Hi, I am Emiliano and I teach piano.

If we are going to start a student / teacher relationship, you might want to know a bit more about me and my musical journey. I hope you like a story, so here goes 🙂

I started taking piano lessons age 8. I had a Bontempi electric organ in my room, and I used to be able to play back melodies I heard on the TV, one of which was Richard Clayderman’s Lady “Di”.

If we are here today right now, me writing this and you reading it, it’s because of this little happy tune:

So one day I asked my dad if I could take piano lessons. The following week he bought me a new upright Petrof, and I a meeting was arranged to meet a prominent teacher in my area, Mrs De Anna. I was lucky.

With this teacher I went through few years of traditional, classical lessons: one weekly instrumental lesson, sometimes two, of one hour each, and one weekly lesson of solfeggio (kinda music theory) also of one hour.
If that sounds hard, well, it is. I was also told that I absolutely had to practice at least 6 hours a day, and make no mistake: if you are thinking of a career as a professional concert pianist for your kid, that is the absolute minimum required. I say “for your kid” because I doubt any small kid makes that decision for themselves, bar few exceptions.
However, if you are indeed thinking of a career as a professional pianist for your kid, chances are that you are already a musician yourself, music runs in the family, you went trough the same strict regime and I don’t have to tell you all that, because you already know.

Few years of such training gave me solid technical foundations, for which I am now profoundly grateful. I wasn’t back then. I certainly did not study 6 hours a day. Maybe 3, not 6. After my lesson was over, I’d be kept in a separate room to practice technique and repertoire, and if I stopped for too long, the voice of my teacher would thunder from the other room, keeping me in line and urging me to carry on. I am glad she did.

She hoped I’d become a concert pianist but that did not happen, and that’s all right. I think I quit when I was 14, when I was old enough to ride a moped and go to the beach on my own. Yes, I swapped playing piano for riding a 50cc moped. See? Still lucky 🙂

All the while I had been listening to pop music like all other kids, then one day one friend from the big city, Rome, comes to visit and he shows me some Boogie-Woogie left hand patterns and right hand licks. Stuff like this:

And I was intrigued. The energy, the happiness, the drive.
I felt challenged by this new music and by the time he came back to visit I could show him something thanks to the technique I had acquired previously.

So then as I get a little older I take a shine to Jazz, and go for few lessons with another prominent teacher in my area, who unlocks for me the secrets of HARMONY! CHORDS! On the very first lesson!

And I clearly remember thinking “Why did no one tell me any of this before”?

So I learned to improvise and accompany, and I would have school friends coming over so I could play for them, or we could all have a sing song. I was 16, and that’s probably why sitting at a piano for a small audience and have a sing song is still the most natural thing for me to do.

When I was around 18 there was this school opening in Rome where all the big heads in the circuit were teaching: they did all modern instruments, and keyboards. I study two years there, have the privilege of taking a handful of lessons with Maestro Stefano Sabatini, learn theory from Andrea Avena, practice ensemble with Tony Mimms, get a quick diploma and out I go again.

Meanwhile I get in a couple school bands, did few gigs, not too many, get my head around my first couple electronic keyboards and how they work.

Then some time goes by, I have an accident and break a bone in my right hand. I wasn’t thinking much of it, as I wasn’t really playing much back then.

Then in my early 20s I go to London, work in bars, travel, have a great time altogether and forget about the piano.

Except this one time, upstairs in one of the pubs I worked there was this upright: I have a go at it and I can still play, but my right hand feels strange. I realise the accident has affected my range of movement in the 4th finger, which is already naturally very limited. Again, I think little of it.

That is until the boss gets married and few of us bar people are put in charge of house sitting the boss’s place while he’s on honeymoon. That first night we throw a staff party in the boss’s house and look: the piano is there, it had been moved from the pub!

And like that, I was back being 16 in my living room, entertaining friends with a piano.

Emiliano Petronilli

When I came to Ireland all that experience and all that technique came in handy, as I joined few bands and started doing gigs in the cover circuit, on keyboards. As I was getting back in shape by playing regularly, I couldn’t help noticing that my right hand had problems caused by the accident which happened few years back.

So I decided to get that sorted, and thanks to the help of a hand surgeon in Rome, Dr. Palombi, I underwent corrective surgery and started a process of rehabilitation. It is also thanks to him that I am here today telling this story.

In 2010 I enrolled in Cork CSM for the degree course, which I completed in 2014. I went back to my classical roots, studied harmony and counterpoint with Seamás De Barra, and conducting and orchestration with Alan Cutts, and if I did not fix my right hand I doubt I could have taken the core piano performance modules.

Since then I’ve been studying composition and analysis privately with Mr De Barra, playing gigs, teaching, recording, and making a living with music.

All the while I faced my own strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement, and I developed a system of music practice which I share with all my students. It’s really simple: it comes down to approaching music from all angles, “Holistically” you might say, understanding music through deconstruction and reconstruction while looking at what’s inside and makes it work, aided by a good balance of patience and eagerness.

If you got this far: congratulations, you definitely have the patience to take piano lessons, and that alone can get you very far. As far as you let it.

Now that you know all about my musical journey, if you think I can help you in your musical journey, do get in touch. I’m looking forward to hearing your story.

Emiliano Petronilli