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Graham Fitch was my extraordinary and wonderful teacher at the University of Cape Town from 1999 until 2001, when I left to further my studies in New York. Graham is one of the main reasons that I am where I now am, and he has helped me musically, personally, professionally and practically in ways that go so far beyond the call of any teacher, that he is one of the great influences of my life.
I went to study with him as a final-year student, hoping that he would be able to help me overcome my technical difficulties. Under his extremely detailed and practical guidance, I overcame problem after problem, many of which I believed could not be fixed. His approach is based on years of thinking, research and evaluation, and he is constantly adding to this.
His teaching is absolutely practical in the best sense of the word: he identifies instantly any problem, offers concrete solutions, and a process of working that can eliminate the problem in any context. He always offers a myriad of interesting musical ideas, and without forcing students to play his way, will coax from them solutions that work the best for them. I have also learnt much from him as a performer, and I still have the sound of his Goldberg variations and Bach partita in my ears year later. My own teaching attempts to utilize many aspects of his approach.
On paper, one cannot get a full sense of Graham Fitch as a teacher. He helped me to develop immensely as a person and a musician, offering constant support and encouragement years after I ceased to be his student. If not for him, I would not have come to New York. He is dedicated in the extreme, and is a most remarkable musician and incredible teacher. I was fortunate in the extreme to have him as my teacher.
Performances: Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Symphony Space etc. Concertos: Cape Philharmonic, CAPAB, UCT Orchestras. Adjunct Faculty: Manhattan School of Music, NY.
I studied with Graham Fitch for 10 months at the University of Cape Town in 2000. In every lesson, I learned so much from him! His direction was very detailed and resourceful. He opened my eyes to the wonderful possibilities of playing Bach and gave me a lot of ways of teaching students.
My memories of my studies in Cape town are the treasures of my heart. Mr. Fitch is a great teacher and a respectable person.
BA Royal Northern College of Music UK,First Class B(Mus)Hons in Piano Pedagogy
under the international scholarship UCT,1st prize in Bach prize in UCT,
Graduate performance degree Peabody Conservatory of John's Hopkins University USA
Studied with Graham Fitch,Julian Martin and Gwendolyn Mok
Master classes with Robert MacDonald, Peter Feauchtwanger, Noriko Ogawa,
Bernard Roberts, Alicja Fiderkiewicz and others.
Performed in UK,USA,South Africa and Japan
Now teaching music in Yokohama International Christian Academy and piano
privately in Japan.
DR THOMAS HECHT
Graham is one of those pianists whose colours and sensitivity really inspire. I've always been drawn to his sound world and will never forget his Bach playing in particular. I'm so glad to have known him since our student days at Peabody. We keep meeting up at various points across the globe and we always connect well. That means a lot to me. And we all know, of course, there is not a pianist alive with a better sense of humour.
Dr. Thomas Hecht
Head of Piano Studies
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music
National University of Singapore
3 Estate Office Drive
Republic of Singapore 117485
PH: +65 6516 1466 FX: +65 6777 8426
I have had a few lessons with Graham over the years, when my own teacher has sent me to him in order to get a different viewpoint of the music and to take it to a new level, usually when I have been preparing for an exam.
Graham is a wonderful teacher, in the true sense of the word. His teaching inspires, while also addressing all the necessary aspects of playing a piece of music. Technical difficulties have efficient practical solutions, usually melting away, even with my middle-aged fingers! Aspects of analysis are brought forth to illuminate one’s work, and his encyclopaedic knowledge is always there, in a most accessible way, to educate and stimulate. He uses imagery in his teaching most effectively.
He’s friendly and approachable, interested and unthreatening, taking the teaching of music to heights I’ve not encountered before in my fifty-three years of playing the piano. I’ve always left my lessons with him with an ineradicable smile on my face. There was never an unhappy lesson.
Trinity Guildhall Performer’s Certificate
After a masterclass with Mr. Graham Fitch I knew at once that I had to take further lessons from him. His methods were a revelation to me, not only in terms of technical execution but also in terms of musical interpretation. Now I am able to pass the benefits of his progressive approach on to my own students. My only regret is that Mr Fitch did not arrive in South Africa sooner.
Copyright Manager at Universal Music Publishing and part time piano teacher, composer and arranger.
Graham Fitch is an extraordinary musician.
As a performer he can extract every stylistic element from the works he plays. I first heard Graham when he performed Bach's Goldberg Variations at the Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference in the mid 1990s and was mesmerised from start to finish by the tone and touch. This was heightened next day when in a lecture about this work he related how he had studied every variation in depth and could play each one in every key on the piano, and proceeded to demonstrate this extraordinary feat.
His Masterclasses and lessons were a rare treat not only for his vast knowledge of repertoire but his keenness to share it all.
Graham's rapport with people, whether teachers or students is second to none as he has an enthusiasm that is infectious and inspiring which is coupled with a wonderful sense of humour.
I have since met Graham at a number of conferences and gone away from his sessions with renewed enthusiasm and inspiration.
I had the opportunity of inviting him to Melbourne two years ago to be the main lecturer for the Victorian Music Teachers' Association Summer Conference which is held in late January every 2 years. His lectures on various topics were all given with knowledge, illustrations, humour and much wisdom and were easily understood by experienced teachers as well as those new to the profession.
Graham gave Masterclasses for all ages and levels and these were a real joy as every student came away knowing about at least one aspect that could be worked on and improved.
I would have no hesitation in recommending Graham for any teaching position, or as a guest lecturer / teacher and performer.
Nehama Patkin OAM, M.Mus
Nehama Patkin is one of Australia's most versatile musicians. Her work spans the field of solo piano recitals, singing, accompanying, teaching, competing, adjudicating, producing and directing concerts. Her reputation as an inspiring teacher of both the Suzuki and traditional methods are highly recognized throughout Australia and overseas. As a music educator Nehama works with both children and teachers. This has led to many invitations which have taken her to USA, Canada, UK, Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Korea, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Peru, Spain, Brazil and France . She has had a regular teaching engagement each June for the past 12 years in Colorado . Nehama has been a guest speaker at the National Piano and Keyboard Conference in Chicago .
TESTIMONY TO GRAHAM FITCH
I must say that I have been extremely lucky to have met Graham, whom has been such a tremendous mentor and friend. Not only was Graham responsible for my development as a musician and pianist, he has also developed my love for music and inspired me to teach music. Like all great teachers, there is no rigid ‘methodology’ in Graham’s approach to teaching. Instead, he sees all his students as individuals. Armed with an encyclopedic breadth of pianistic knowledge, Graham seems to have an answer to every pianistic problem that a student faces. I often say that one of the hallmarks of a great teacher is that no two students of his play the piano the same way, and having studied with Graham for over ten years I have yet to encounter two pianists from Graham’s studio class that shared the same interpretation of a piece of music.
Michael enrolled at London’s prestigious Centre for Young Musician (CYM) at the age of sixteen where he studied piano with Graham Fitch – a teacher whom he cites as ‘not only a tremendous mentor and friend’. In 1999. Michael made his concerto debut playing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto in B flat minor in the Guildford International Music Festival, and again at the Penang Governor’s birthday celebration gala concert. Michael received a scholarship from the University of Cape Town to further his studies with Fitch in 2001. He has also worked with numerous eminent pianists and professors, such as Nina Svetlanova, James Gibb, Phillip Fowke, Renna Kellaway, Florian Uhlig, Gordon Fergus Thompson and Niel Immelman.
Graham Fitch is one of the finest teachers I have had the privilege of working with, and I studied with him over a period of 3 years. My one regret is that I didn't approach him sooner for tuition. Over the years I had developed terrible tension in my arms, hands etc. and Graham was able, effortlessly and without hesitation, to identify and solve those technical problems.
With Graham's help I do believe that my playing moved forward to a different, and better level; the interpretive suggestions he gave always made a huge amount of sense and opened a new and different way of musical thinking.
It was absolutely wonderful working with him and I cannot recommend him highly enough as a teacher, coach, mentor etc. Whoever is taught by Graham can regard him/herself as indeed extremely lucky and priveleged.
M.Mus, B.Ed, Teacher's Licenciate Dip (UCT), Performer's Dip in Music (UCT)
Pianist, Performed various concerti with CTSO as well CT Philhamonic, One-time lecturer in music and piano, Choral Conductor (CT and Denver, Colorado), Producer of a series of school music education books and tapes, Producer of a large series of music for children.
IAN HAMILTON - 2 November 2008 - Notes on piano lessons with Graham Fitch
Graham Fitch was my piano teacher for several years in the late 1990s
and it was a successful and enjoyable experience – we remain very good friends though geographically separate for the last few years. I had played the piano as a child and for about five years before meeting Graham I had played regularly and passed Grade 5 and Grade 6 examinations.
Graham is of course a very fine pianist and though I have heard many of the world's finest pianists, his playing of Bach's Goldberg Variations remains one of the finest performances I ever heard. As a pupil I had the full benefit of his superb technique and deep musical knowledge. As well as being taught to play, Graham explained the music and did much to deepen my knowledge and love of piano music. At the age of 72 I am still playing many of these pieces.
For the last 30 years of my working life I was a lecturer and then an international consultant in the field of vocational education. I give it as my professional opinion that Graham is a superb teacher capable of teaching to the highest level and also working sensitively with enthusiastic amateurs like me – he also taught my daughter and is extremely sensitive to young pianists.
Ian Hamilton, London
I learnt an infinite amount from Graham whilst studying with him at The Purcell School 1994-1996. Graham taught me to how to practise, and took my playing to a much higher level than I even expected. We explored gems of the Piano repertoire including Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit, Bach’s French Suites and Schumann’s Etudes Symphoniques. Graham encouraged my awareness of sound, texture, musical shapes, movement and technique. Graham set an example to his pupils through his professionalism, thoughtfulness, punctuality and commitment. Graham strived to make pupils feel at ease during lessons, often asking about ‘real life’ as well as piano practice. Graham gave me all the skills I needed to walk onto the concert and competition platform with confidence.
Gemma has performed at St. James’ Piccadilly, St. Martin-in the-field’s, Buckingham Palace, Ribble Valley International Piano Festival, Rolston Hall (Canada), Martinu Hall (Czech Republic), U.K. Music clubs (including Halifax and Oxted) and the Universities of Sheffield, York, Lancaster, Cambridge and Oxford. Gemma has performed Concerti by Chopin, Shostakovich, Schumann, Ravel and Franck in the U.K. under Darrell Davison, David Blake and Martyn Brabbins (Lancaster International Series). Competition prizes include 1st prize in the National Toshiba Chamber music Awards, 1st prize in the National Derby Piano concerto competition and 1st prize in RNCM’s Concerto competition. Gemma’s chamber music experience includes collaborations with Daniel Bates (Gold Medal, Royal over-seas league competition) and Marie Macleod (Strings section prize winner, BBC Young Musicians). She has attended the Banff Centre (as a resident-Artist) and the International Musicians’ Seminar at Prussia Cove.
Although I was aware of Graham Fitch’s standing as a pianist and music educator, particularly in the U.K. and later in South Africa, it was not until July this year at the Australian National Pedagogy Conference in Perth that I heard him as a recitalist and lecturer. In both capacities I was exceedingly impressed.
As the international guest lecturer and performer, Graham Fitch played an impeccable recital consisting of the Goldberg Variations of Bach: one of the most demanding feats of the keyboard repertoire. Likewise his lecturing was focused, erudite and absorbing. An additional very pleasing aspect was his total involvement with the whole conference proceedings. This reflected a natural interest in colleagues and others in attendance.
I am confident through this experience that Graham Fitch would be a strong collegiate member of staff for Griffith University at the Queensland Conservatorium. Also I consider he must be a front-runner in the selection process. Personally, I found him to be an engaging musician with a vital mind: one who, in my time as Dean of Music at the University of Melbourne, I would have been anxious to appoint.
RONALD FARREN-PRICE AM
On first studying with Graham Fitch, I had no intention of becoming a pianist, nor did any of my previous teachers expect it of me. It is solely down to his inspiring work that, at the relatively late age of 16 I decided to switch from the violin.
Having been a talented, yet utterly undisciplined piano student up till that time, Graham enabled me to realize my latent abilities. As a technical trainer, no problem was without a solution, and under his tutelage my progress took everyone at the Purcell School, not least myself by surprise.
Nowadays, if I encounter a difficulty, I often find myself musing 'What would Graham have suggested', and an answer always comes to mind. His firm, compassionate and holistic approach to piano playing (which is embodied in his own playing) has always remained with me.
Musically, his advice was always simple, pure and relevant and I don't recall him ever disagreeing with my own ideas once - rather, he would have the wisdom to understand exactly what I was trying to say and, if it wasn't coming across successfully, would always know how to steer me in the right direction, without imposing his own formidable musical will upon me. He opened new musical vistas to me, and I owe that fact that I'm a pianist at all to his guidance.
I have known Graham for the past ten years and can honestly say he is one of the most brilliant and talented teachers I have had the privilege of knowing.
I have had many years of teaching experience, but have seldom come across anyone who has such a marvelous analytical mind and always able to find solutions, be it technical or interpretive. He has the most interesting way of being able to explain things in an imaginative and clear way. I have learned much while attending eisteddfods and master classes, and have marveled at the way in which he encourages and builds pupil’s self confidence.
I have sent pupils to study with him at university and in every instant they have blossomed and grown enormously under his tutelage.
Graham is a wonderful performer, playing with sensitivity and insight. He is an expert in Baroque music and all round a highly gifted musician.
Dear Graham.....I want you to know how much I appreciate all the times you audjudicated at the eisteddfod, and all the time and trouble you took with every candidate.
I remember one year in particular, I had very little children playing, and I was so worried as they get very nervous, and I could not be there that day.
Well, you cannot believe the phone calls I got from parents that evening!
Some of the comments I heard were..."Ilana, he got on to the stage and gave each child a lesson"
" he explained things with such care, to make sure the candidate understood exactly how to practise"...
" even when some children were obviously not well prepared, he made only positive comments that would be helpful"
The next year I made sure I was present at the eisteddfod, and I saw exactly what the other teachers and parents had been raving about...infact , I learned so much that i even started practising new pieces myself, and found all sorts of technical problems were solved from what I had learned by your comments to various candidates.
I feel very sad that you are no longer in Cape Town , as I and my pupils gained so much from you during those years when you were an audjudicator.
We will continue to keep the comments and advice in our heads...about how to practise...the three S's...SLOWLY , SEPARATE HANDS, AND SECTIONS...and hopefully we will still continue to strive to perfect things using your fantastic advice.
PS I have been teaching piano for over thirty years!
Graham is a world-class teacher. He's refined my technique and my playing has really improved.
Graham Fitch is amongst the most accomplished piano pedagogues that I have encountered during my career. As a young pianist, I was fortunate enough to have some lessons from Graham. His sense for structuring technique, and accomplishing musical goals is of the highest order. Graham is a wonderful and inspiring concert pianist himself. Any institution would be fortunate to have Graham on their faculty.