Warren Mailley-Smith


Warren’s Music Story

Warren started playing the piano at age 5 and was lucky to have a great teacher from an early age. By the age of 12 he started attending the Junior Royal College of Music department on Saturdays. Piano was very much a passionate interest and something he enjoyed doing.

Warren is a great example of a talented musician who did not immediately follow a musical career path. From school he went to Warwick University to study law but continued to play piano. He had piano lessons at University and got incredibly involved in the musical societies and performing. He began to prioritise his piano practice over lectures in law, so much so that a lecturer once asked who he was and what was he doing in the law lecture when he made a brief appearance!

One of his very memorable performances at university was in his second year when he performed the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto. Performing this really inspired him to pursue a career in music but he continued to finish his law degree. Warren reflects that the degree in law has helped him in his piano career with some of the more transferable skills he learnt and with the other elements of being a performing musician. He made it possible to do a law degree and then a career in music, but only through a huge amount of hard work and dedication.

After law, Warren did a year at the Birmingham Conservatory before going to do a postgraduate degree at the Royal College of Music. The transition to music colleges was a quite a change; suddenly he was able to play all day rather than juggle this with his other work. He won numerous postgraduate prizes while at the Royal College, including a Countess of Munster Award and the French Piano Music Prize. He then took further private studies with Peter Feuchtwanger and the late Ronald Smith.

Determined, having made the switch from law to music, to make a living from playing the piano, Warren grasped every available opportunity and initially always ensured he had a high-profile concert in the diary to work towards. He has since given acclaimed solo recitals at The Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall and has performed over 30 piano concertos. He has made several recordings which have been featured on Classic FM and the BBC.

In 2016 he became the first British pianist to perform Chopin’s complete works for solo piano from memory in a series of 11 recitals, which really launched his career. From then he set up his own company, City Music Promotions, which arranges over 100 concerts a year. He also set up the Piccadilly Sinfonetta which is a chamber orchestra based in London. More recently he launched www.citymusiclive.co.uk which offers online performances.

In terms of teaching Warren has taught at the Royal College of Music Junior Departments and tutors on several residential courses including Pro Corda, Piano Week, Pianissimi and at Finchcocks. He mainly now runs masterclasses and residential courses rather than individual lessons.

"the best idea is to have a piano at home and see if your child takes an interest"

What was the Royal College of Music like?

It was a great experience and I studied with some of the most amazing teachers, including John Barstow and then after leaving the RCM with Ronald Smith and Peter Feuchtwanger. It was such a brilliant opportunity to study piano all day, rather than juggle this with other things.

Where would you suggest people buy a piano from?

This is a difficult question as it depends on your budget. You can get pianos on ebay or from some Facebook groups that are low cost. This makes a lot of sense if you or your child are just starting the piano.

What age do you recommend starting to play the piano?

I would simply suggest the best idea is to have a piano at home and see if your child takes an interest. It is a great instrument to play as you can learn harmony, melody, and rhythm all at once and for children it can be beneficial for their overall development.

What would be your advice to someone who wants to become a professional pianist?

For those who want to take piano playing to a professional level, I have my top tips here!
• Aim to be the absolute best you can be.
• Invite criticism and take it willingly!
• Work (practise) hard and meet people,
• Take every opportunity to perform and listen to others perform.
• Play chamber music…
• Teach!
• Think creatively; create opportunities.
• Do not wait to ‘be discovered’.
• Do not leave a performing career to the lottery of international competitions alone…

What has been your career highlight to date?

In 2016 I became the first British pianist to perform Chopin’s complete works for solo piano from memory in a series of 11 recitals at St John’s Smith Square

I am proud of my recordings of Liszt: Depictions, which was released in 2011. I also fondly remember my first solo recital debut at Birmingham Symphony Hall when I was 22.

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

I adore playing Chopin and so would highly recommend listening to this great music!

Book Warren