We recently introduced piano lessons as part of our music offering in the Larch and as we thought this was met with an overwhelming response. Knowing that we could not offer everyone who wanted piano lessons the opportunity to learn, it made us consider how to take this forward.

Our musical ethos at Simon Balle is of creating lifelong musicians - musicians who want to take their passion for music with them for the rest of their lives. As part of this it is about learning how to work together, with others, in ensembles and teams. How to practice, how to read music, how to listen, how to celebrate music. We have prioritised orchestral instruments for these very reasons, so that more students can benefit from the joy and excitement of making music with others for years to come both in our orchestra, and group lessons. Some might pause and return on this journey, others will continue and excel to the highest standards. We also insist that students can practice, at least 3 times a week.

Piano is different. It is not an ensemble instrument to start with for quite a while. Not everyone has a piano at home either. This made us question what our ethos is with learning the piano.

Piano is an instrument to develop coordination skills and how to read treble and bass clef. It is an instrument that someone learns on their own for such a long time before being able to work with others. We have taken the decision after many discussions that for us piano should be an instrument that someone learns as well as learning an orchestral instrument, so that they are developing their whole musicianship. Piano lessons include music theory work as well, again working more on musicianship. What is so important is that our pianists feel part of team music and what we offer - working together with others, not in isolation. Therefore, we chose musicians who already learnt an instrument to start working with us as we introduced the piano to our work.

Of course we want pianists - pianists who love music music and are a massive part of Team Music. However, at the moment we simply cannot accommodate everyone to do everything - especially on the piano. Space and teacher availability also come into the mix. When all these competing challenges come together, we have to have reasons for our decisions.

We have a waiting list for piano lessons and of course that is not ideal. As I said at the start, our ethos is based on team working, ensembles and not working in isolation. There are many ways to get involved in Team Music and we will work to develop our piano offering as fast as we can, ensuring is accompanies learning an orchestral instrument.

Mark Taylor, Director of Music