The Portfolio Pianist

On April 18th 2019, St Mary's Music School held a special event for all pianists, young and old, whether a teacher or a student of the piano or simply an enthusiast.

The full day of events, included talks, concerts and centred around the Nigel Murray Masterclass led, this year by Pascal Rogé.

There were talks on the pianist as composer from Simon Smith, the pianist as chamber musician, given by Susan Tomes and the pianist as collaborative artist and producer given by Iain Burnside and Roderick Williams.

Concerts were given by former pupils, Steven Osborne and Simon Smith, pupils of St Mary’s Music School, by Pascal Rogé, Iain Burnside and Roderick Williams.  There were works for 3/4/6/16 Hands, Chamber Music, Song and Jazz.


The programme for the day is now available here.


‘The Portfolio Pianist’ 

Not so very long ago, the advice for young musicians, in preparation for a life of music-making, was to specialise.  To develop a unique selling point, an individual was to carve out a niche within a niche.  Nowadays, for the aspiring musician, flexibility and a willingness to engage with all areas of performing and teaching is highly prized.  Someone who has developed confidence in all aspects of their work, through experimentation and learning as well as a positive outlook, is a far more attractive proposition for a potential employer in these difficult times for the performing musician.   

So, what does this mean for the young pianist?  Long gone are the days of pianism being restricted to the solitary practice of a recital programme then the solo tour to follow.  For each of the very few virtuosi that sell out venues the world over, there is an army of pianists working, often unseen, as teachers, as coaches, as accompanists, as orchestral musicians and conductors and as collaborative artists in the world of opera and ballet.  Pianists can be found in every school, whether playing for assembly on a Monday morning or playing for exams and auditions.  In nearly every university, playing for choir practice and for final recitals in the Music Department.  At conservatoire, staff pianists play a crucial role in the running of the Vocal School as well as playing for all faculties, Drama included.  Repetiteur work is a hugely demanding job, requiring excellent language skills and is pivotal to the success of an operatic production.  They work as assistants to conductors, to music directors and choreographers and are vital to the production of broadcasts and staged shows.  The list is never-ending and, for any pianist who is willing to embrace this multitude of opportunity, it is a joy.  It is no accident that some of the finest pianists spend their summers at the various festivals, joining colleagues from all over the world to play Chamber Music and give duo recitals.   

At St Mary’s Music School, we are very proud to be able to introduce our pianists to some of these delights.  Chamber Music is integral to the timetable and is led by a team of experienced coaches.  Work developing accompanying and coaching skills, both instrumental and vocal, is encouraged and very popular, as is trying out harpsichord and organ lessons.  Jazz Piano, Piano Duet and Two Piano work is also encouraged, as is concerto preparation with fellow pupils and staff. 

Making music with others is unlike anything else and these highly rewarding aspects of the ‘Portfolio Pianist’, musically nourish everything we do as musicians and as pianists.            

John Cameron, Head of Keyboard