Ashley Fripp

Piano Teacher and Performer

Ashley’s Music Story

Ashley’s is an inspiring story from someone who did not have the benefit of starting an instrument young, or who had lots of funds to support his musical education.

He started playing a battery-operated ‘stocking filler’ keyboard at the age of 10 and learnt to play himself, mainly by ear. This gave him the opportunity to explore and play the music he came across and liked. While staying at a local Hilton Hotel Ashley he tried the piano out there and ended up playing in front of an impromptu crowd, which initiated the idea of studying the piano more seriously. From about 12 years old Ashley then had piano lessons; for 6 months at school near Winchester but then it was quickly suggested that he applied to learn at the Royal College of Music Junior department. His acceptance meant making an incredibly early morning journey every Saturday from Winchester to London to be at the Royal College of Music for 8am where he studied piano and composition.

At the age of 14, Ashley continued his studies, moving to the Purcell School on a full scholarship. Being surrounded by like- minded people, in an extremely hard-working but liberal and creative environment was wonderful, and one in which he flourished.

Following the Purcell school, Ashley headed to the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, in order to study with the Head of Keyboard, Ronan O’Hora. After completing his undergraduate studies in Performing, Ashley undertook a Masters degree, and is currently completing a PhD. A fantastic experience outside the Guildhall School has been to study with the legendary pianist and pedagogue, Eliso Virsaladze. For this, Ashley travels to Florence every 6-8 weeks for an intense week of lessons, where pieces are pulled apart and put back together again in a Soviet-style class format, with each student taking their lesson before their peers.

Ashley has won a number of national and international awards along the way, including at the Leeds, Hamamatsu (Japan), and Birmingham International Piano Competitions, the Royal Over-Seas League Competition, the Concours European de Piano (France) and the coveted Gold Medal from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

In 2013, Ashley won the Worshipful Company of Musicians’ highest award, The Prince’s Prize, and was chosen as a ‘Rising Star’ by the European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO).

Ashley’s performing career has taken him throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, North America an Australia and he has performed in prestigious venues including the Carnegie Hall (New York), Musikverein (Vienna), Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), the Philharmonic halls of Cologne, Paris, Luxembourg, and Warsaw, the Bozar (Brussels), the Royal Festival, Barbican and Wigmore Halls (London), the Laeiszhalle (Hamburg), the Megaron (Athens), Konzerthaus Dortmund, the Gulbenkian Auditorium (Lisbon) and the Konserthus (Stockholm).

"In a way, teaching is about giving the student a frame for their own picture."

What was the Guildhall School of Music & Drama like?

The Guildhall School was an exciting environment in which one could immerse oneself in all forms of music-making and branch out through an adult, independant form of education. The coaching I received was inspiring, but the School was also the place where I met so many of my colleagues of today, both professional chamber music partners and friends.

Where would you suggest people buy a piano from?

Buying a piano is an important investment and so it is important to make the right decision for you and your circumstances. If you are looking for advice and a great range of pianos, I would recommend Jaques Samuel Pianos in London; not only do they have instruments to cater to all budgets, they have an excellent team of tuners and technicians to keep your instrument in top shape for many years. There are also so many excellent second-hand piano dealers in and around London, and you never know what might even pop up on a Facebook page or Gumtree!
I am a big fan of Kawai pianos, and have both grand and upright pianos at home. Kawai is a Japanese piano manufacturer founded in 1927; they have some of the world’s greatest technicians and piano artisans, and produce a range of pianos (including electric) to suit everybody. They are also extremely durable.

What age do you recommend starting to play the piano?

Each child is different, and you can learn from an early age, but the most important thing is to allow children to enjoy music and express themselves. This means exploring the music which appeals to and inspires them, and not just the pieces needed for the ABRSM exams.

So, what are you like as a teacher?

I believe that you need to give a child or beginner the self-motivation and allow them to discover their musicality and encourage curiosity. It is important to keep their interest in music through allowing children to express themselves and play music they enjoy, as well as equipping them with the essential skills. I adapt my teaching style depending on the person and in some ways, it is about following the lead of the musician being taught and what works for them. I feel that it is important to share the beauty of musical detail, so that practising is an activity to be enjoyed, and never a chore. In a way, teaching is about giving the student a frame for their own picture.

What has been your career highlight to date?

I’ve been fortunate to have travelled extensively for my performing career, but a handful of venues stand out as being particular highlights. Performing at the Musikverein in Vienna and the Carnegie Hall in New York were special experiences, and I had a wonderful time on a European tour sponsored by the Barbican a few years ago.

What piano pieces would you recommend people listen to, to inspire them to play?

I think musical tastes ebb and flow all the time, as do favourite works and composers. I always find myself restored by Bach, Mozart, and Chopin in particular. There is so much repertoire out there to inspire anyone to get into piano playing – younger students tend to be fascinated by big, dramatic piano pieces by composers such as Liszt and Rachmaninov, but there are hundreds of excellent character pieces by Prokofiev, Schumann, Bartok etc., which allow students to really show off what they can do!

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