Name: Miguel Angel de Blas
Location: United Kingdom
Trinity qualification: LTCL Piano
Miguel can remember very clearly the first time his interest in piano playing was sparked.
“I started piano lessons when I was 7 or 8 years old. My school friend was taking lessons, and I used to go to his house and hear him play the piano. I thought it was like magic being able to make music out of this machine!”
Not long after, Miguel started taking lessons himself after school, and before long, his teacher was encouraging him to sign up for the Madrid Conservatoire, which had a special program for younger children.
“It was an after-school program, so I was able to start my musical education at the same time as keeping on with my school studies. It was great to learn music theory and to study piano officially with conservatoire teachers.”
Miguel continued to study at the conservatoire until he reached university age, when he had to make a difficult decision.
“When I turned 18, I had a huge workload with the demands of university and the demands of the conservatoire, so I decided to pause my musical studies, which ended up being for a long, long time, because life took me in a different direction.”
Miguel went on to earn degrees in Clinical Psychology and Chemistry, before moving to the US to pursue a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania. Miguel is now a professional in the pharmaceutical industry, based in London.
There is one person who Miguel says really inspired him to take up the piano again after around 25 years of not playing.
“My older brother, who sadly died last year, was very instrumental in this because he was my biggest supporter in my musical development. He kind of nudged me again, to get back to the piano - and so I started taking lessons again.”
“I needed to have some kind of goal, or motivation to improve my playing and to get back to a level, or even beyond the level that I was 25 years back. For me, graded exams are a great way to get objective feedback on your progress musically.”
One benefit of doing the digital graded exam was that Miguel could play on his piano at home with an alternatively sized keyboard.
“Trinity made it possible to do video submissions, which was a new thing and I thought it was brilliant! As somebody with a smaller handspan, it limits the choice and repertoire that you can master. It can detract from the musicality and the expression, because you can't have at the same level of control.”
“My keyboard is only half an inch smaller per octave. That’s not a lot, but it does make a whole world of difference and doing the video submission allowed me to use it.”
“When I submitted the first video in November 2020, I didn't pass on the first attempt - there were a number of things that weren't at the standard of playing that is required at diploma level.”
“The criticism was hard but fair - they were very objective things that were very constructive and helped me improve my approach, not just in terms of technique but also musicality and understanding of the pieces.”
Undeterred, Miguel started taking lessons with a different teacher.
“Instead of just giving up, I said this is an opportunity for me to improve. Because at the end of the day it's about excelling and achieving the highest standard. I wanted to develop new repertoire, so I said let’s think about it as clean slate and start again with an entirely new repertoire”
Around seven months later, Miguel was ready to submit again, and this time his hard work paid off.
“When I saw that I got a distinction, I was over the moon - It has given me confidence to keep learning and just be a lifelong learner. Who knows? I might end up taking FTCL - I'm already working on pieces at that level.”
“My friends and people who listen to me did notice the difference because they said you're now going beyond the point of technical accuracy and you're now becoming a storyteller.”
"I watched the recording of my exam, and I noticed for myself that I was telling the story through the pieces, which is something that hadn’t happened before. I think I had jumped or pushed through that level of just going beyond the notes."