Interview With Frances Wilson, Pianist, Teacher, and Blogger

Here's an interview with Frances Wilson, pianist, teacher and blogger at The Cross-Eyed Pianist. You can see her piano studio's site at Thanks, Frances!

1. What inspired you to take up piano, and later make it your career?

I started to play the piano when I was a very young child so it is difficult to say what or who exactly inspired me. However, there was always music in my home when I was growing up: my father played the clarinet, and my parents regularly attended classical concerts. My grandfather used to play Beethoven and Haydn on his piano, and I used to sit with him when he played.

I didn't set out to be a piano teacher. I studied Anglo Saxon at university and worked for 10 years in specialist art publishing and bookselling before I had my son.

At this time, I hadn't played the piano since leaving university (over 10 years) but I started playing again when I was researching a novel in which the principal character is a concert pianist. A friend knew I played and asked me to teach her daughter: soon other people heard that I was teaching, and my career as a teacher took off from there.

2. Who were the greatest influences on your playing?

  • My music teacher at school
  • My friend Michael, a family friend who has always supported my playing, and who is a fine amateur pianist himself
  • My current teacher, Penelope Roskell - an inspiring, supportive and highly-skilled professor of piano at one of London's top conservatoires, and international concert pianist

3. Favorite piece(s) to perform and listen to?

At the moment, Liszt, Chopin, Bach, Messiaen - to perform and to listen to.

4. What was your favorite concert experience/s?

  • Going to the Proms as a kid and sitting in the choir stalls, behind the percussion
  • Watching a young Simon Rattle conduct the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (1970s)
  • British pianist John Lill playing Chopin's Sonata in B-flat minor, in the early 1980s. The first time I'd ever seen red roses thrown onto the stage at the end of a concert - and Lill was in tears when he took his curtain calls.
  • Maria-Joao Pires and Friends at the Wigmore Hall, May 2007 - like being in Schubert's salon!

5. What are the most important ideas and concepts you try to impart to beginning students? and to advanced ones?

First and foremost, a love of the piano and its literature. That making music should be fun, and that music is for sharing. That one should strive always to convey the sense/emotions/atmosphere/"story" of the music as well as playing accurately.

6. How has blogging complemented your piano activities?

Writing about music and pianism enables me to record ideas I've had while at the piano, which I can then share with other musicians.

The exchange of ideas which happens on a blog post when people leave comments can be very stimulating, often giving pause for though, sometimes forcing me to reconsider something I've been working on at the piano.

Through my writing I've connected with many other pianists and writers around the world. I love these interactions and the free-flow of ideas across the internet.

7. And lastly, who is your favorite composer, and why?

Much as I love the music of Chopin and Schubert, my absolute favorite composer is Beethoven. He was also my grandfather's favorite (both were radicals in their own way!).

I love his mercurial mood swings, his wit and humor, and, in his late works, his absolute refusal to admit defeat. There is philosophy in the late piano sonatas, an other-worldliness and acceptance (but never resignation). I find his music steadying and reassuring.

If you like my site, please click "Like"... thanks!