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Welcome to Tom Wakefield's Teaching Biography page. Here you can read about Tom's teaching activities, read a few of his pet theories in the Freqently Asked Questions section or go tab to see sample programmes or go to Enquiries if you're interested in making a booking.

Teaching Biography

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Tom Wakefield
photograph: Tony Senior

The son of a professional musician, Tom Wakefield was attracted to the piano from his earliest childhood and at the age of sixteen won a scholarship to study at the Royal Manchester College of Music where he gained the Teacher's Diploma (ARMCM) with Class A and graduated from the Royal Schools of Music (GRSM) with special merit in performance.

Whilst continuing his piano studies at the Royal Northern College of Music he built up a peripatetic teaching practice in the the Yorkshire countryside with the help of his trusty Bond Minicar. (If the pupils whose fruit-and-veg stall was knocked over by a bit of clumsy reversing one Saturday afternoon should happen to be reading this, he is still profusely apologetic.)

On leaving college he joined the staff at the Manchester School of Music where he and his pupils were frequently to be heard in concert. He has also given lessons/masterclasses at the Blackburn School of Music, The Department of Music, Manchester University, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge and has given a seminar on teaching methods Franz Liszt Conservatoire, University of Debrecen, Hungary. (Show testimonial.)

Tuition offered…

St Peter and St Leonar's Church Horbury Church of St Peter
and St Leonard,

Tom helps pupils prepare for examinations, festivals, diplomas, competitions and concert work. He is against one-size-fits-all teaching methods and his keenness that every pupil should develop their own individual musical persona is reflected in the excellent examination results his pupils constantly achieve. Those who wish to study for pleasure and personal satisfaction are equally welcome. Tom is now based in Horbury West Yorkshire.

Extensive experience of learning new pieces quickly for public performance has resulted in a wealth of know-how when it comes to efficient practising techniques and he loves seeing other people's problems disappear as if by magic when these methods are applied. Tom holds a CRB Enhanced Disclosure Certificate and is listed with 'approved teacher status' in the Incorporated Society of Musicians' online register of teachers.

Bond 875 minicar
The machine that got Tom into so many scrapes during student days (front wheel coming off, getting blown over in a blizzard on the M62, starting teaching career, etc)

Why waste time travelling…

Thanks to the massive recent improvement in web conferencing programs, ardent practisers no need to forsake their piano an hour or so before their lesson times in order to hang around in traffic jams or at bus stops. Programs like Skype and Oovoo offer the attractive alternative of remaining comfortably at home and starting one's lesson with the click of a mouse. They also give total flexibility of lesson times and remove the post-code lottery aspect of getting a good piano teacher. Of course we're talking here about live 1-2-1 lessons, not the ghastly pre-recorded one-size-fits-all variety.

Ever wished you could keep your piano teacher in a cupboard so you could pick their brains when the going gets tough, rather next Wednesday? Well now you can.

Ever been learning a new piece and felt you'd be much better off with daily help on that 'impossible' section rather having to struggle through an hour's lesson with a piece you can't play? Well now you can.

Ever wished you could record your lesson with a single click to study again at leisure, rather having to rely on those hasty hand-written notes? Well now you can.

…when you could be learning the piano?

Every home should have one!
(But even basic keyboards from Argos can get people started)

For 1-2-1 internet tuition you will need

Advantages of on-line lessons: On the downside:

Frequently Asked Questions...

Q: Do music lessons make children more intelligent?
Why yes, it seems so . Back in the early 1990's an article in The Daily Telegraph showed the findings of research suggesting this, sparking off a flurry of new interest from keen parents. Recent thinking clearly points in the same direction (check out  )
Until recently many thought that the simple act of listening to great music could increase people's intelligence but this is now in some doubt
(see  )
So on to that piano-stool!
Q: At what age should my son/daughter learn the piano?
We all know that Mozart was composing at the age of four but the truth is that for most people it is a waste of time and money to begin lessons at too young an age.
Six or seven years old is generally a good time to start lessons but it's never too early to pick things up from family members - even if it means Mum or Dad taking a few piano lessons specifically for that purpose!
Q: Do you prepare pupils for examinations, music festivals and competitions?
Yes. But there's no compulsion.
Q: I have passed grade 8 and would like to take a Diploma in piano playing.
Which examining board do you recommend?
Associated Board, London College and Trinity/Guildhall are all excellent. I personally find LCM less remote and more interested in individual candidates than the mighty ABRSM but as a good deal of work will be going into this you should compare syllabuses and choose the repetoire that suits you best. Trinity Guildhall are good but I find their marking scheme needlessly complicated. Good luck, and do choose pieces that lie sufficiently well within your technical grasp to enable you to attend to musical interpretation, phrasing and tone.
Q Could you coach me to win a major international piano competition?
Could one coach Franz Liszt to win an international piano competition? Certainly not if Clara Schumann was on the judging panel!
Seriously though, juries can be such unpredictable creatures that anyone thinking of remoulding their style of playing or hopping between teachers in the hopes of impressing them is most likely on a hiding to nothing except disappointment.
However, if you're taking a level-headed approach and regard competitions as opportunities and motivators along a continual path of musical development, I'll be happy to help if I can.
Q: What is your attitude to wrong notes, as a teacher?
To any serious player, wrong notes are not so much errors per se as the result of preceeding errors, and just as a doctor must understand the nature of disease in order to effect a cure, so do we need to understand the cause of our mistakes in order eradicate them. What faulty movement preceeded the wrong note? Moved too far? Not far enough? Wrong fingering? Having diagnosed the cause, repeat the passage carefully and correctly, three or more times, before continuing further into the piece. When practising for an important occasion up to 20 such repetitions cannot be called excessive. Students who simply go back a number of bars so as to take another running jump into the disaster area are unlikely to progress until a radical change of attitude takes place.
Q: What is your attitude to wrong notes, as a listener?
Assuming you've prepared assiduously, an expectant hush has descended over your audience and your performance is about to begin, what matters now is the musical narrative, the passion and the poetry. If the interpretation is intelligent, the tone beautiful and the drama compelling, we'll settle for pin-point accuracy as well if you can throw it in, but won't demand a refund otherwise. Exciting, memorable performances rarely come 100% note-perfect. True, there exist a few die-hards for whom total absence of wrong notes represents the ultimate ideal to which all should aspire. It's good to have such people in our midst as they provide a salutary deterrent to slip-shod preparation, but (fortunately for performers) the vast majority of listeners, critics and examiners take the earlier view.
Q: My teacher has typexed over all the fingerings in my "Me And My Piano" book so that I have to work the notes out the hard way.
It's a real pain and it does my head in big time.
You wouldn't do this, would you?
If you are young and haven't been learning very long, the important thing is to get those fingers going and build up sound technical habits and a good collection of tunes to play. So no, I wouldn't.
If on the other hand you're an teenager with an attitude problem then yes, I would.
So stop whingeing and get those notes learnt!
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