Date of Birth: 8th October, 1984
Star Sign: Libra
Main occupation: Music Educator
Media-related occupation: Pianist
Gisèle Grima was born in Malta and was exposed to the performing arts from a young age, when her parents encouraged her to take up dance and piano lessons. In 2003, she won the Ian Tomlin Napier/Malta Scholarship which enabled her to read music at Napier University, Edinburgh.
She graduated in 2006 and was selected to further her postgraduate studies at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester. Some of her tutors are Nicholas Ashton, Lauri Väinmaa and Paul Roberts. After her studies at the RNCM, she decided to return to Malta in 2009 and has since enjoyed a busy career as a musician, accompanist and educator.
What drew you to the piano?
The interest started from a young age when my tutors and parents saw that I held an affinity for music, and I enjoyed the solitary and disciplined practice time that learning an instrument entails. It was when I turned 18 that music became a priority in my life and I was ready to enthusiastically take on any opportunity available. As my studies progressed, I became more inspired thanks to the tutors and performance experiences that crossed my path. I also think that attending concerts and building new music collaborations have served as an inspiration in one way or another.
What’s it like to travel around the globe distributing your piano performances?
I feel privileged to have travelled and performed in a number of countries already. It’s always refreshing and enlightening to perform to a foreign audience, and this comes at a huge advantage to Maltese musicians. Being so small, Malta does have its limitations and challenges in terms of performance spaces, varied audiences and repeating repertoire. So taking any performance or programme overseas and presenting yourself to a new audience is certainly an inspiring and culturally invigorating experience. It also poses its opportunities and challenges in building new networks and making your mark.
You are one of the few musicians in Malta to hold a Fellowship of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music in piano performance (FRSM). What does this really entail?
The FRSM in performance is the highest diploma granted by the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music. The diploma is designed to cover areas of performance, musicianship skills and research. It’s made up of a major recital of 60 minutes, a written submission, an oral exam and a quick-study test. At this level, musicians are expected to have excellent communication skills and the ability to articulate knowledge through performance, orally and in writing. The competence to perform previously unseen music is also thoroughly assessed. Given the very high standards of the ABRSM, this one was the toughest I’ve ever sat for.
What support systems would you like to see for the local music scene?
I’d like to see more support for young student musicians who are keen on taking their music and performance studies seriously. Sadly, there are many people who think that studying music and learning an instrument should merely be a hobby. While there is an incredible amount of academic pressure on students to succeed, people forget that music is a subject of equal attainment and actually goes beyond academic achievement. It’d also be great to see more performance opportunities for students. Somehow, the calendar programmes of regular student recitals are lacking on the island and it’s these young musicians who need performance experience more than the professionals.
What’s been your biggest failure to date?
In the music world, there will always be moments of experiencing failure on some level. Rather than failures, I like to think of these as negative experiences which have helped me gain a better sense of self-awareness and persistence. Where performance is concerned, a musician’s job can rely heavily on individual skill, and there will be many times where self-criticism can dictate what you think is successful or not. It’s not always easy to be 100% pleased with a performance, and I would be lying by saying that every concert I’ve given has felt like a great success on different levels. There’s never enough one can improve on, and evaluating a performance is crucial in understanding one’s own musical development. I’ve also made wrong decisions but have thankfully learnt from my mistakes.