Stephen Marquiss is a pianist, speaker, tutor and Founder of Piano Portals, a holistic approach to piano playing and radical substitute for conventional exercises. Stephen’s unique perspective stems from his personal journey from frustration to facility in playing.
In his early days as a Specialist Musician at Wells Cathedral School, Stephen won prizes and accolades, including the highest ABRSM exam mark in the country, the final of the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists and the televised stage of BBC Young Musicians.
Later, Stephen became the first student in living memory to sit a theoretical A Level Music paper, owing to the deterioration of his playing through injury and mental blocks. This sparked a twenty-year journey of questioning pedagogical assumptions, reassessing the fundamentals of playing and emerging as the confident pianist that he’d always dreamt of becoming.
This quest originated at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where Stephen gained an MA in Music. At this time, he travelled to New York to study with Sophia Rosoff, a groundbreaking teacher and former student of Abby Whiteside, one of pedagogy’s greatest pioneers.
Following a successful decade as an accompanist to some of the country’s finest musicians, piano teacher at Hazlegrove Preparatory School and Musical Director of the now-internationally-known Frome Festival, Stephen refined his approach, and Piano Portals emerged.
Featured in the March 2020 issue of International Piano Magazine, Piano Portals uncovers elements of able players’ techniques that history has all but overlooked. It highlights the value of the whole body, of mindset and of playing by ear. It treats musical flow – and its corresponding response in the body – as inseparable from technique.
Stephen creates online resources for pianists and piano teachers. He gives talks and workshops, and presented a well-received seminar, The Holistic Primary Piano Teacher, at the 2020 UK Music and Drama Education Expo. He is passionate about cultivating fluent, expressive playing without excess tension from beginner to advanced level, and is currently working on videos that represent his own playing journey more broadly.
In 2017, Stephen became a Trainer for Jolly Music – an Early Years’ Music Programme cultivating tuneful singing, pulse/rhythm skills and inner hearing – reflecting his enthusiasm for holistic, inclusive music education from the outset.
In his spare time, Stephen enjoys cycling and motorcycling and is a keen amateur photographer and film maker.