31st July 2011 | Daily Life, Inspirations, Travel | 5 comments

The Priory at AmbialetI’m teaching on a lovely summer course for pianists in the south of France. As I write, people are practising in the rooms all around me – everything from Schumann’s Fantasy to Beethoven’s opus 110, Debussy Preludes and Liszt’s Vallée d’Obermann. Put together, we sound like Saint-Saens’s vision of ‘Pianistes’ in his Carnival of the Animals: earnest, determined, slightly obsessed.

What I like about this group of students is that most of them do something completely different for their day jobs. Just a few are full-time music students, but others are doctors, lawyers, journalists, psychiatrists, editors, and there’s even an aerospace engineer. I’m so used to being surrounded by people whose main occupation is music that I find it very refreshing to be in the company of people who are experts in other things, but have kept piano-playing as a hobby which means a great deal to them. In some ways I find I envy them!


  1. Roger Roser

    They must be very good ‘amateurs’ if they can handle the coda of Schumann Op 17 movement 2 – and especially in the heat of summer.

  2. peter

    Do you teach them individually, Susan? If so, do you treat the two types of students differently? I am an amateur learner (of the violin), and have found this experience of learning very different from my childhood music lessons (on the piano). I have ended up becoming personal friends with both the teachers I have had as an adult.

  3. violinist

    Don’t envy us! Dedicated amateurs suffer in a state of perpetual desire to play like professionals. What to do about that, I never know. (Practice?)

  4. CrossEyedPianist

    I love these courses (my piano teacher, Penelope Roskell, runs several through the year). People are transformed after a few days away from the norm, and are freed by the music. It’s a great opportunity to share repertoire and ideas, and a real celebration of serious amateur music making

  5. James B

    Don’t envy them! Susan Tomes the pharmacist or the architect or the air-conditioner cleaner would have made the world a much less colourful place!!


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