In Conversation with Stephen Hough

World-leading concert pianist and RNCM International Chair of Keyboard Studies, Stephen Hough, talks about his memories of studying at the RNCM and how it helped prepare him for his career in the music world, ahead of his 'In Conversation With' slot here at the RNCM this Saturday 4th May

Why did you choose to study at the RNCM?

Mainly because my teacher, Gordon Green, taught there. Also I was only 15 when I began the degree course and I (or my parents) probably didn't feel I was ready to live alone in another big city.  I had been studying at Chetham's School and the RNCM was only a few more stops on the bus.

What are your happiest memories of your time at the College?

I think of many happy lessons, learning so much from my teachers.  Apart from Gordon Green and Derrick Wyndham for piano lessons there were many other wonderful academic staff. I was young (and shy) so I didn't attend many parties or have a crazy social life, but it was a perfect place to study — and the facilities were, and still are, superb.

How do you feel your time at the RNCM helped prepare you for your career?

Gordon Green was very insistent on thinking long-term: "It's not how you're playing now that interests me but how you will play in 10 years time".  So the fact that there was not unhealthy pressure to show 'results' was a big advantage for me. It may all be different now in tertiary education, but I don't think we should ever underestimate the seemingly inactive time when a plant appears to be doing nothing. Flourishing needs space, muscles need to be loose to perform well. Those who will end up thinking big thoughts will need to daydream sometimes.

How important do you think places like the RNCM are for aspiring artists?

I think most people do best when studying alongside others.  Despite what I wrote in the previous question we do need to learn personal discipline as well as how to play our instruments. And friendships formed in college years are precious personally and often professionally.

What advice would you give to young people thinking of studying at the RNCM?

Go for it!

Stephen Hough returns to his alma mater to talk about his long and successful career, in conversation with Les Pratt from BBC Radio 3 this Saturday. Find out more here

29 April 2013