For Ancuta Nite-Doyle (MMus Perf 2009), studying at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland was a life-changing experience. From equipping her with the tools to succeed as a performer and educator to making friends for life, the Romanian pianist looks back on her studies with great fondness.
Now she and husband Quintin are using their skills, contacts and even their home to fundraise for South East Europe’s leading hospice care charity. Ancuta is also a driving force behind the only residential course dedicated to amateur pianists held in Scotland. Time to go Under the Spotlight”¦
Tell me how you became involved in fundraising for Hospices of Hope.
AND: I became aware of Hospices of Hope in 2008 when I was asked to turn pages at a concert by the incredible French pianist, Thierry Huillet, and his Romanian wife, violinist Clara Cernat. They were raising funds for the charity and I was introduced to its founder, Graham Perolls, who asked if I would like to help. I had received generous sponsorship during my education in Scotland so it felt like the perfect opportunity to give something back. That concert opened my eyes to the difficulties other people face.
Does this charity hold a special place in your heart?
AND: During the summers of 2012-2015, my husband and I were very lucky to be part of the volunteer team at the charity’s Casa Sperantei Hospice in Brasov, Romania. Those were incredibly humbling weeks, working and playing with children with life-limiting illnesses who never stopped smiling. We also met the adult patients and assisted the homecare teams. The work the charity provides, not just through its palliative care but also education, is inspirational and creating change at a national level by influencing the Romanian Government policy on pain relief. In the UK, more than 90% of the population have access to palliative care but in Romania, it’s less than one in ten. To see this level of care and professionalism was something I knew I had to champion.
Tell me about your fundraising plans.
AND: This is the tenth year we have been fundraising for the charity and so far we have raised more than £15,000, mainly through our annual piano and cello recitals. This year I wanted do something special to break through the £20,000 mark. I asked my musical friends, many of whom are RCS alumni, if they would be interested in putting on a short concert in our house, hoping I’d be able to host around ten concerts. However, so many wonderful friends and family asked to be part of these concerts, we will in fact be hosting twenty concerts between February and December! We opened the Stonehouse Sessions for Hospices of Hope with a wonderful performance of Schumann’s Dichterliebe from Phil Gault and Claire Haslin, who are both part of the RCS staff team. We have incredible people in our lives. If anyone is interested in attending any of the future concerts, please get in touch via email.
How big is your living room?!
AND: In the summer of 2017 we moved to a converted church in the village of Stonehouse in South Lanarkshire. The main living space is formed from the body of the church and has a wonderful acoustic. We always wanted somewhere where we could play and perform for and with our friends and this certainly ticked that box. It also gave me the opportunity to upgrade my piano to a beautiful Kawai GX-2!
Looking back on your studies, how did you enjoy your time at RCS?
AND: My six years at the Royal Conservatoire were absolutely wonderful. I had so many opportunities to develop as a pianist, participating in brilliant masterclasses and concerts with world class musicians like John Lill and Pascal Roge. I was also lucky to be offered an ABRSM International Scholarship and the Stevenson Scholarship. My teachers were incredible, full of encouragement and always offered so much support. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to learn so much from them.
Studying at the RCS was a fantastic experience – life changing. As a student I didn’t want to waste the opportunity and I practised a lot. There was always something to work towards and I even had the chance to perform with the RSNO in my fourth year, which was a really memorable experience.
Who did you study with?
AND: I studied with Graeme McNaught, Fali Pavri and Aaron Shorr. I’m delighted that I can count all three as very good friends and colleagues.
How did RCS help equip you for your professional career?
AND: The experience I gained at RCS was invaluable. The excellent performing opportunities helped build my confidence and I feel very lucky to have had so many wonderful experiences. I still remember winning the Mozart Concerto Competition playing the Jeunehomme concerto, when I always thought that the most difficult composers to play well were Mozart and Bach.
After graduating I have continued to perform as much as I can, both as a soloist and in chamber music recitals. My RCS education gave me the ability to juggle a career in performing and teaching. I have taught in the RCS Junior department for nine years which I adore. The children are so dedicated and, like my work with Hospices of Hope, this gives me the opportunity to give something back to the RCS.
What was Glasgow like as a place to study?
AND: I loved studying in Glasgow. Few people believe me but I thought the weather was perfect. I remember Romania being too cold or too hot when I was growing up and the Glasgow climate was a happy constant! The city is also blessed with so many amazing cultural institutions. I supported my studies by working part time at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall which gave me tickets to as many concerts. I also met my husband in my final years at the RCS so it will always be a very special city for me.
How did the Ardtornish Piano Retreat come into existence?
AND: We started the Ardtornish Piano Retreat in 2016 as the only residential course dedicated to amateur pianists held in Scotland. The RCS always encourages their students to be innovative and develop their own ideas – the project was born from this aspiration.
How does the course take shape?
AND: Ten ”˜retreaters’ stay with us in the stunning Ardtornish House in Morvern, Lochaber, where they take part in lessons, masterclasses and concerts. Kawai UK very generously supplies pianos for the retreat and we are very grateful to the support of Martin Smith at Peter Smith and Sons Pianos for delivering them to such a remote part of the country. The participants are generally from Scotland however some have travelled from Austria and Singapore, such is the appeal of a piano-only week of learning and relaxing.
In 2017 we introduced a series of public concerts which were received with great enthusiasm by the local community and our opening concert was given by RCS Associate Head of Keyboard, Fali Pavri. It was a great privilege to present my teacher to the retreaters and to have such a marvellous performance to start what we hope will be an annual event. In 2018 Graeme McNaught will be joining us to open the season and we are hoping to invite Aaron Shorr in 2019.