“I got the feeling that a diploma is an achievable goal for me”

Now in its fourth year, the London Piano Meetup Group’s annual Diploma Day is fast becoming a “not to be” missed event in the adult amateur pianist’s calendar. For those who are taking or thinking about taking a performance diploma (post-Grade 8 professional qualifications), the event offers 6 performing participants the opportunity to play part of their diploma programme to a small friendly audience and have their playing critiqued by Graham Fitch. For everyone there is practical advice on selecting a diploma, choosing repertoire and creating a programme, writing programme notes, stagecraft and presentation skills, and managing performance anxiety. It is also a chance meet and socialise with other pianists and at every event there is much “piano chat” during the breaks, and in the pub afterwards.

Of the 6 performers this year, five were preparing for Associate level diplomas and one for the FTCL. This made for a more “equal” atmosphere than at other workshops/courses where the less advanced/confident player can feel intimidated by the very advanced performers. Previous events have been praised for offer “invaluable” support and advice, and this one proved equally valuable and inspiring.

I thought it would be helpful to include this review of the event by one of the observers, Howard, who is a member of the LPMG:

I have just attended, as audience/observer, ‘Diploma Day’ held at Morley College, London. I wanted to share how valuable I found this. While not ready for such teaching myself, I am always looking for ways for find out what lies ahead in this crazy journey, as adult learner.

This specific day (9 ’til 6) was hosted by Claire Hansell of LPMG and presented by Graham Fitch (Diploma teaching) and Frances Wilson (performance coach at this event and best known as The Cross Eyed Pianist, music blogger).

I am a grade 6 pianist (on a good day. Yet, I learnt so much from attending #DipDay.

Claire Hansell gave an introductory talk about the purpose and methods involved in the development of a good Programme Note for any Dip performance. Frances Wilson presented an overview of the different types of Dip available and how to choose among them. Later, she presented advice on conquering the inevitable anxieties that accompany every important performance at this level …. perhaps at any level!

Six amateur pianists (post-Grade 8) played and Graham Fitch therefore conducted six mini-masterclasses. His mix of technique advice and musical interpretation guidance, delivered spontaneously in ‘real time’ as it were, seemed to me to be fostering some minor miracles of significant improvement by the pianists. I sat, rapt, never bored throughout the day. I cannot tell you how helpful this was.

To take away as notes, I was given a summary set of Diploma requirements from the different boards, checklists for the weeks before the day of the Diploma performance and for the development of the (required) Programme Notes oriented to the audience and examiner. The notes included that essential ‘mindset’ orientation for coping with the anxiety (a problem I know all too well and which came as a complete surprise).

Available to take away were also Diploma syllabus pamphlets and repertoire lists from each of the main exam boards. Example books to help with Diploma studies were on display.

An amazing day. Apparently, this was the 4th organised by the LPMG. I will be there next year 100% certainty, even if I am in no way ready for such a step beyond ‘grades’ work. Thank you to all concerned in putting this together.

 

Repertoire performed:

Bach – Prelude & Fugue in F minor from WTC book 1, BWV 857
Mozart – Sonata in D major, K.311
Mozart – Sonata in A major K.331
Mozart – Sonata in F major K.332
Beethoven – Sonata in F minor op. 2 no. 1
Beethoven – Sonata in C minor op. 111
Schubert – Sonata in A minor D.537
Brahms – Intermezzo in A major op. 118 no. 2
Debussy – La cathedrale engloutie, no. 10 from Preludes book 1 L.125
Rachmaninoff – Étude-Tableau in G minor op. 33 no. 8

 

Plans are already underway for Diploma Day 2020, and given the popularity of the event, it will probably run over 2 days with more performer slots. Please follow London Piano Meetup Group on Twitter (@LonPianoMeetup) and/or this blog for updates.

Compilation of tweets from Diploma Day 2019

Frances Wilson’s Diploma Day notes

A performance diploma checklist


Frances Wilson offers support and advice to people preparing for performance diplomas, including selecting repertoire and creating a programme, writing programme notes, stagecraft and presentation skills, and managing performance anxiety.

For further information please contact Frances Wilson

The London Piano Meetup Group’s first Diploma Day, an event for people taking or considering taking a Performance  Diploma, took place in the Holst Room at London’s Morley College on Sunday 12th June. Six performers were invited to play some or all of their Diploma programme to an audience of c25 people and then receive a 30-minute one-to-one lesson with Graham Fitch. The event was intended to be friendly, supportive and inspiring to ensure that people felt as comfortable as possible when performing for others (for some this was the first time they had played in this kind of setting). The day was organised so that during breaks between teaching there was time for people to meet to discuss repertoire, performance anxiety and piano playing in general. I gave an opening talk on the need to treat a performance diploma with a professional mindset (including a full understanding of the exam syllabus and regulations, writing programme notes, stagecraft and managing performance anxiety) and the day concluded with a Q&A session at which we discussed various points which emerged from the day.

A number of themes became apparent in Graham’s tuition during the day, including:

  • Taking ownership of your music and playing with conviction
  • Playing with vibrant colour and expression to bring out the individual characters of each piece
  • Being pedantic about one’s preparation

Graham is an inspiring and empowering teacher – as one of the participants said “he is fantastic at getting to the nub of things quickly and it is hugely inspiring to performers and observers alike” – and everyone came away from the event with many gems of advice and nuggets of information to digest and act upon in practising.

Some comments from attendees:

“A really valuable and inspiring day”

“Really enjoyed it, especially watching Graham teach”

“A great experience for anyone around diploma level whether interested in the actual exam or not”

“It was such useful preparation

“Extremely valuable insights and advice from Graham Fitch

“Frances’s intro was a lovely welcome and very useful

Thank you to Claire Hansell of the London Piano Meetup Group for organising the event and to Graham Fitch for his expert and encouraging tuition.

A transcript of my introductory text can be downloaded here, and I’m also including links to other resources which are useful for those taking or thinking about taking a performance diploma.

Useful resources:

From these links to the three main exam boards you will find:

  • Syllabuses
  • Regulations
  • Information about exam sessions, deadlines for entry, entry fees and exam centres
  • Links to other useful resources for diploma candidates

Trinity College of London Diplomas (including information on teaching diplomas)

ABRSM Performance Diplomas

London College of Music Diplomas

Writing Programme Notes (ABRSM document)

Coping with Performance Anxiety

Why take a Performance Diploma?

For more information about the London Piano Meetup Group please email londonpianomeetup@gmail.com or join the LPMG Facebook group