At the Piano With……Heli Ignatius-Fleet

What is your first memory of the piano?

My mother played, I crawled on the floor

Who or what inspired you to start teaching?

My passion for the piano

Who were your most memorable/significant teachers?

Gyorgy Sebok. Vlado Perlemuter, Merete Soderhjelm

Who or what are the most important influences on your teaching?

The pianists above

Most memorable/significant teaching experiences?

The wordless understanding, manifested in the liberated playing of the student

What are the most exciting/challenging aspects of teaching adults?

Their high expectations, their self critical attitudes, difficulty in taking risks

What do you expect from your students?

Commitment, honesty, willingness to experiment, daring…

What are your views on exams, festivals and competitions?

Exams – I have very mixed feelings about these. Especially the early grades: is it not much better to create a learning programme suitable for each learner, instead of relying on a syllabus? Performing is part of being a musician, so I am all for non-competitive festivals, and also competitions but only if the adjudicator is someone who can be trusted to speak in a positive way to all competitors.

What do you consider to be the most important concepts to impart to beginning students, and to advanced students?

Early stages – music as expression,  physical freedom before reading notation; advanced students – music is a form of art and the text needs to come alive: technique is the means to express.  Also, memorising comes high on my list as memorising means reflecting on what you play.

What are you thoughts on the link between performance and teaching?

I could not teach performance skills without first-hand experience of performing.

Who are your favourite pianists/pianist-teachers and why?

Cannot think of anyone in particular, I have heard so many really great ones, and learn from each and every one.

HELI IGNATIUS-FLEET, ARMCM, Dip Sibelius Academy has studied the piano extensively: in addition to her music college studies (both in Finland and England) she has performed international masterclasses and worked with Austrian, American and French piano professors. During her studies she started building up her wide repertoire which covers all the main genres of classical piano music.

Now resident in Cambridge, she is a much sought after teacher. Her pupils range from professional musicians to beginners and regularly include music undergraduates. Heli creates individual learning programmes for her students: while these are not necessarily based on exams, her record of excellent exam results, including diplomas, is extensive and impressive.

A regular and popular piano course tutor at Little Benslow Hills, she aims to inspire and encourage adults, whatever their level of pianistic competence. She is also a former director and a present principal tutor of the EPTA UK Purcell School Practical Piano Teaching Course: this involvement means keeping abreast with the most recent developments in piano teaching.

Heli performs regularly: she has appeared on Finnish radio and TV and in many locations in the UK. As well as playing solo piano repertoire she has built up a reputation as a chamber music player.

Her unique lecture recitals are rooted in her life-long interest in art and her desire to illuminate musical experiences through visual parallels in paintings.  They have been well received by audiences in universities, schools and art galleries.

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