Piano Stories: Why The Nation Loves Piano
We love hearing about how the piano has inspired a lifetime of playing and fun. That is why we spent the past month, in connection with world piano day sharing our love for this incredible instrument. From up and down the country, they came to share their stories. Today we want to share them with you and share our love for the piano!
Amy Bradley – Volunteer And PHD Student
Amy’s story really pulls at the heartstrings, after growing up in South Wales with an incredibly musical background, she has continued to merge her love for helping others with her passion for music.
“When I was younger, I had a music teacher who really gave me an incredible sense of everyone being able to enjoy music and the mindset of even if I’m not that good at something, I could always give it a go! I was lucky enough when I was in sixth form to play in the county youth orchestra as a pianist, then from there the conductor said why don’t you try for national youth orchestra, so I then went on tour with them. From there I’ve just kept playing!
I’ve always liked interacting with my local community, so when I went to The University of Birmingham, I joined a scheme called Buddy A Granny, which was a group of students who would go to a local care home. I was in charge of activities there and one Christmas I thought let’s do Christmas carols. There was a lady in the care home who was 104 and hadn’t been out of her room in over 2 years…but as soon as we started playing and singing, she came out to join in. That was the moment I discovered music is amazing.
Later that year I went away with a camp who take young people with disabilities and young people who don’t have disabilities away together for the week and help them realise we can all enjoy each others company and have fun. We went away with 12 children who all had really severe disabilities so we were doing the care and support they needed, but being away from home, a lot of them were really upset and only one of them was verbal. To help, I started playing music and straight away the room completely changed. There was one lad who was deaf and blind and he started rocking in time and all their faces lit up. It’s that communicating and moving mountains without needing to use words that I think is really special about music.
I’ve moved to Manchester now and thanks to the Let’s Play the Piano! group, I met my friend Rosie, we started playing duets. So we got invited to play at a local care home again so offered to play their summer fair. There was a gentleman there who told me the story that him and his wife used to play when they were both in the pantomime when they were younger. He was the pianist, she was the singer. He couldn’t use his legs, so he played the keys and I did the pedal, then his wife came over and started singing and everyone just stopped. It really brought tears to my eyes. He was really quite unwell, she had dementia, but music then brought them together in this amazing way. It’s sort of like a drug when you get playing!
I think music is just an incredible ready-built community. Wherever in the country I’ve gone, I’ve found people through music and the piano. It’s a way of being creative on your own, but also something you can share and I think everyone can enjoy that!”
Vedran – Maths Tutor University Of Warwick
Moving to a new country is never easy, but when Vedran came to the UK in 2017, he instantly found a community of like minded piano enthusiasts just around the corner from him to help keep him motivated!
“I’m an amateur pianist from Croatia, I moved to the UK in 2017 and in 2018 joined the Birmingham Lets’s Play The Piano! group It’s a really supportive group who play the piano from various backgrounds and various levels.
For me, piano is a very nice hobby to have because it lets you connect with people. It’s an opportunity to grow and learn things that connect people through music. You get to learn the musical literature quite well and it’s a lifelong learning process.
Over the past year, having online groups to come together and play has been a great motivator to keep practising. I know I don’t have the self-discipline just to practice, but getting to know so many people online is really rewarding and drives you forwards.
I think one can learn a better connection to music when they let piano into their life, no matter where they are. Learning any instrument, there’s no real sense of competition, at the end of the day, everyone has their own individual relationship with music and it’s important to find one’s own journey within that.
I’m cautiously optimistic about being able to play with people in person again – The people I’ve met through these online events have been amazing and it’s given me a real new love for playing throughout the pandemic.”
Hannah – 16 Year Old Aspiring Pianist
We often hear a lot of students who perhaps practised piano when they were younger, but then fell out of love with it somewhere along the way. Hannah is a fantastic example of the incredible power that music can bring people when they are free to express themselves!
“I’m from Manchester and I’ve been musical my whole life and my whole family is quite musical. I started playing piano when I was around 5 or 6 and have never considered stopping.
I think a lot of people put more emphasis than they should on grades – that’s when people fall out of love with playing. Instead, I’ve been doing quite a lot of improvisation on the pianos and making my own medleys of popular songs, I listen to a lot of 70s or 80s music and love replicating it on the piano.
I think I’ve definitely concentrated on piano a lot more over the past year. Being home and doing nothing other than school work it’s nice to have that getaway. As I’ve been practising on a home digital piano, I’ve found that I have a new appreciation for technology and integrating that into my music.
Playing piano is really rewarding, it’s a lot of effort and can feel like a slog sometimes, but eventually you’ll get to a stage where you can play any song or piece that you choose to play then it’s so rewarding and once you get to a certain point, you enjoy it so much more because you can play to your friends and family. Lately, having a lot of time on my hands, it’s been great to have a skill that I can continue to work on regardless.
I think performing really helps build your confidence. I don’t really get nervous playing my own compositions to other people anymore. When it’s something you created, you get a real sense of satisfaction seeing how an audience reacts to it knowing that it’s your piece.I’m just so excited to get back playing on a real acoustic instrument and performing again.”
Annie Ball – Professional Concert Pianist
Based in the North of England near Newcastle, Annie is a professional concert pianist and musician who has been playing almost all of her life. As a teenager, struggling with rural isolation and depression, Annie used playing the piano as a way to help herself feel empowered, confident and content.
“When I was growing up, piano was always a big part of my life. We’d often have a folk session in our living room at least once a week so I’ve been doing that from a pretty young age.
I loved music from an early age, we had an old piano in our house with the keybed exposed and I really vidly remember prodding and poking the key to make the notes play that way. I just loved the sound it made. Having that instrument in the house really helped me foster a connection with it from a young age.
Throughout the pandemic, what helped me most is whilst I’m missing out playing concerts, just practising for 20 minutes, it gives me that introspective time that’s so hard to get when you’re a mum and all in the house together, working from home, homeschooling etc. That slither of time was a really sustainable and creative form of escapism for me.
I think anyone can feel those benefits, whether you’re 6 or 60 it’s a really healthy way to express yourself and escape. We do lots of other things to alleviate ourselves from life, but playing the piano is a really sustainable, nourishing way of doing that.
Over the next year, I’m so excited to get involved in music again. I was awarded a grant from the arts council England to develop my practice and whilst concerts haven’t been permitted. Myself and a cellist have designed an outdoor tour around some really rural parts of Northumberland and gave people access to music in a really safe and controlled way. We went to villages and would provide people a place to relax and enjoy themselves, I was playing accordion for that project but I managed to figure that out. We’ve been trying to make classical piano music work for accordion and cello. Some of that grant this year is going to be used for mastering that project.
Really looking forward to getting a garden studio to give the neighbours some peace and will give me a nice place to record and play anytime.”
Angela Fenton – Piano Teacher For Over 10 Years
“My life has been a bit strange, I’m originally from Hong Kong and started playing piano very young. I’ve got pictures of me being lifted up to play the piano when I was no older than 1 or two, so I think I was always interested.
I came over to the UK when I was 15 and couldn’t speak a word of English, but the girl next door to me had a guitar and she was playing a song called ‘Bright Eyes’ and I remember she hit a wrong chord. So after the third time hearing it, I remember saying in what sounded really rude because I couldn’t speak fluently “You – Wrong Chord – Show – Give”. She knew me enough to know that I wasn’t being rude, so I showed her how to play it right. Then all of a sudden she had a full folder with songs without chords, so we sat down and would go through them together every night after school – And that’s how I learnt English and made friends! So music broke all barriers for me.
Since then, I’ve had a few jobs, I became a maths teacher in London, did that for a while then went back to university and got a masters degree in IT, but all the while, the piano was in there, so I’d finish work and would either go to learn with other teachers or just practice for myself. I got sick and long story short, had to stop work on medical grounds. When I was at university, I’d teach children piano on the side, but for nothing really. So when I got sick, I thought actually…I couldn’t teach!
There used to be an online forum in Cambridge where people would ask things like “do you know a good plumber, or painter?” then one day someone said “Does anyone know a piano teacher for my son?” so I said yes, I’ll give it a try. I remember on his first lesson, the student didn’t want to come, he thought piano teachers were boring so the first lesson they were late because he wouldn’t get his books together, but the second lesson, he was by the door saying “Come on dad, I’m going to be late!” I thought that was amazing. We’re still friends to this day!
What I play reflects my mood, I’ve always seen music as a companion, it’s somebody who doesn’t demand from me. My husband can always tell what mood I’m in by what I play. Sometimes you just need to smash out something like Brahms on the piano and you’ll feel better!”
Why do you love playing the piano? Or are you just getting started? We hope that these stories have given you some inspiration for the wonderful people out there who have all found a new love for music and expression through the piano. If you would like any further help finding your dream instrument, speak to our expert team today!