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Artist/Educator Archive Interview - Graham Scott




e regularly feature the personal experiences and insights of a noted artist/educator on various aspects of piano performance and education. You may not always agree with the opinions expressed, but we think you will find them interesting and informative. The opinions offered here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent those of the West Mesa Music Teachers Association, its officers, or members. (We have attorneys, too!). At the end of the interview, you'll find hypertext links to the interviewee's e-mail and Web sites (where available), so you can learn more if you're interested. Except where otherwise noted, the interviewer is Dr. John Zeigler.




The September 1996 artist/educator:

Graham Scott, Pianist, Educator and Performer, Chicago, IL, USA

Graham Scott has firmly established himself as one of Britain’s leading pianists.  He has been the recipient of numerous first prizes in national and international competitions notably the 1991 Young Concert Artists International Auditions in New York, the 1991 Jaén International Piano Competition in Spain, the 1989 Young Concert Artists Trust Auditions in London and the 1988 Dudley National Piano Competition.  In 1999 he was awarded a career grant from the Yvonne Léfébure foundation in Paris for the purchase of a Steinway grand piano.

He studied under the distinguished Polish pianist Ryszard Bakst (a student of Heinrich Neuhaus) at Chetham’s School of Music and at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, being awarded the Dayas Gold Medal in 1991, an award made quadrennially to a graduating pianist.  In 1990 he won the Stefania Niekrasz Prize, an inter-collegiate award made every five years to an outstanding exponent of Chopin. 

In October 1989, Graham Scott made his formal début at the Wigmore Hall and has since become known to London audiences, having re-appeared at the hall on numerous occasions as both recitalist and chamber musician.  He has established himself as a versatile pianist appearing regularly in major venues such as the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and Barbican Centre in London, Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool, Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, Waterfront Hall in Belfast and Queen’s Hall and Festival Theatre in Edinburgh.

He made his débuts in New York at the 92nd St. Y and in Washington DC at the Kennedy Center under the auspices of Young Concert Artists in 1992 to critical acclaim.  He has gone on to perform recitals and concertos and to lead artist-in-residence activities throughout the United States.  Venues include the Ambassador Auditorium in Los Angeles, Princeton University, Washington State University, the Kravis Center, Western Michigan University, Madison Civic Center, Clemson University, University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, Potsdam College at SUNY, Xavier University Piano Series, South West Missouri State University, University of Athens, the Phillips Collection, UC Davis and the Riverside County Philharmonic among others.  Graham Scott gave his first performances in Japan through YCA playing in Suntory Hall, Tokyo and in Nagoya and Osaka.

Graham Scott received critical acclaim when he replaced Martha Argerich at short notice with the Staatsphilharmonie Rheinlandpfalz in Germany playing Haydn’s D major concerto and Richard Strauss’ Burleske.  He was invited back the following season to play Liszt’s second concerto in a tour of the Rhine region of Germany.

As a soloist, Graham Scott has performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, notably the London Philharmonic, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, St Louis Symphony Orchestra, New York Chamber Symphony, Royal Scottish National, Belgium National Symphony, Monte Carlo Philharmonic, Ulster, Singapore Symphony, Radio Netherlands Chamber, Pusan Philharmonic in Korea, Santa Barbara Chamber, South African National Symphony and Cape Town Symphony Orchestras.  He has worked with such conductors as Marin Alsop, Carl St. Clare, Thomas Conlin, Paul Daniel, Sir Charles Groves, Bernhard Klee, Alexander Lazarev, Gregorz Nowak, Heiichiro Ohyama and Barry Wordsworth.

As a chamber musician, Graham Scott has performed at the Huntington Chamber Music Festival in Australia with members of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.   He has also collaborated with the Vertavo String Quartet, Stamic Quartet of Prague, Galliard Wind Quintet, violinists Marat Bisengaliev and Rachel Isserlis, flautist Jean Ferrandis, cellist Henri Demarquette and oboist Owen Dennis and members of the BBC Philharmonic.

Graham Scott has appeared at numerous festivals worldwide including the Chopin Festival in Paris at Bagatelle, the Flanders Festival in Belgium, the Rutgers Summerfest in New York, and festivals in the UK in Bury St Edmonds, Brighton and Chester. He has given other recitals in all five continents.

He has given numerous broadcasts on BBC Radio 3, the BBC World Service and Classic FM in England and has appeared on networks in Australia (ABC), South Africa (SABC), Holland (AVRO TV), France (France 3) and Belgium. In the USA Graham Scott has appeared on National Public Radio including the Performance Today programme and on other regional networks.  Commercially, he has released a Scriabin CD on Gamut Classics, Live in Los Angeles on the Master Musicians label and a Gershwin CD on the Deux-Elles label in 2003.

Graham Scott is Associate Professor of Piano and Chair of the Piano Department at the Chicago College of the Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.  He has previously held the position of visiting lecturer in keyboard studies at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow.  He has given masterclasses, adjudications, and taken part in other artist-in-residence activities at major conservatories and universities worldwide including the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, Estonian Academy of Music in Tallinn, Lithuanian Academy of Music in Vilnius, University of Chicago and the University of Melbourne.

Ed. Note: I interviewed Mr. Scott again in February of 2005. The 2005 interview of Mr. Scott embodies different questions and topics. I commend it to you as well.

PEP: What made you go into music?

There was no conscious decision! Music chose me; I didn't choose it. I started with the trumpet at 5 because of a breathing problem I had when young, then the violin at 8 (which I couldn't play in tune!) And then the piano at 13.

PEP: Who was the most influential person in your years as a student of the piano and why?

My Polish piano teacher, Ryszard Bakst. A very demanding chap. He seemed to know how to make me work hard; the prospect of turning up at a lesson under-prepared was petrifying. I think he had great musical taste and a very good concept of sound.

PEP: What do you enjoy most about making music?

No single thing, but many things. The challenge to play better each time. Finding new repertoire. The emotional content....the list is endless.

PEP: Is there a"best" way or "method" to learn to play? Any that should be avoided?

No! Most certainly not! We are all different and have our individual ways - even just from a purely technical standpoint. What might be a good approach for one might be impractical for another. That is not to say you can just do your own thing; bad habits can arise out of this.

PEP: What "deficiency" in training or technique do you most often find in students of the piano?

Many, depending on the level of the student. Not spending enough time to establish a secure fingering is quite common.

PEP: What would you advise students and teachers of the piano to avoid?

Make good repertoire choices. Don't pick things that are way too hard.

PEP: What advice would you give to students of the piano?

Practice slowly. Once you have chosen a piece to play, practice what you find difficult within the piece rather than what you find easy.

PEP: How do you motivate yourself to do the long hours of practice necessary to be a successful performer?

The first ten minutes of practice is never much fun, but afterwards I can go for hours. Performing the piece in public is always sufficient motivation.

PEP: Can you give us your reflections upon music as a career? Specifically, what do you like most about performing and what do you dislike most?

Hard work as a career but completely without monotony. As a soloist, a bit of a lonely life, although playing chamber music with other musicians is much fun. I think I like the challenge of improving from one concert to the next and looking at interpretation with a fresh outlook. The things I dislike the most are practical things like time wasted at the airport, not being able to find a piano to practice on when I want one, differing quality of instrument that you perform on, poor acoustics ....

PEP: What does it take to be a "successful" musician or music educator?

Total absorption in music!

PEP: What are your views on competitions and what should teachers and students expect from that experience?

An excellent incentive to practice. Something concrete to prepare for. Don't take the result too seriously as opinions differ widely. Music is not so black and white - it is an art, not a sport. Don't become complacent if you win. Enjoy the benefits of winning.

PEP: How do you deal with pre-performance "jitters" and what is your pre-concert routine?

Just a couple of minutes of silence thinking about the first few minutes of the piece is all it normally takes. (I hate listening to the overture on the PA in the dressing room!)

PEP: What was your most memorable performing experience and why?

Many! Probably London debut at Wigmore Hall at 21. Remember being extremely frightened by the whole event. Didn't really enjoy it that much. Have since played in the hall seven times and always enjoy playing there.

PEP: When you teach a master class, what do you hope to accomplish and what general messages, if any, do you offer to all those in attendance?

I think it is better to get just a few key points over than to cram the student with too much. Every circumstance is so unique that it is hard to say what these points might be.

PEP: Do you have a favorite pianist(s) and, if so, what attracts you to that person's performances?

I mainly listen to orchestral music and not much piano music. I have many pianists who I like in different repertoire: Gilels, Perahia, Zimmerman, Lupu and "old school" - Schnabel, Cortot ...

PEP: What can we do as musicians to interest more people, children in particular, in good music?

Present it in an accessible manner.

You can address E-mail to Mr. Scott at or visit his website at

Page created: 11/21/96
Last updated: 01/30/15
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Reprinting from the Piano Education Page The Piano Education Page, Op. 10, No. 1,
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