I wish I could milk some significance out of being six degrees separated from Beethoven...
My mother was taught by Hungarian concert pianist and force of nature Lili Kraus, who learnt with Schnabel, who was a protégé of Leschetzky, who studied with Liszt, who took lessons with Czerny, whose teacher was Beethoven.
More to the point, however, are the teachers I learnt with directly and, perhaps above all, growing up in an extended family immersed in music (and books). My mother and sister are pianists and teachers, as was my grandmother. (This accounts for our library of thousands of pieces of music, collected over the course of seventy years.)
I have been fortunate to have been taught by Hilary MacNamara (whose husband, the conductor Howard Shelley, made memorable interventions in our lessons), Michael Shak (who Alan Rusbridger writes about in Play it Again and who later became my duet partner), Tony Walker (who introduces some of the recordings on this site), and Lucy Parham, concert pianist and Professor of Piano at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I have also had occasional masterclasses with musicians including Stephen Kovacevich and Lamar Crowson.
When I was 16 I was awarded a full scholarship to the Purcell School of Music. At the age of 18 I was offered a place on the performance degree course at the Royal College of Music, but turned it down in favour of an academic degree in music (University of Southampton). I thought my susceptibility to performance nerves was some kind of tragic flaw, and only later learnt that it was a matter of technique.
I didn’t do many piano exams: I was too busy learning – and loving – music. When exams started to matter I did a raft of them, including Grade 8 Theory when I was 15 (for which I was 1% away from a perfect score. I was evidently at my intellectual peak!), and Grade 8 Piano when I was 16 (gaining a high distinction).
I have been teaching for nearly thirty years. I’ve also worked for literary magazines; for the University of Cambridge in Arts and Humanities communications and fundraising; and for music events and festivals.
Pictures: Harpsichord in the Flemish style 1618 by Jorge Royan via Wikicommons, then pictures of me and my sister aged 8 and 6 respectively.