Stephen Marquiss journeyed from prize-winning music school student through struggles with injury and mental health to become one of the most experienced pianist/teachers of his generation.
Stephen’s tireless adult journey from frustration to facility in his 30s and 40s gave rise to Piano Portals, a holistic, joyful online framework for piano technique and radical substitute for conventional exercises.
Stephen was born in Bath, England and began studying piano aged 7 with Peter Sage-Passant in his home town of Frome, Somerset. At 11, he won a full scholarship to music school. In his early years, Stephen won the prize for the highest ABRSM music exam result and reached the final of the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists. He would later withdraw from the televised stage of BBC Young Musicians, however, because of injury. Stephen left school a shadow of his bushy-tailed 11-year-old self, having struggled with recurring Repetitive Strain Injury, musculo-skeletal issues, plummeting confidence, a ceiling on technique, a fear of performance and a block about memorising.
Stephen was the first student in living memory at his school to take an academic Music A Level in place of a performance. He went on to read Music at Christ’s College, Cambridge.
The lively academic environment of Cambridge encouraged Stephen to reflect deeply on his experiences at school. Whilst years of cerebral practice and technical exercises didn’t directly cause the downward spiral, they provided poor solutions. Stephen began to question the very fundamentals of practice.
Whilst at Cambridge, Stephen travelled on a bursary to New York for piano tuition with Sophia Rosoff (1924 – 2017), a radical teacher who studied with and co-edited the essays of Abby Whiteside (1881 – 1956).
Whiteside was one of the most audacious pioneers in pedagogical history. She looked honestly at her own students and admitted that only the most ‘talented’ ones truly progressed. She committed her life to seeking solutions that would empower all to play. These often fly in the face of many conventional assumptions about technique.
Stephen’s exposure to Whiteside kickstarted a lifetime of investigation into piano technique – specifically, what’s a priority and what’s peripheral. He continued to refine his own work over 25 years. As a result of an honest, adult journey from frustration facility, he has performed widely (now always confidently from memory!) for over a decade.
Recent highlights included:
- Fundraising concerts for Ukraine in London, the Peak District and Somerset
- Three well-received piano courses at Jackdaws Music Education Trust
- Two well-received seminars at the UK Music and Drama Education Expo
Stephen has formulated a groundbreaking, playful yet profound approach to playing called Piano Portals, which:
- explores technique only within Whiteside’s ’emotional rhythm’ – an authentic, flowing connection to music, in the moment
- dissolves technical difficulties through deepening self-awareness, not dogma or drills
- spotlights oft-neglected elements of able players’ techniques, such as the crucial role of the torso and of playing by ear (over sight, rote or ‘muscle’ memory)
- addresses whole-body coordination at all stages
- invites critical thinking on technique
- draws on other musical genres than classical traditions
- draws on other fields such as sport, dance, art
In his spare time, Stephen enjoys walking, photography and film-making.
Stephen Marquiss journeyed from prize-winning music school student through struggles with injury and mental health to become one of the most experienced pianist/teachers of his generation. Stephen’s tireless adult journey from frustration to facility in his 30s and 40s gave rise to Piano Portals, a holistic, joyful online framework for piano technique and radical substitute for conventional exercises. Stephen […]