Cecilia Xi – Doctorate APD(distinction), PGDip RNCM(distinction) BMus (Hons)
Cecilia Xi gave her first pubic piano performance at a Chinese university at the age of four and music has been the primary focus of her life ever since. Cecilia was trained at both the Shanghai and Tianjin Conservatoires in China, where she gained her Bachelor’s degree of performance with the highest mark of her year. Following this, Cecilia was awarded a scholarship to continue her postgraduate study in Britain at the Birmingham Conservatoire, where she gained a Postgraduate Diploma with distinction, followed by a Performance Doctorate Diploma with distinction. She was then offered a further scholarship to study at the Royal Northern College of Music, graduating again with the highest piano recital mark that year. During her studies she has won numerous awards and performed in master classes for internationally renowned pianists including Andras Schiff, Peter Donohoe, Alexander Melnikov, Nelson Goener, Vanessa Latarche and fortepiano specialist Malcolm Bilson.
Cecilia performs regularly throughout the UK and Asia. As well as tutoring at several institutions, she works as a solo, chamber & orchestral pianist and competition adjudicator. She recorded for China Central Television as part of the country’s New Year celebration concert which is, alongside other of her performances, repeatedly broadcast on the network. She performed in major venues including the Chinese National Stadium, Tianjin Symphony Hall, Tianjin Opera Theatre, Qingdao Concert Hall and Shanghai Opera Theatre. In the UK, Cecilia has held a series of recitals and chamber concerts in major cities across the country including Birmingham, Manchester and London. She has worked as an accompanist for Birmingham Conservatoire’s vocal classes and the RNCM’s string department. Most recently she was invited as a soloist for the Birmingham Chamber Orchestra’s final concert. As a solo and orchestral pianist, she has also played with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Tianjin Symphony orchestra, RNCM Symphony Orchestra, her recording of Haydn works has been issued by the BBC, alongside the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
Darren Leaper – MMus RNCM, BMus (Hons), LGSMD Rec. Cert. (Hons)
Darren started lessons at first on the organ and began performing in concerts across the UK from an early age. At a national Organ event held at the Bedworth Civic Hall, Darren was billed as being “the 10 year old wonder boy.” At fifteen Darren became the youngest person in the country at the time to gain the LGSMD Recital Certificate for Organ.
Piano became Darren’s major focus at college, and he was subsequently enrolled into the Birmingham Conservatoire where he studied with British pianist and music scholar Simon Nicholls. Darren performed in master classes for internationally renowned pianists such as Mikhail Kazakevich, Nelson Goener, Murray Mclachlan and Peter Hill and went on to win the Conservatoire’s ‘David Brookes Piano Prize’. After graduating from the conservatoire Darren was offered a place at the Royal Northern College of Music to study a Master’s degree in music performance. The acclaimed Russian pianist and pedagogue Dina Parakhina was his principal piano tutor. As well as performance, piano pedagogy also became a major interest of Darren’s and formed a significant part master’s portfolio; his research and work gained him a Master’s distinction in the field.
As a performer Darren has performed throughout the UK and abroad. Notably he has recorded live for BBC radio 3’s ‘Discovering Music’ programme, in which he played both Steinway and period pianos in an exploratory discussion of the piano’s historic development. He has performed at the Birmingham Symphony Hall as part of their ‘Art of Piano’ event, organised by the British pianist and broadcaster David Owen-Norris and has worked with sections of the CBSO in their educational outreach programmes.
Through the influence of both Simon Nicholls and Dina Parakhina, Darren has developed a great personal passion for the works of the composer Alexander Scriabin. He has conducted considerable research into the piano performance style of the composer and has produced an extensive dissertation on the subject, as well as performing many of the composer’s works himself in concert programmes. Along with Cecilia he has recently founded the Scriabin Association. His article “A Recorded History of Alexander Scriabin’s Piano Music: From the Composer as Pianist, to his First Pioneers at the Moscow Conservatory to Present Day” is to be published across the April and September 2015 EPTA international piano journals.
Darren is now in demand as a piano teacher, adjudicator and performer, and tours regularly with Cecilia as part of their piano duo.