With superb facilities, world-class piano training, and an open, industry-facing approach, the Keyboard Department at RWCMD has earned a reputation for producing highly skilled and employable musicians, performers, communicators and educators. Our approach promotes collaboration over competition, and we provide a creative and challenging environment in which students can begin to develop their own varied and exciting career paths while devoting themselves to pianistic excellence.
In 2009, the College became the UK’s first All-Steinway Conservatoire when it took delivery of 62 new pianos. Building on this prestigious partnership, a further 24 Steinway pianos were delivered to the College in 2020, creating a world-leading All-Steinway fleet of pianos and making it the first Steinway-Exclusive Conservatoire in the world.
As a Steinway-Exclusive Conservatoire, the College has attained the highest level of what can be achieved within the All-Steinway School programme. With every acoustic piano at the College a Steinway, every music student can engage with music at the highest level.
In addition to the fleet of pianos, the College boasts the acoustically excellent Dora Stoutzker Hall – the first purpose-built chamber music recital hall in Wales and one of the best in the UK – offering a performance training experience that is second to none.
Our piano students benefit from an excellent staff-to-student ratio and an outstanding level of personal attention. Classes are small and there are many opportunities for all students to perform and receive feedback each term. The keyboard department curates a varied programme of recitals and collaborative performances, often in the College’s Dora Stoutzker Hall and at other prestigious venues in Cardiff, London and across the UK. Working with tutors from the College’s Drama department, pianists develop confidence in platform presentation and verbal communication. Regular masterclasses with some of the world’s most renowned pianists provide further inspiration, many of these guest artists performing at the College as part of the prestigious Steinway International Piano Series.
A Diverse Experience
Students are exposed to a rich variety of professional musical performance at the College and across the city of Cardiff. Innovative study projects and playing opportunities promote an in-depth knowledge and understanding of piano repertoire, and we strive to offer an unparalleled range of further pianistic training. Our aim is to broaden our students’ musical outlook, providing the basis for future specialisms and a healthy professional portfolio. Collaborative performance projects run throughout the year, giving all students the chance to work with other instrumentalists, singers and composers. This encourages them to build their future professional networks and to forge lasting friendships through music. Performance on harpsichord and fortepiano promotes an historically informed approach, and all students also have opportunities to explore extended keyboard techniques for contemporary performance, as well as jazz piano, improvisation, and piano technology.
Producing Versatile Musicians
A rigorous curriculum ensures a mastery of keyboard technique with the aim of enabling our students to face any pianistic challenge with confidence. Sight-reading skills are the most powerful currency in the professional world, so we offer time and training in this crucial area. We also offer in-depth harmonic and rhythmic training at the keyboard while developing the additional vital skills of score-reading, transposition and memorisation. We strongly encourage students to explore and enjoy piano performance in a wide variety of contexts and settings including community projects, orchestral performance, choral rehearsals, opera, and dance. Pedagogy forms yet another key element in the programme and we ensure students are able to gain practical experience of the essential skills involved in piano teaching.
By ensuring that our students’ pianistic excellence is fully supported by the wider range of skills necessary for a successful portfolio career, we have achieved an outstanding graduate employment record. We strive to ensure that during their time at College, our students learn to embrace the values of self-motivation, commitment and initiative while our strong emphasis on collaborative music-making also fosters the sort of highly developed interpersonal skills that are essential for any successful career in music.
We are keen to encourage our students to learn to make confident, creative choices and to develop a strong sense of initiative. This is evident in their challenging and imaginative recital programmes, their approach to keyboard improvisation, their work with composition students, and the extraordinary artistic projects they devise. In an environment where musicians train side-by-side with actors, musical theatre performers and performance designers, our piano students can cross departmental boundaries with ease, inventing ever-new opportunities to expand their pianistic horizons and enrich their musical lives.
All keyboard students receive weekly one-to-one lessons, participate in regular performance workshops, concert classes, skills seminars, study projects, ensemble coaching and practice surgeries. There is a full range of classes in supporting musical studies, our library houses facilities and resources for research, and students schedule their own practice hours in College.
Postgraduate pianists develop their performance skills at an advanced level through weekly one-to-one lessons, regular performance classes and an extensive range of ensemble opportunities and individual projects. These might incorporate performance on historical instruments, collaboration with student composers, concerto performances, in-depth study of Lieder repertoire or chamber music, or repetiteur skills. Masters students are expected to demonstrate and develop advanced skills in sight-reading, allowing them to engage readily in collaborative projects and all kinds of musical events. Students are also encouraged to pursue areas of personal interest and specialism, with the opportunity to incorporate these into their Final Recital. The department also offers specialist postgraduate programmes in Collaborative Piano and Repetiteurship.