Past Pupils…

Three Adult experiences with Ardagh Music Room – Returning to Learning

Mary Fallon

Mary started with me in September 2015, a retired National School teacher she had lots of creative plans to keep her days full.  Although Mary had done music as a subject in her own schooling and taught Primary school music, in her own words, it was rusty and would need complete revision or re-learning! 

To begin with Mary didn’t particularly want to do exams, preferring instead to learn simple versions of songs she knew, such as Amazing Grace, Greensleeves and other pieces we found.  As well as the pieces, Mary was working through scales.  Learning the piano completely from scratch involves using lots of finger muscles that haven’t had to be used before, so plenty of scales practice loosens them up and gets them used to the shape and feel of the piano.  After a few months I felt it was time to give Mary a challenge and enter her for her RIAM Grade I exam. I felt that in giving Mary this goal to aim for not only would she have something specific to aim for, but it would also give her an idea of how much she had progressed and ensure that we were able to keep moving forward.

Over the course of the next 5 years Mary worked through pieces, scales, also developing her theory and aural skills as the exam system required.  The exams ensured Mary was constantly progressing, but she was also developing a large repertoire of own choice pieces in between exams. She was always ready to perform at the Ardagh Music Room Christmas Concerts, over the years experiencing the annual event progress from small numbers in my music room to the larger numbers in the church.

Whilst Mary was coming to Ardagh Music Room for lessons she became a Grandmother for the first time, and several more times over since!  Her sons bought her a fabulous piano for her birthday reinforcing her commitment to playing.  In June last year Mary decided she had achieved what she intended to in coming to me for lessons, she is able to sit down at the piano, choose a piece, learn, and play it.  I am always here if she ever has an issue, but I’m pleased to say she hasn’t, so I must have done something right!

I hope that Mary is enjoying her piano every day and continues to share her enjoyment with her family.

Pádriag Fahey

Pádraig started back playing the piano in 2014, having learned when he was younger but couldn’t remember what Grade he’d reached or what level he was at.  The reason for coming back to piano was that Pádraig had two young daughters and wanted them to grow up with music in the house.

We started with scales, to loosen up the fingers and re-familiarise himself with the piano keyboard.  Working quickly through beginner books and past exam pieces we decided he was about Grade IV level and so that RIAM exam would be our goal.  As a member of An Garda Síochána and having an ever growing family, finding time to practice was always a struggle but the pieces and reading the music came quite easily – catching up with the scales was a big challenge – there are a lot!

Having achieved an Honours in Grade IV Pádraig continued working though, up to Grade VI, when he decided to explore different genres of piano music of his own choosing – particularly enjoying pop, blues and some boogie-woogie!  Throughout Pádraig’s own musical journey his family was growing.  His two daughters began coming to my Early Years music sessions in Longford Library back in 2016 and continue with me today, Mia, the eldest, having just passed her Grade 1 on the piano and Hannah likely to take the exam soon too!  I am delighted to say that during lockdown lessons have continued with the next two siblings, Sean and Conor exploring Dog & Bird during our Zoom lessons.  Mia, Hannah, and a very dapper looking Sean in his bowtie, all contributed to the Ardagh Music Room Christmas Concert.

Pádraig still potters around on the piano with the children, having great jamming sessions – still preferring the blues and boogie-woogie styles.

Louise Walsh

Louise started with me in July 2017 having received a Gift Voucher from her husband Ciarán for her birthday!  In his own words “the gift that just keeps giving”!  As an infant primary school teacher incorporating music in the classroom was an every-day skill and Louise.  She had learned to play when she was at school and was able to play a small bit but wanted more formal, structured learning.

We immediately started working Grade I giving Louise a target goal to aim for.  By entering into an exam, it focusses learning to a timeframe, often finding time to practice as an adult is very difficult with work-life and home-life to balance.  Louise was building a new house at the time with the piano in the family home and a small keyboard in her own home.  Trying to get home to practice on the piano always proved challenging! 

Working through the scales required for Grade I, Louise’s hands and fingers were quite rigid through not having had to be as specifically dextrous as the piano requires.  Daily practice of scales not only strengthens fingers but develops muscle memory and flexibility and the brain is the whole time learning the keyboard and the finger control required to play the piano.

With an excellent Honours pass in Grade I, Louise skipped onto Grade III, then to Grade V and is currently working towards her Grade VI.  Lockdown meant she had limited access to her piano and so had no full-size keyboard to practice on, so last Summer she invested in a digital piano and is practicing regularly for long intervals now – when she’s not putting together her online class videos for her Junior Infants!

Louise is aiming to sit the Grade VI exam in the Summer next year, so plenty of time to polish up her pieces and the numerous scales required for Grade VI.

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