#MyMusicMaps with company co-founder Ash Charles

How did music get you to where you are now?

I started as a pianist working around London, accompanying, performing, conducting. Then I moved into production and direction. Now the focus is teaching. I’ve taken a journey, meeting different people along the way, and, like many other music professionals, I have come to understand that music education is the great mission. Teaching music and learning music encompasses all the important elements of what it means to be a citizen….collaboration, excellence, listening, resilience, determination, risk-taking, rigorous analysis, the importance of truth…it’s all there.

Why did you choose to work in music?

As a kid it was the most fun thing to do ever and that really took me a long way into the music world. I didn’t think too hard about it! Now, as an adult, music provides the most fascinating, varied and challenging work-life I can imagine. Strangely enough there was a period for me where the goal was to leave music, because I thought I might learn something from other disciplines…but I kept discovering that music contains the disciplines that need to be mastered for most other walks of life.

What advice would you give to the parent of someone learning music for the first time?

Call MusicMaps! We’re a bunch of people who care deeply about music education and we’ll talk through all your queries and concerns. As an alternative to my cheeky answer, I would say there are so many practical considerations. But to zero down on one thing here: keep in mind that the enjoyment of music is one of the single best gifts you can give your child and will form the underpinning of their understanding of the world.

Name a piece of music that inspires you and why.

I love the Goldberg Variations (especially when played by Glenn Gould) as it refreshes the parts that other variations cannot reach. It’s one of those pieces that I think can be enjoyed by anyone from any music culture and at any time in your life…and there are not many of those. If you want to enjoy it with your children, wait until bedtime, read them their story, turn the lights off and then cuddle them while you put it on at a low volume. They might think their parents have lost it, but also they will be secretly delighted.

Where is the most exciting place music has taken you?

There are so many fun moments to choose from, but my year at the Moscow Conservatoire studying piano has to be up there. It was enthralling and intimidating in equal measure. I do remember, quite vividly, preparing really quite a difficult piece (or so I thought) in one week (having done my obligatory daily seven hours practice). I had been very diligent in learning the entire piece, including the difficult passages, and ensuring I had my own interpretation, but staying within the confines of the ‘Russian school’. I had this covered. On the day of my lesson at the end of this first week, I entered the magnificent and grand teaching room. At the far end of the room, my distinguished professor of piano was waiting, with an air of nonchalance but also high expectation. She said nothing. I sat at the piano. Now was the moment to impress her with all my hard work and dedication. I reached for my sheet music moving it up to the stand on the piano. At the same time her until now passive face, became this sort of excited mix of horror and confusion. It was then I realised I was supposed to learn this monster of a piece from memory in my very first lesson and I was probably going down as ‘that guy’ who had no idea about piano playing.

What made you choose your instrument?

I’ve been lucky to have been taught by the most wonderful music teachers, but my piano teachers in particular have helped me unlock the mysteries of great composers…and taught me how to play a left-hand boogie-woogie bass line. So piano has been my go-to instrument.

What is the best piece of advice you were given by a music teacher?

That you can build a whole life on learning your scales. It sounds like that might not be true, but it is.