St Mary’s Music School Piano Summer School offers a comprehensive and broad-ranging programme aimed at talented pianists who wish to expand their horizons and playing capability.
The course is designed to give a holistic introduction to the musical, mental and physical skills needed to grow as a pianist and is suitable for those who aspire to study at conservatoire, university and professional level as well as those who simply wish to hone their skills in an atmosphere which is fun, supportive and encouraging. Places are limited to ensure individual focus and dedicated support.
The Piano Summer School is led by Helena Buckmayer and John Cameron, both experts in helping young musicians build their skills in way that is best suited to each individual. They are supported by alumni of St Mary’s Music School and emerging artists at the start of their professional careers.
The course is limited to just a small number of participants and includes a comprehensive range of group and individual classes. It takes place at our home in the heart of Scotland’s capital city, during the Edinburgh International Festival.
Who is the International Piano Summer School for?
The course is suitable for pianists age 13 to 17, Grade 7 or above (ABRSM or Trinity) or who are playing at an equivalent level. Following a video submission, successful applicants will be invited to take part.
- Individual lessons with a member of Faculty – 2 x 45 mins
- Online masterclass by an internationally-renowned pianist (previous guests have included Steven Osborne and Danny Driver)
- Group classes including:
- Performance classes
- Duo coaching with another instrumentalist
- Duo rehearsals
- Lesson observation
- Daily yoga for musicians – relaxation and mindfulness to improve performance
- Alexander Technique – How to reduce stress and avoid injury
- ‘Drop in’ practice clinics
- Dedicated practice room for each participant
- Online resources
- A concert at the Edinburgh International Festival
- Walking tour of Edinburgh
- Evening Faculty concerts
- Final concert open to parents and friends
- Food and accommodation in single or twin ensuite rooms
- Certificate of attendance
- Advisory Audition
- Applying to Conservatoire – the majority of graduates from our full time programmes go on to successfully apply to Conservatoire or Music College. In this informal online session, hear what advice they would give as you think about preparing your own application and take this unique opportunity to ask the questions you would never normally ask.
Information for Parents
Edinburgh is a Unesco World Heritage site and one of the world’s most beautiful cities. As well as stunning architecture to admire, there are excellent shops, restaurants and visitor attractions.
The city also makes an excellent base to explore other areas of Scotland including the Highlands and Islands, so while your child focuses on developing their piano techniques you can happily spend a few days sightseeing. We hope you will join us for a concert on the last day of the course.
Course Director: John Cameron
John has been Head of Keyboard at St Mary’s School since 2014, and Assistant Director of Music since 2019. Prior to his busy teaching career, John was the winner of the Megan Foster Accompanists Prize 1999 and has performed on BBC Radio Three, BBC4, Radio Scotland and S4C. Among others, he has worked with singers Sally Matthews, Sarah Walker, Gweneth-Ann Rand, The Dunedin Consort, Mark Stone, Stefan Loges, Sophie Karthauser and Matthew Brook.
Since joining the staff at St.Mary’s Music School he has been active as a recitalist, accompanying both string players and wind players in concert and masterclasses as well as teaching piano and chamber music. He has worked with Mr McFall’s Chamber, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Cadenza, Edinburgh Festival Chorus, and acted as repetiteur for Gennadi Rozhdestvensky (2008), Phillipe Herreweghe (2009), Donald Runnicles (2011 & 2013), Sir Roger Norrington and Robin Ticciati at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Course Leader: Helena Buckmayer
Born in Germany, Helena has made Scotland her home and is a senior member of the Keyboard Faculty at St Mary’s Music School. Her teaching is focused on eradicating unwanted tension, helping students play in an effortless, pain-free way by combining clearly thought-out physical movements with musical expressions allowing the pianist to focus entirely on their delivery. Her pupils have moved on to study at top conservatoires and include a number of prizewinners at national and international competitions.
As a soloist, recitalist and chamber musician Helena has performed and toured through Germany, Switzerland, France, Britain, Japan, United States and Canada with concerts being broadcast on television and radio. She has played in Frankfurter Dom, Usher Hall, Queen’s Hall, Kobe Concert Hall, Matsue Concert Hall and has performed with conductors such as Philip Jordan, Roberto Paternoster, Kenneth Kiesler and orchestras such as Augsburger Philharmoniker, Wurttembergische Philharmonie Reutlingen and Sewannee Symphony Orchestra.
Robin St Clair – Alexander Technique
Robin specialises in Alexander Technique for performers of all genres and has worked closely with St Mary’s Music School for a number of years. Having trained as a musician himself, his experience helps him to understand the sort of issues the pupils experience and also to bring a very practical approach to learning the Alexander Technique in the area of music and performing.
About Alexander Technique
The Alexander Technique has a long history of helping instrumentalists and singers to perform with less stress and likelihood of injury. Musicians do some of the most complex and demanding physical movements of any profession. In recent years, the term Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) has come into popular use, but musicians have always had to face the challenge of performing the same complex muscular actions over and over again.
By helping musicians release undue tension in their bodies, the Alexander Technique makes possible a performance which is more fluid and lively, less tense and rigid.
Jean Johnson – Yoga
Jean is a professional clarinetist who began her career with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and today works with a number of orchestra and chamber ensembles. Her guest Principal work has included Bergen Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Southern Sinfonia, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Camerata Ireland. She has performed chamber music in the world’s finest venues, notably the Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall, and the Palais des Beaux-Arts Brussels.
Alongside her own practice as a musician, Jean is also a qualified yoga instructor and has worked with musicians for many years to introduce them to techniques and practice that assist greatly in unlocking tension and helping to develop performance under pressure. By beginning each day with a yoga class, Jean will provide you with tools and techniques you can carry with you in your future careers.
The cost for participants is £795 inclusive.
We have compiled a list of trusts and funding bodies who may be able to help if you require financial support. You can access this here. SMMS_Funding_Directory.pdf
Whilst we fully intend to deliver this course in person at our premises in Edinburgh, if restrictions preclude this, we will provide a digital online course as an alternative.
To apply, click here.
What students say…
It was a great experience in every respect. Apart from the interesting and educative masterclasses and piano lessons, I also enjoyed enormously all those innovative courses, like the performance classes, yoga (the best way to start each day!) and Alexander technique. It’ s rare to find so many high-level classes in one academy!! I’m glad I got the opportunity to attend St Mary’s Piano Summer School! Many thanks to all – I hope to see you again!
I had a very enjoyable experience. I got lots of detailed advice from the masterclass and of course from the performance class and the one to one lessons too. All of this helped me improve my pieces immensely. Also, I learnt how to stay relaxed and use my breathing to help me during a performance. This was my first time learning about the Alexander technique and it was very useful. From this opportunity, I got lots of beneficial advice and learnt new techniques to help with practice and performances. Thank you for this opportunity and I’m looking forward to see you all again!
It was a wonderful experience for me! I really loved the yoga lessons, it taught me how to know my body better, to be in the moment. The masterclass, private lessons, and the performance helped me improve in my pieces, I got a new perspective from hearing my classmates and teachers give me advice. It really boosted my confidence in my music, made me more comfortable playing in front of other amazing players. The Alexander Technique was new to me, but it is interesting to have a new take on music and posture. I am honoured to be in this class, thank you to all teachers and classmates, keep in touch!