Music Holiday Italy1:00, 12th January 2018
With personally tailored teaching in one of the most stunning regions of Italy, Music Holiday Italy offers piano-playing amateurs the chance to re-connect with their musical passions in one of the country’s most beautiful regions. IP introduces a summer course with a difference
There are many summer courses springing up for amateur pianists, but deep in the heart of Italy, in a region that straddles the Marche and Umbria, lies one retreat that is rather special. Montemuse, a traditional farmhouse converted into a music studio and accommodation for guests is the location for Music Holiday Italy, a series of courses and masterclasses running each year from Easter till mid-October. What sets these courses apart is how they combine serious music-making with an authentically Italian experience.
The setting is the Sibillini National Park, a slice of unspoilt rural Italy where life goes on pretty much as it has for hundreds of years. Ask any Italian, and they will tell you it’s one of the most beautiful parts of their country: picturesque mediaeval villages crown every hilltop surrounded by golden fields of sunflowers against a backdrop of impossibly photogenic mountain views and tranquil nature trails. While participants enrol primarily for the excellence of the tuition, many stay on to take cooking classes, visit vineyards, hike nature trails or enjoy an unforgettable evening of opera under the stars.
Music Holiday Italy is the brainchild of Gil Jetley, a businessman whose lifelong commitment as an amateur pianist has earned an impressive record of success in international competitions. Such personal experience means he understands that amateur pianists juggling career, family and practice time are looking for something quite different from conservatoire students. For example, masterclasses at Montemuse are limited to three participants and focus less on honing particular pieces to perfection than on winkling out general weaknesses in technique (and surprisingly often, in theory too) offering general suggestions that are long-lasting and applicable to all piano playing.
A typical day starts with breakfast followed by a masterclass, followed by lunch on the sun terrace and an afternoon of practice. One advantage of limiting class sizes to a maximum of three is that the schedule can be flexible: without the need to stick to a rigid timetable, there is scope for individual guidance and advice. Evening meals are at local restaurants often preceded by an informal concert with a neighbourly audience before dinner.
The real jewel in the crown of these courses is the unique one-on-one coaching week, which appeals especially to amateurs who want to revive former skills after years of neglect. During these one-on-one weeks, prepare to be pampered from the moment you are met at the airport and chauffeured to Montemuse. A comfortable en suite room, each with a balcony looking onto the mountains, and ice-cold Prosecco await your arrival. Breakfasts and lunches are served on the terrace and for dinner you will be wined and dined each evening at a different gourmet restaurant (one of which by general student consensus serves the world’s best tiramisu). Meanwhile, if none of the scheduled course dates are convenient you can even choose your own.
As for the music, there are four hours of individual coaching each day and unlimited practice time on a grand maintained by the same company that looks after Pollini’s piano. It might sound intensive, but makes it possible to cover more ground than in a class shared with others. It also means participants can be any standard without feeling self-conscious or under pressure.
By the end of the week, ‘students’ are both exhausted and exhilarated. As one blogged, ‘What could be better than doing the thing you love for a whole week? The hospitality was impeccable, the organisation flawless, the food superb and the surroundings breathtaking, but don’t be deceived by the name Music Holiday Italy! Gil is a man of detail and does not let anything pass. He had me analysing works and technique in a way I hadn’t done for years.’