I am originally from the North East of England, near Middlesbrough and now live in London. I started messing about with the piano at home as soon as I could reach it. I was improvising music, playing by ear and being generally obsessed by music from an extremely young age. I had a stammer and was slow learning to write but I could play the piano! And by the age of 7, I was improvising and playing big pieces by ear and winning competitive festivals. I had an amazing piano teacher, the late Ella Pounder. A local legend, she was inspiring and sometimes a little terrifying. But she gave me a wonderful musical foundation and was enthusiastic and encouraging of my talent.
I went on to study with Dennis Matthews who was also a wonderful teacher and he encouraged me to play some of the big classical repertoire in public concerts: I performed the piano solo in Beethoven’s 1st Concerto and the Schumann Concerto with junior orchestras when I was only 12 and did Gaspard de la Nuit by Ravel as part of a full recital when I was 15 in the Kings Hall in Newcastle University. I was always busy performing big repertoire and at 18 I went to the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester where I studied with Ryazard Bakst and continued to perform big works in public including the Mendelssohn G minor Concerto and the Stravinsky Concerto for piano and wind instruments. I won the Elizabeth Hannah Lees scholarship, the Frederick Dawson piano prize, graduated with first class honours then gave it all up at 22, exhausted and also frightened.
The competitive arena of the classical piano world was more than I could handle emotionally and psychologically and I felt straight-jacketed by the “accepted ways” of playing that tends to win competitions: I found it strangely mechanical, unnatural and sometimes very mannered or even pompous. My own natural, fluid style of playing was often branded as obvious and lacking in some way. So I gave up my classical musical ambitions. But I still did loads of music… In fact I diversified quite wildly. I played jazz in hotels and restaurants, I wrote RnB songs and recorded myself singing them in studios in Manchester. I even toyed with trying to get signed to a record label or publishing company in the pop music field and although the response I got was encouraging, I didn’t follow it up as I was afraid of becoming ambitious again. So for many years, I just had fun learning production skills, writing lots of music (which very few people ever heard) in a wide variety of styles and generally exploring and developing my musical skills.
I also became a teacher which I find extremely rewarding. I developed a passion for finding new ways of learning that encourage improvisation and fluent skills on the keyboard. For a few years I had a job at Aquinas 6th Form College in Stockport teaching A level music composition and production. This was fantastic experience for me and great for strengthening my confidence. It was unbelievably challenging for me in so many ways that had nothing to do with music at all and this was enormously character building.
In 2007, I quit my job and came to London with the old musical ambitions and dreams beginning to resurface. I began by working very hard indeed on the classical piano repertoire. I studied with Bryce Morrison whose approach was perfect for me. Another extraordinary and inspiring teacher, he has a genuine passion for revealing the unique personality of the pianist. I did some recitals, playing demanding music and I felt confident once more but not fulfilled. I tried feeding my own material into recitals but it sometimes made the programming feel a little odd. So I kept writing and producing my usual eclectic mix and in 2011, upgraded my home studio. This improved the technical quality of my recordings enormously and in 2012, a commercial music publisher approach me and took on some of my music. I had some recordings used in an art film which was commercially released called Tyrista and began to feel excited and optimistic.
My teaching has become a mission! Visit my teaching site to learn more. I have created a system of learning the keyboard which I call Musically Fluent. It is designed to generate fluent skills like improvisation, playing by ear and sight-reading (not decoding the dots but looking at a score and hearing it instantly in your head) and I will be publishing the latest incarnation of it at www.musicallyfluent.com later this year.
My performances became increasingly eclectic, possibly to the point of confusion. So in mid 2012, I decided to focus on teaching, writing and recording and getting my work - including material that I had tentatively put out on the internet - up to a very high standard in terms of production values. Then before Christmas in 2012, I started a project recording my unplanned improvisations with a view to establishing my artistic identity. I have put together a set of these in a new album called Inside Stories which is about to be released and will be available to buy from the shop. I am planning to do a series of live shows very soon featuring my improvisation with piano compositions and songs. News of these will be on my website shortly.