I’m Joanna García, and I’m a graduate of the University of Manchester (where I gained a First Class Bachelor of Music degree) and a postgraduate of the Royal Northern College of Music (where I gained the Professional Performance Diploma and the Postgraduate Diploma) before becoming a Junior Fellow in Piano Accompaniment and then staff pianist at the RNCM. I also worked as staff pianist at Chetham’s School of Music and taught piano at the University of Manchester before… it hit me.
Relentless, all-consuming, cold-hearted fear.
Fear of performing; fear of not being good enough. The fear struck me in the middle of one of the highest profile concerts of my life, and shook me to the core.
A few months later, the fear won. I left music altogether, paying no attention to everyone’s reassurances and support. I told everyone I was no longer playing the piano. I completed a PGCE and went into primary education, where I stayed for seventeen years. I was a class teacher from Year 1 to Year 6, and even had three years of teaching Music and English at secondary level. I was promoted to Assistant Headteacher and then Deputy Headteacher, where I led in English, Maths, Music, and whole school teaching and learning. I mentored many new and struggling teachers, and was even seconded as a senior leader to support and turn around a failing school.
But, still, a part of my heart was missing: my playing and musicianship. And it took an Ofsted inspector to remind me of this, after he observed my class music lesson during an inspection, and saw what I was doing as a leader. He told me I was a “jewel of a teacher” and that I should “never cease” in my “mission to drive music education.”
I came back to teaching piano. But, despite my musical background, I felt like I was lurching from one thing to another, not knowing what I was doing. After all, neither my degree nor my RNCM postgraduate studies involved studying pedagogy! I would get my pupils to follow a tutor book, and then, unsure what to do next, would shrug my shoulders and prepare them for graded exams. I felt they weren’t quite ready, but that I *should* be preparing them for exams. Isn’t that what you were supposed to do next?
But it just didn’t feel right. I was dissatisfied, and felt directionless and wobbly to say the least. Everything I was doing seemed amateurish and totally at odds with the passion for teaching and learning I’d worked so hard for in schools. I couldn’t even figure out how to plan a piano lesson effectively!
Then came the final straw. A student I felt I had a fantastic working relationship with told me she was stopping piano lessons, and I was absolutely gutted. Wondering how I’d failed her kept me awake at night.
I’d had enough of feeling inadequate. I embarked upon an intense four year immersion in piano pedagogy. I read, learnt, studied. I joined professional development groups; tried things out; carried out case studies with pupils from my studio. I signed up with a pedagogy and business coach; I observed teachers, read and wrote articles; took piano lessons again myself.
And then some kind of magic happened. My piano school seemed to fly! I gained over five thousand followers on social media practically overnight and, unable to meet demand for lessons, interviewed and took on a wonderful team of associate teachers.
But that wasn’t enough. I started teaching more and more piano teachers and advanced pianists, and still they asked for more. Not just the opportunity to develop as pianists in their own right, but for guidance and mentoring with their teaching and learning.
Truly I can say, hand on heart, that I have never been more fulfilled in what my life’s work is than now! Why? Because it brings together my three main loves: music, teaching and learning, and teacher professional development. I am committed to raising the profile of the music teaching profession, so that it’s not just an elite club of highly qualified musicians looking down on others who are equally passionate about music education. Now my aim is to bring together all music educators through support, challenge, love and inclusivity, guiding them to scale up their skill-base and professionalise their work so that they feel empowered and joyful in their teaching.
THAT is the way I feel I can have the greatest impact and continue my mission in music education. See, I was listening!
And, perhaps because I’ve known that debilitating fear, and because I’ve felt that imposter syndrome too, I am best placed to support YOU too, and to cheer you along.
Let’s do this….together.
“I cannot recommend Joanna highly enough. Before I started my lessons I was scared to play in public and felt embarrassed when playing expressively. Joanna has given me my confidence back and inspired me so much that I now play in church. She has boundless energy and ideas and is always well prepared for my lesson. She provides a safe space where it feels like no note is ever a wrong note. Her coaching style is relaxed and informal which means no questions are stupid. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for her teaching and coaching.” - Nina Hodgson
“Joanna develops high quality musicality through mentorship, her professional example and her supportive coaching style. Joanna instils self-belief, technical excellence and the freedom to express and explore my path as a musician. If you get the opportunity to work with Joanna - take it; it will be the best choice you have ever made for your musical goals.” - Phil Shooter