For my students – a little about me, Sue Compton
Compton Piano Studio > About Sue Compton
Previously Susan Hall, (Susan Compton) I was first introduced to pianos at the age of six when visiting a piano shop with my mother, who was keen to follow her childhood dream of owning a piano and learning how to play. I have never forgotten the beautiful smell of the seasoned wood from all those pianos and the wonderful sounds that came from them. There was something familiar and magical about visiting that piano shop; I felt as if I had gone to heaven.
From the moment the piano arrived, I was entranced. It was situated in the hallway of our home and I was unable to walk past it without sitting down and pressing those keys.
It soon became obvious to my parents that piano lessons might be in order and I began my first piano lessons with Miss Comley at the Kingsley school in Leamington Spa, which I was attending at the time. There was something very magical about walking up those old wooden stairs to the tiny and somewhat dingy music room to take my twenty minute lessons every Monday and Friday on the little upright piano in the corner. I spent every spare minute between those two weekly lessons practising at home and loving every minute of it. Miss Comley, who I remember as being quite a strict teacher, pushed me hard, constantly nudging me into performances, and her teaching, coupled with my own enthusiasm for regular practice, pushed my piano playing forward at some speed and helped me to earn many school music prizes.
At the age of ten, I was accepted into the King’s High School, Warwick and at this point I continued piano lessons with private teacher, Joy Talbot, in Leamington Spa. What a wonderful piano teacher she was! So friendly and encouraging, she did everything she could to make my lessons enjoyable, including placing a cup of tea in front of me at the beginning of every single lesson. It was her idea to enter me for the Birmingham Music Festival each year, where I won six first prizes, including the Prize Winners Open Class at the age of fifteen. During this period I was also asked to accompany other up and coming musicians (and dancers) for their exams and other performances, as well as performing as a soloist myself in various venues and at a Warwickshire Schools concert when I was thirteen years old, where I played the two Debussy Arabesques. Joy Talbot also prepared and entered me for the ABRSM Grade 8 practical piano exam and assisted me in gaining a place at the Birmingham School of Music, now known as the Birmingham Conservatoire.
During this time I also studied the cello with Michael Jacques in Leamington Spa, taking my cello study at that time to Grade 6 and allowing me to play regularly as a cellist with a Warwickshire Youth Orchestra.
I spent four years at the Birmingham Conservatoire, studying the piano with Joseph Weingarten, a wonderful concert pianist and teacher who also taught the piano at the Guildhall Music College in London. Originally from Hungary, Joseph Weingarten studied at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, taking lessons from Kodaly, Bartok and Dohnanyi before moving to Britain. He made many piano recordings and was a regular performer, one of the performances I am aware of being at the BBC Proms in London during the 1950s.
One of my greatest life lessons was learnt from Joseph Weingarten. In addition to teaching me how to improve my piano playing, enabling me to take it to heights I never dreamed possible for me, he taught me self discipline and perseverance, and allowed me to understand that when I truly believe I am giving my best, in reality I actually have far, far more to give, as do we all.
With the benefit of his teaching, I was awarded the ABSM Keyboard Teaching diploma followed by the ABSM Piano Recital diploma, which included a performance of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata and Ravel’s Alborada Del Gracioso (which I also performed on Radio Birmingham). I took part in a master class with Edith Vogel, performed in a piano trio, performed as soloist at a variety of venues and won a piano concerto competition which allowed me to perform as piano soloist in a series of concerts around the UK and France, including two performances on English and French Radio. Towards the end of my study at the Birmingham Conservatoire I won a prize for my successful achievements as a pianist throughout the year.
A performance of Ravel’s Alborada del Gracioso, played by Vitally Pisarenko, can be found here. I vividly remember practising this piece myself and having to have the G sharp key repaired on my piano due to my constant practice of those repeated notes! I also remember wearing a plaster or two on my right hand fourth finger and thumb after drawing blood from my practice of the glissandi in 4ths later in the piece. (In the recording of this piece which I have linked above, this section begins at 5.13)
One piece which remains close to my heart is Dohnanyi’s Rhapsody in C which I performed at the Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. Being aware that my teacher, Joseph Weingarten, had himself studied with Dohnanyi, made the learning of this piece particularly memorable for me. A performance of Dohnanyi’s Rhapsody in C, played by Koen Spijker, can be found here
Two years into my study at the conservatoire, my teacher, Joseph Weingarten suggested that in addition to my performances, some piano pupils of my own would help me to gain some teaching experience and it was this advice that finally led me into the world of piano teaching, something I have continued for over forty years.
While at the Conservatoire, I was a regular cellist in the college orchestra, continuing my study of the cello to Grade 8 with Antonia Butler.
After leaving Birmingham Conservatoire, I continued lessons for a year with Sidney Harrison in London before making the decision that teaching was something I wished to continue. I then spent a year at the University of Central England in Birmingham to earn the Certificate in Education.
Since then, spanning forty or so years, as well as establishing my own private piano teaching practice, I have worked as a piano and keyboard teacher in various local schools and with the Country Music Service; played the keyboard in a dance band, performed in a variety of venues in the area as soloist and accompanist including churches, local clubs and dancing schools as well as training singers at the Pattison College of Theatre Arts where I created and performed the backing tracks for a performance in Coventry.
I am always very eager to share my knowledge and love of piano playing with my students. Nothing pleased me more than the day I heard a parent say, “Susan Compton is such an inspiration!” If I can help my students learn how to communicate and express themselves through music and piano playing, then I know I have done my job.
For more information about the piano, electronic keyboard and music theory lessons I offer, please contact me here: Contact Sue Compton
Susan Compton, of the Compton Piano Studio, offering piano, electronic keyboard and music theory lessons to students living in the Warwick, Kenilworth, Claverdon, Hatton and Leamington Spa areas of Warwickshire.