Learning and Engagement

Over the last few years Hastings International Piano has developed an exceptional year-round engagement programme which aims to take high-quality music into our local community. Through our work with local schools we have given over 1,000 children the opportunity to to attend youth workshops, performances and masterclasses – including a performance with Sheku Kanneh-Mason MBE and Isata Kanneh-Mason, in the beautiful setting of Fairlight Hall.

With cuts to arts funding leaving gaps in the important educational upbringing of school-aged children we aim to fill these gaps with a programme of exciting, empowering and engaging work. Our projects are devised with our expert partners including, local schools, music education hubs and community venues.

Schools’ Workshops

At Hastings International Piano, we believe that there is no better way to engage students in the processes and energy of music than by involving them in the activity itself.

We live by the mantra, ‘show me, don’t tell me’ and our hands-on workshops give schools and colleges the chance to reinvigorate their students after the torpor of lockdown, with practical sessions led by our animateur in residence Matthew Sharp. The workshops embrace our ‘Body and Soul’ philosophy and participants will be taught how the use of the whole body is central to any performance. Using warm-ups, games, songs and instrumental playing, the workshops cover the fundamental concepts of performance technique- breathing, sensing, connecting and initiating.

Students love our workshops – a recent survey we carried out after workshops in four schools shows that 94% of them had had a positive experience. One particular student who experienced one of our workshops with Matthew Sharp, got in touch to say:

“Hi Matt 🙂 I’m not sure if you’ll see this but I just wanted to say I had an AMAZING workshop experience with you today at my school, __________, and I’m soooo thankful for it. I normally feel extremely anxious when performing, etc. In music despite me absolutely loving it (the two things clash A LOT). I struggle a lot with general anxiety disorder and social anxiety but I found your workshop really inspiring and interesting and enthusiastic and it really helped me to relax and just get into the moment without becoming overly stressed. I’m sure I’m speaking for everyone in my class when I say it was a fantastic time and you were such a massive help in boosting my confidence and teaching me how to improve my musical skill and songwriting. Once again, thank you so much and keep doing what you’re doing because its really helps people around my age to step out of their comfort zone  :)”

Schools’ Concerts

We believe that going to a live concert should be something that all children should have the chance to experience. Our Learning and Engagement Manager himself, says “I can remember the precise moment that I decided that I wanted to pursue a career in music- my parents took me to the Barbican when I was about 8 years old to see the London Symphony Orchestra. I was mesmerised by the sound that those 90 or so musicians made. I particularly loved watching the bow arms of the fiddle section going up and down in a blur in the fast bits. At the end of one movement, I turned to my parents and said, ‘I want to play the violin in an orchestra’ and that moment of inspiration was what started me off on my journey to become a musician.”

While not every child who hears an orchestra will then want to become a musician, we want to make it an experience that they will never forget and one that may be the kernel for either musical or broader artistic endeavour to grow throughout their lives.


Resources will posted here shortly…

Our Animateur in Residence

Matthew Sharp

‘Virtuoso of the arts’ (The Times), Matthew Sharp, has performed worldwide as solo cellist, baritone, actor and director: solo appearances with the RPO, LPO, RLPO, CBSO; singing principal roles for the Royal Opera House and Opera North; acting principal roles at the Young Vic and National Theatre Studio; directing for the BBC and Opera North.

From Glastonbury to Glyndebourne, Sydney Opera House to Wigmore Hall, he has worked with an extraordinary spectrum of leading artists from Sir John Tavener to Marta Eggert to Dave McKean to Caryl Churchill. His own music and theatre works have toured to major festivals globally. He has given over sixty world premieres and recorded for Sony, EMI, Decca, Naxos, Somm, NMC, Avie and Whirlwind.


Our Learning and Engagement Manager

Tom Elliott

Tom Elliott graduated from the Royal Academy of Music in 1998 and immediately embarked on a busy career as a freelance violinist. After playing with many of the country’s leading orchestras, he was made a member of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in 2001. It became clear to him that once the second of his four children was born, the frantic international touring schedule of the orchestra was not well suited to family life.

Tom made the decision to leave his playing career behind and concentrated on teaching and soon after, he founded Glossop Music Festival in 2014. The experience of staging and organising high-quality music events, created a path for him into full-time management, and he was given the opportunity to run the Northern Chamber Orchestra in Manchester, which he did until he moved with his family to Kent in 2018, where he now teaches the violin. One of the things he enjoyed most at NCO was developing the education and engagement work and this is a role that he is happy to be concentrating on with Hastings International Piano.

Tom says, “I’d love to see Hastings International Piano using it’s position at the very heart of this vibrantly cultural town, to transform lives through the power of music. Where government has left gaps, we must step in to ensure that as many children as possible get to hear and engage with music, activity that is particularly needed after the period of lockdown endured by the children of this country.”