became an integral part of the course and led neatly into Sally’s workshops on developing musicianship in beginners, and Lucinda’s on Playing by Ear and Improvising.

Also, Musical Moments, the 15-minute slot during the day when a tutor first explained their interpretation and preparation and then performed, were begun by Heli Ignatius-Fleet. Heli also developed a series of workshops on Technique for all ages and stages.

Graham continued to develop The Practice Tools and also Techniques for Memorisation.

Ilga developed the idea of using Patterns to Make Progress and, from her own personal experience, discussed the pros and cons of The Russian School of Piano Teaching.

Sally expounded on the History of Piano Teaching following her PhD on the subject.

Further visiting tutors, notably Andrew Davidson, came to take sessions in Dalcroze Eurythmics, and representatives from ABRSM, Trinity and London College came to explain and demonstrate the rationale and repertoire in their exam syllabi.

The ABRSM CME

During this time (2013), the PTC was requested by ABRSM to pilot the new ABRSM CME, a new LEVEL 4 Music Teaching Qualification. Both Lucinda and Sally were happy to agree to this, and the new PTC ABRSM CME course was developed and run by them for four years.

However, it was then dropped in favour of developing a PTC DipABRSM course which could offer both Cert PTC students and outsiders the chance of a Level 4 qualification in piano, rather than general music, teaching. (More below).

 

PROFESSIONAL STANDING

Attention has always been given to the professional standing and legal obligations of the piano teaching profession. Lectures and information on how to run a teaching practice, inclusive of Safeguarding and Child protection policies, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, and Data Protection were all included as core course material, -even more so since the inclusion of the CME.  And PTC students have always been required to join a professional body, either EPTA, or the Incorporated Society of Musicians - a long standing and staunch supporter of the course.

 

The PTC and the EPTA UK CONFERENCE 2016

By 2016, the PTC was extremely well established as EPTA’s flagship course, and was invited to devise and organise the annual EPTA Conference, to be held in Nottingham. The conference was the most successful EPTA Conference to date, not least because so many PTC alumni attended.

 

The PTC UK Ltd.

However, shortly afterwards, at the instigation of the current EPTA Chairman, it was agreed, that the PTC, which had been entirely separate from EPTA in administrative terms since moving to The Purcell School, should formally separate from EPTA UK. And, by the end of 2016, the PTC had become a Limited Company: The PTC UK Ltd.

 

The PTC ONLINE

Also from 2016, Ryan Morison of The Online Piano Academy was introduced to the PTC by Graham Fitch, and began to develop online PTC Modules with PTC Tutors. These developed over the years and now include Teaching Beginners (Sally), Making progress with beginners, and Foundations of Good Technique (Ilga), Piano Technique, and The Practice Tools (Graham), Anyone can Improvise, and Practical Psychology (Lucinda) and Playing Together (Beate and Masayuki Tayama).

 

NEW PRINCIPAL TUTORS and ADMINISTRATION

In 2018 Heli Ignatius-Fleet retired, and Masayuki Tayama was appointed as a Principal Tutor with a view to becoming the Director in 2020. A renowned concert pianist, his specialisms include technique, style and interpretation.

Beate Toyka was also appointed as a Principal Tutor and taught the first DipABRSM year before handing this over to Lucinda, and becoming a PTC Tutor. Beate’s many specialist areas include the history of the piano, motivation, multi-piano, pedalling and performance anxiety.

Rhiana Henderson, a former PTC student with a First Class degree in music, majoring in Piano Performance, was appointed Administrator following Jennie’s retirement.

 

With the expansion of the PTC her role swiftly became managerial, and first Jo Snowdon (another former student), then Kaeli Spina were brought in to support her, focusing on developing the PTC’s reach through social media. 

 

PTC DipABRSM and LRSM COURSES

Julie Costley-White, ABRSM examiner, was then appointed to provide Mock Exams and feedback for the PTC DipABRSM candidates.

Soon afterwards, it was decided to pioneer a PTC LRSM course. Sally Cathcart agreed to take on the role of principal LRSM tutor, ably assisted by Julie Costley-White.

So by 2020, PTC students had the possibility of attending a three or four year programme: Cert PTC (one year), DipABRSM (one year) and LRSM (two years) at the PTC.

NEW DIRECTOR

Masayuki Tayama, a great supporter of the positive ethos and comprehensive nature of the course, was appointed PTC Director in 2020.

 

INTERNATIONAL DIRECTOR

Beginning with giving lectures overseas (South Africa, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, China and Hong Kong), and with the increased possibility of online teaching, Lucinda was appointed International Director in 2020 to help attract interest from overseas both from potential lecturers and from students for the PTC courses.

 

INTERNATIONAL and ONLINE OUTREACH

In 2020, Paul Myatt of Piano Teaching Success (Australia), ran a course in conjunction with the PTC on Whole Body Teaching.  

Penelope Roskell was invited to introduce her online Piano Teaching Course to students on the PTC.

 

ALUMNI

Since its inception in the 1990s, and particularly since moving to the Purcell School in 2008, it is estimated that over 1000 piano teachers have benefitted from the course, most, with their increased confidence and skill, having updated and expanded their own private teaching practices. Many have also developed piano teaching schools and businesses: Catherine Cossey - The Piano School; Marta Maroto - MMQ Piano Studio; Peter Simpson - Simpson's Sounds/Blackrock Music UK; Ruth Alberici and Gwen Harborne - My Music Resource, to name a few.

Several were enlisted as Mentors on the PTC CME – notably Catherine Cossey, Wendy Jackson, Sarah Salway and Louise Sherratt. Also, some have become visiting PTC tutors: Catherine Cossey, Running a Teaching Practice and Developing your own Business; Sarah Salway, Rock and Pop; and Ruth Alberici, My Music Resource.

 

FUNDRAISING

In 2020, The PTC UK Trust was formed in order to be able to fundraise and ensure the future of the PTC UK. PTC tutors began to give fundraising concerts, and the PTC was generously supported by The Worshipful Company of Grocers.

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