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Cayman Arts Festival hosts ‘Teach-the-Teacher” masterclasses

Arts and Culture 18 Apr, 2024 Follow News

Cayman Arts Festival hosts ‘Teach-the-Teacher” masterclasses

The Cayman Arts Festival teamed up with acclaimed pianist and piano teacher, Professor Penelope Roskell, to host a series of masterclasses for local piano teachers.

Although Cayman Art Festival has provided masterclasses for local students since its inception in 2004, this was the first time it provided this kind of music instruction specifically for teachers. With expertise that has been developed over a lifetime of teaching and performing, Roskell coached teachers on several elements of piano playing, including her approach to managing movements at the keyboard.

“I am aiming to empower teachers so that they are teaching in a more informed way,” she said.

Roskell is renowned as an international performer and a teacher, writer and presenter. Her award-winning book, “The Complete Pianist - From Healthy Technique to Natural Artistry,” was described as “an encyclopaedic masterpiece of pianistic wisdom” by The Piano Magazine.

Roskell is Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, London. She also chairs the European Piano Teachers Association UK and presents at institutions and conferences worldwide. She is considered to be a leading specialist in healthy piano playing and regularly helps pianists recover from injury. In addition, she works as piano advisor to the British Association for Performing Arts Medicine, where she holds a clinic for pianists experiencing tension or injuries.

Roskell has also performed in major concert halls in more than 30 countries as a piano soloist.

In the series of masterclasses, Roskell took the participants through her approach to teaching piano music at all levels.  One of the key elements of her training is around defining or revising movements when learning to play.

“Historically, pianists were taught to lift their fingers quite high,” she said. “Through my methods, teachers can aim for a more refined piano touch, advanced coordination and economical movements.”

Teachers were encouraged to have their students begin working with appropriate movements as soon as possible as it enables them to be extremely effective as they advance as pianists. Roskell was known to Cayman Arts Festival because she taught piano to Glen Inanga, the organisation’s co-founder and artistic director, from the ages of 15 to 20.

“Part of the purpose of the masterclasses and Glen’s vision was to plant the seeds for a stronger community so that teachers could support each other as they work with students,” she said.

As it happened, many of the participating piano teachers had never met one another and attending the masterclasses provided ways for them connect and share what they were learning.

Professor Roskell has written and published three books for beginning-to-intermediate piano students, as well as one for more advanced pianists. “They are really geared for teachers so that they can be empowered to use a different approach when developing their students,” she said. “After one teacher started teaching using my books, she said that she now has a waiting list through the roof.”

Several piano students also attended some of the masterclasses with the teachers. Seven boys from John Gray High School came to one of the masterclasses and Roskell was surprised to learn that many were self-taught.

“How can we help the kids who can’t afford one-on-one lessons, but have passion?” she asked, nothing that the teenagers told her they were learning by watching YouTube. “Learning that way is inconsistent as there is such a variety of quality.”

By sharing her proven methods for teaching piano with Cayman-based teachers, Roskell hopes more passionate young pianists can get the kind of proper training that can lead to them becoming better skilled musicians.

“I’m here to sow a seed,” she said. “That’s what Glen had in mind in bringing me here.”

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