Opportunities Creative opportunities Tickle the ivories with the Edinburgh Piano Meetup Group We speak to Scott Barron - organiser of the Edinburgh Piano Meetup Group about this special monthly event for amateur piano-players . . . What prompted you to set up the group? "Having taught a lot of adults over the years, I realised there were no opportunities for them to show off what they'd been learning apart from in front of family members or close friends - and, as I'm sure most people will know, families are not always the most supportive audiences! Also, the majority of people learning piano either have an upright piano or a digital piano, both of which end up in the corner of a room with the player staring at a blank wall - not great for building confidence or being inspired. The group as a whole form a ready-made audience so that anyone who is preparing for an exam or just playing for fun has an outlet. After all, why do we learn a musical instrument?" What level of playing do people need to be at to attend? "I encourage any level and every level. We have had total beginners turn up (one girl played 'Oh When The Saints' after having only five lessons - she was fantastic!) as well as some superb advanced players. I try to vary the programming so that nobody is left feeling like the 'beginner' and no-one is perceived as the 'expert'. One of the most important elements of the group is there is absolutely no judgement from anyone. You are free to get up and play whatever you like, even if it's a piece that has only just been started and you want to try it out. You get up to play for your benefit, no-one else's." What happens during the event? "When people arrive I check them in and ask whether they would like to play or not (two thirds tend to play and the rest come along to either support partners or friends or just come to listen to some incredibly beautiful music and playing). I then take a note of their piece and ask them if they'd like to play before the interval or after. Once we start I don't give anyone a 'slot', I get up and call out names fairly randomly depending on whether I think the next piece will work or not. Everyone gets up to 5 minutes to play whatever they want - every style of music is welcome and encouraged; we have a lot of excellent jazz improvisers come along and make it up depending on how they feel, or how much wine they've drunk! There are, of course, a lot of nerves but the feeling afterwards having got up and played is incredible. Again, a glass of wine or two at the interval tends to help with nerves too. There is also a huge social element to the group. Everyone is so encouraging and supportive. You will, I guarantee, leave feeling inspired." What do you think playing the piano gives to people? "The piano is an incredible instrument. Unlike many other instruments you don't need anyone else to play with as it's a harmonic instrument rather than melodic (although the piano is still capable of playing equally beautiful 'tunes'). With the right training you can manipulate it to make it sound orchestral, atmospheric, impressionistic, powerful, in fact anything you want. There is more music written for the piano than any other so the choice of repertoire is immense - you could never play everything during one lifetime. In terms of what it does to the brain, it enables you to think and concentrate on a deeper level. I sincerely believe it is capable of keeping degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and dementia at bay in later years as there just isn't enough room in the brain to accommodate it!" How can people find out more information if they're curious about going along? "I'd be delighted if people want to come along - they would be made so welcome. The group is organised through a website called meetup.com and if you visit https://www.meetup.com/edinburghpianomeetupgroup/ you'll find us. The group is called the Edinburgh Piano Meetup Group and we hold a get-together on the first Saturday of every month at the stunningly beautiful Edinburgh Society of Musicians, who have two excellent Steinway grand pianos available for us to use."