Case study

Pianist — Greta Gasser

Greta studied the BMus in Piano Performance followed by a Masters in the same subject at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). She's now working as a pianist and piano teacher, as founder of the Gasser Music Studio

Why did you choose to study these courses at this institution?

I wanted to choose a degree that focused on performance (playing and performing) so the RNCM was the obvious choice for me. They had a fantastic list of piano teachers, all of whom are great performers and educators. I also liked their courses and how balanced the programme was - not to mention the reputation it has as a leading conservatoire in the UK and across Europe.

How did postgraduate life differ to that of an undergraduate?

The undergraduate course was amazing for setting up a strong foundation and a giving me a well-rounded education. The Masters degree offered a lot more freedom over the subjects I chose to pursue, and it allowed me to really tailor my education on what interested me the most. Also, as a postgraduate I had to become more independent, which was particularly useful once I graduated. It was good preparation for the real world.

What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing a music-related Masters degree?

Take advantage of all the opportunities offered to you. Also, take charge over your learning and create your own path. Enrolling in a Masters degree is a great opportunity to find out more about yourself and what makes you enthusiastic about your subject.

Why did you decide to start your own piano tutoring business?

I had lots of opportunities to teach, while being a student at the RNCM. So I felt quite confident in my skills and ready to open my own studio. I always loved teaching and sharing the joy of music making with my pupils, so having the Gasser Music Studio felt like the natural step to make. I'm also quite an independent person and being able to set up my own business allowed me to make my own mark. Not to mention, it taught me plenty about running a studio.

What's a typical day like?

It's hard to say what a typical day is like, which is something I thoroughly enjoy. My week is split between teaching at my own studio, teaching in a private school, teaching at Yorkshire Young Musicians, a specialist music school, and more recently being a guest lecturer and mentor at the RNCM for the MPerf Practical Pedagogy postgraduate course. Some parts of the day are dedicated to my business. And of course, I also have my own piano practice to do so life can get quite intense at times. But I love every minute of it.

What do you enjoy about your role as a pianist/piano teacher?

I love the creativity required to be a pianist and a piano teacher. As a pianist you have to always find new ways to play your pieces and make sure you make your ideas clear to your audience. You also need to be in touch with your own emotions and allow them to carry through your music. It can be very therapeutic.

As a teacher, you also have to be extremely creative and try to motivate and understand each pupil, as everyone is different. I find being a teacher extremely fulfilling. I love seeing my pupils get the confidence to express their own creativity and finding in piano a friend for life.

What are the challenges?

There are times when the workload can be quite intense. Your students have examinations or competitions, and you need to make sure they are ready on time. But you also have your own practice to do and pieces to prepare. Also, running my own teaching studio comes with a lot of extra responsibilities - admin work, marketing, social media, and being in charge of a business, all of which are very time consuming. So dividing your time properly and most efficiently is a must, otherwise it is easy to get overwhelmed.

How has your career developed, and what are your ambitions?

In the beginning, my focus was on performing and being a pianist. But in time, I discovered I get more joy and fulfilment from teaching and running my own business, so my focus started to shift.

I devoted more time to becoming a better piano teacher and I took advantage of all opportunities. I started teaching privately, then working in secondary schools and attending the Piano Pedagogy course at the RNCM. After I gained enough experience and confidence, I started my own studio. One thing led to another, and in time I was offered a great job at Yorkshire Young Musicians. And then another at Manchester High School for Girls.

Most recently, I started teaching Practical Pedagogy to postgraduate pianists at the RNCM. This is a new experience for me - teaching others how to teach - and I thoroughly enjoy it. It opened a whole new career path that I hadn't thought of before. My ambition has never really changed throughout the years - I want to be the best I can be at what I'm doing, whether that's teaching, or performing, or anything else. I'm always trying to improve and learn more.

What tips would you give to others considering a career in music?

  • You must have a very strong work ethic to make it in the music industry, whether as a performer or teacher. Show up on time, make sure you come prepared, and always give 100%. Nobody wants to work with someone who turns up 30 minutes late to a rehearsal and has no idea about the pieces they have to play.
  • Treat the people around you fairly and politely and how you'd want to be treated yourself. The music industry is relatively small, and everyone knows everyone. Maybe your classmate today will end up offering you a job tomorrow, or they'll remember that time when you were rude to them, and they won't give you a job.
  • Always try to improve and learn. As musicians, we must always work on becoming better. Learning never stops. Talk to your fellow musicians, learn from them, share tips, and ask for advice. You're not in this alone.

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