Eastern Promise


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Eastern Promise

Over the past few years, there has been much talk about young Asian pianists becoming increasingly predominant in the Classical music world. Buoyed by stars such as Lang Lang, Yuja Wang and Yundi Li, who have achieved rock-star status in the Far East, fledgling pianists take their piano playing very seriously, seemingly intent on emulating their idol’s careers. There are billions of youngsters in China, and many other Far Eastern countries too, practising for hours daily, even though the prospects of success are, by and large, limited. 

I have frequently visited this part of the world, working many times in Hong Kong, so have been fortunate enough to experience this huge interest first-hand. As an examiner and adjudicator, I’ve listened to countless hours of piano playing, much of it, excellent. I adjudicated at the Hong Kong Schools Music Festival last year, and was very impressed by the fact that every single participant played from memory, usually with good results; there were very few slips or errors. Pianists were well prepared and well trained, irrespective of their age; a trend which could perhaps be seen as the product of over-zealous teachers and parents, but I prefer to think of it as a culture with a finger on the pulse. 

Music training and high level piano playing are immensely useful skills, which will really help mental preparation for higher education and subsequently, the professional world. Those from the Far East understand the need to prepare well, study hard, assimilate as much information as possible, and feed their minds in readiness for further education. The majority of young players will not become professional, but they no doubt see the benefits of practising, careful preparation and the necessary discipline, which will eventually lead to a coveted music diploma. 

At the Hong Kong Schools Music Festival, classes were routinely large, sometimes consisting of fifty or sixty participants, with parents, family and teachers on hand to support the young players. The venues were wonderful; spacious theatres and halls, resplendent with well-tuned instruments. Repertoire was imaginatively selected, and some of the diploma classes were comparable in performance standard to those heard at an international competition. I listened to approximately 3000 young pianists over a period of five weeks. 

It’s heartening to see this interest in playing the piano, particularly as here in the UK, love of Classical music, and especially enthusiasm for learning to play an instrument, is definitely declining, sadly. Many young pianists from the Far East leave their home countries and venture abroad, steeping themselves in Classical music, dedicating many hours to improving and honing their already well-developed techniques. Such pursuit of excellence is certainly inspiring. I look forward to observing the flourishing careers of all those who have participated at the Overseas Masters Winter Piano Academy. 

Melanie Spanswick
December 2014


09MelanieMelanie Spanswick (please click here for Full Biographical details):
Melanie Spanswick is a classical pianist, author, teacher, presenter, and adjudicator. A graduate of the Royal College of Music in London, Melanie studied with Patricia Carroll, Tatiana Sarkissova, and John Lill. Whilst at the RCM she won many prizes including the Marjorie and Arnold Ziff prize for ‘the most outstanding postgraduate pianist of the year’ and she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Performance Studies. Melanie has performed in many of the major UK concert halls, has made a solo recording and has broadcast on Classic FM, BBC Radio 2, CBC Radio, Swedish and Spanish Television. Festival appearances have included Cheltenham, Windsor, Southwark, Prussia Cove, Guelph (Ontario, Canada) and the International Liszt Festival in Hamilton (Ontario, Canada). Piano teaching posts have included Reading University and the Royal College of Music Junior Department. She has examined for the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and currently adjudicates for the British and International Federation of Festivals. Melanie has her own blog site, The Classical Piano and Music Education Blog, where she regularly interviews eminent concert pianists live on camera in her Classical Conversations Series, and she has also written an acclaimed piano guide, So You Want To Play The Piano? She writes regular articles and columns for several magazines including the Piano Professional (EPTA) and Pianist Magazine.