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The list of former Chetham’s keyboard students reads like a who’s who of international performing artists, showing the department’s central role in the landscape of piano playing, in particular, over the past five decades. The fact that artists of the calibre of Peter Donohoe, Kathryn Stott, Stephen Hough and John Lill visit and revisit the department for masterclasses is evidence of the respect and admiration which Chetham’s students continue to attract at the highest levels of their profession. With about 50 students, around 20 tutors and a thriving programme of sight reading, improvisation, performance skills, figures bass and keyboard harmony to complement individual lessons, the department is always focussed, vibrant and supportive.
An increasing number of students choose to study jazz piano as either their main or second study. Jazz pianists naturally collaborate with instrumentalists form other departments, and are supported to develop jazz theory, instrumental and improvisatory skills through one to one lessons and ensembles.
Chetham’s offers a wide range of opportunities for students to perform as soloists, as concerto pianists and in ensembles in School and further afield. They are encouraged to participate in regular competitions within School, which helps to prepare them for external successes; in recent years, Chetham’s pianists won the Keyboard Category Final and Walter Todd Bursary at the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, both Senior and Junior categories at the Scottish International Youth Piano Competition, various prizes at the EPTA UK Piano Competition and the Instrumental Blue Riband at the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
"Chetham's is an amazing school! I love playing the piano here and the teachers are fantastic!" - Jeremy, piano, year 7
Collaborative music making is of crucial importance for all keyboard students. There are many duet partnerships in School, as well as opportunities to perform with instrumentalists from other departments in small chamber ensembles. Harpsichord players are involved in exploring baroque repertoire, with performances in the School’s 600-year old Baronial Hall and at Greenwich International Early Music Festival.
The close collaboration between Chetham’s and Manchester Cathedral opens many doors to students interested in exploring church music, and organists will have the chance to play on the Cathedral’s new organ when it is completed in early 2017.
Closely associated with the Keyboard Department is the annual Chetham’s International Summer School and Festival for Pianists, the largest of its kind in Europe, which brings pianists from across the world to Chetham’s for two weeks every August.
Head of Keyboard