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Jul 18

The Thinking Pianist

July 18 @ 2:00 pm - July 25 @ 4:30 pm

Piano keyboard

UPDATE: part-time/daily attendance available

We are looking forward to welcoming our first students to The Thinking Pianist in just under six weeks’ time.

We are now opening up the course to those who might wish to attend on a part-time basis, whether residential or not.

  • The daily fee rates for part-time attendance are:  Residential: £180, non-residential £130 (including lunch and dinner).
  • If you would like more information, please contact Course Director David Jones as soon as possible at jonesd@cheltladiescollege.org

Introduction from the Course Director

I am very excited to be launching The Thinking Pianist, a new type of piano summer course which will be welcoming its first participants in 2021.

Over the past year, music has undoubtedly become more important than ever for thousands of people, who have found their musical skills and interests to be a vital factor in their own continuing wellbeing. Despite (or perhaps because of) the continuing downturn in the accessibility of performing arts events, many people have been rediscovering the rewards of increased engagement with their own instrumental/vocal abilities.

We therefore think that this is an ideal time to be launching a course with a difference. The Thinking Pianist is designed to appeal to anyone for whom playing the piano is a vital aspect of their lives and an important source of personal well-being. Whether you are a dedicated adult pianist who does something else for a living, a student of the piano at a conservatoire or university or an aspiring professional performer or teacher, we are sure that our course will have something for you.

Why The Thinking Pianist? In my experience, most people who take the piano seriously actually spend quite a lot of time thinking about it, even when not playing or practising. Playing the piano is an activity which is uniquely absorbing and synthesising in terms of how much of our brain is involved in the process: it requires physical/manual dexterity and co-ordination beyond almost any other human activity you can imagine, is constantly challenging our spatial and non-verbal-reasoning abilities (e.g. through deciphering complex notation) and is ultimately a means of emotional and expressive communication with the power to say things beyond words. Add to this the vast repertoire of the greatest music written for the instrument as well as the engrossing history of its performers, composers and manufacturers and it is no wonder we find it so rewarding!

The Thinking Pianist is designed to offer a form of summer “retreat” in which participants can immerse themselves in playing, practising and rehearsing, attending concerts and talks and sharing the whole experience with like-minded course members. Please see below for more information on what to expect and how to sign up!

I look forward to welcoming you to The Thinking Pianist.

David Jones
Head of Keyboard Studies, Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

What will we cover in the course?

Core course activities will include:

  • Lessons, masterclasses and workshops with distinguished Faculty, joined by visiting specialists who will deliver other classes and concerts
  • Opportunities to rehearse and perform ensembles, i.e. duet, 2 pianos (3+ hands!)
  • Course concerts with the opportunity to perform to like-minded fellow pianists!
  • The Pedagogy course, run by Mengyang Pan, will take the form of separate classes in the first five days, followed by integration into the main course thereafter

What should I expect to gain from the course?

Participants will be encouraged to practise both the art and craft of piano-playing. Joining a community of like-minded pianists, your musical and pianistic experience will be heightened through the productive exchange of ideas with others.

At The Thinking Pianist we encourage holistic learning. Submerse yourself in nourishing your mind & body, through wellbeing practices such as Yoga, Tai Chi, Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais Method. Seminars will also be presented focussing on key topics such as:

  • Performance anxiety
  • Reducing excess tension
  • Developing effective and efficient practice
  • Resilience
  • The neuroscientific and psychological aspects of musical learning and performance

How long is the course?

If you’re attending the full course, you’ll be taking part over seven days running from Sunday 18 July 2021 until Sunday 25 July 2021. There will be the option to participate in an end-of-course concert on the final day.

  • There is also an option for part-time/daily attendance (see note above).

What level is required to attend The Thinking Pianist?

  • Recommended Level – Intermediate/Advanced
  • Currently we can only accept applications of those 18+
  • It is not our intention to exclude based on standard achieved, but we think you will get the most out of the course if your playing is at least Grade 6 level
  • We would be delighted to welcome dedicated adult pianists, students and young professionals
  • There is also a parallel pedagogy course for teachers or students wishing to specialise in piano pedagogy. If playing the piano is a vital part of your personal well-being, this course is for you!

Will preparation be required?

There is no requirement to prepare specific repertoire, but you should bring two or more pieces which you are currently working on, to study with your teacher in lessons and/or classes.

This is optional for pedagogy students but would be very welcome.

How will the course be taught?

Teaching will occur as a combination of individual lessons with Faculty staff, group classes and workshops.

Pedagogy students will have a separate strand of lectures. Course Leader Mengyang Pan.

Faculty members

Please visit the event website to read biographies.

  • David Jones
  • Tim Horton
  • Ashley Wass
  • Mengyang Pang
  • John Thwaites

Residential information

Find a ‘home from home’ in our modern and self-contained houses, each one featuring its own kitchen, dining room and common room. Accommodation will be in single rooms.

Our in-house catering team will provide three meals a day within your residential house. Let us know if you have any specific dietary requirements or allergies at least 2 weeks prior to your arrival and our fantastic catering team will be able to cater to your individual needs.

Non-residential options are also available. Our non-residential package includes lunch each day, but will not provide your accommodation.


The Cheltenham Ladies’ College is situated in the heart of Cheltenham, a spa town on the edge of the Cotswolds. You’ll be a short walk away from restaurants, shops and transport links in the town centre.

The train station 1.1 miles
Bristol Airport 50 miles
Birmingham Airport 51 miles
Coach Station 0.2 miles


To join The Thinking Pianist Course, there is a fee of £1200.00 per student for the full course.

  • A 10% deposit will be required to confirm you booking on the course. The final 90% of the payment will need to be paid by 04th July 2021.

We are also offering a non-residential rate which excludes our on site accommodation. This is charged at £900.00 per student and includes lunches only.

Bookings and contact information

To book onto the course and make your 10% deposit payment please book via Eventbrite.

  • Tel: +44 (0)1242 520691
  • For questions or queries about the course, email: jonesd[@]cheltladiescollege.org