Jane Hammond, Pianist
‘Jane Hammond’ sounds like a classic English name, connected perhaps to piano playing by the suggestion in her surname of the Hammond organ. However, her journey to study piano performance at the very highest level has been anything but straightforward.
Her Russian mother met Jane’s father, an exchange student from Ghana studying engineering, in St Petersburg when both were students there. Jane was born in London, lived in Ghana until she was three, and then in Russia until she was fifteen, attending a Russian music college in Nizhny Tagil, a city close to Yekaterinburg in central Eurasia, five hours and five thousand kilometers from London. There, towards the centre of the continent, the temperature drops to minus 30 degrees C in the winter and is hot in the summer. Jane sang to a very high standard in music school, particularly enjoying jazz, and also danced competitively. She started playing the piano when she was six and began playing seriously when she was twelve, deciding to be a professional concert pianist when she she was fifteen. Her piano teacher in Russia, Ludmila Zelmanovna, is Jane’s inspiration and in Jane’s view still the strongest influence on her playing.
She became a student at Thomas Tallis School in the spring of 2013 by sitting at the piano in a school practice room and astounding the gathering of music teachers and students by playing Moskowski’s Etude in G minor, fingers hurtling effortlessly up and down the keyboard. After playing for Derek Rodgers – Head of the Junior Department at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama – Jane was immediately offered a fully funded place on their Saturday school program, studying piano with Michael Schreider.
Aside from being a regular performer at Thomas Tallis and at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Jane has also performed for the Royal Greenwich Instrumental Gala at Blackheath Halls, at St Martin in the Fields as part of their ‘London’s Finest’ lunchtime concert series, and performed Bach partitas at Eltham Palace on their Bechstein for the ‘Do the Right Thing Awards’. Whilst performing to this standard she also found time to work towards a Distinction in Dance, an A in Russian, and an A in Music.
Tallis has a concert grand, a Hoffmann, purchased in 2014, and Jane practiced on this fine instrument during school hours so much that it had to be retuned rather more frequently than originally planned! However, she also needed a good quality instrument for further practice at home. Jane lives with just her mother in a small flat. She and her mum aren’t well-to-do and the rental piano she was using was both too expensive to be afforded (at almost a thousand pounds a year) and not really the right quality for a player of Jane’s calibre. So, supported by the school, Jane got in touch with the Greenwich Music Trust in May 2015 asking for help in sourcing a practice piano of the right standard so that she could prepare for auditions later in the year. News quickly came back of a piano owned by the Trust in a local primary school, a Knight upright with the right action and tone, which was serviced, tuned, and delivered in short order. Jane was both excited and delighted to have access to this quality instrument.
Jane’s dedication to the piano is reflected in an extremely disciplined work ethic and so the Greenwich Music Trust’s piano was used in every spare hour to prepare for the highly competitive London Music College auditions, causing some friction with a few others in her block of flats. Her immediate neighbours were very happy to have a concert pianist next door, but others made representations to the housing association and she was forbidden from practicing after 8 p.m. or at the weekends, much. Hence, arrangements were made for her to use Tallis’s concert grand out of hours to make up this lost time. Staff and students heard the results of her dedication at a recent lunchtime recital at Tallis which saw Jane performing a thrilling and highly ambitious programme of Bach, Chopin and Prokofiev.
Those who witnessed this performance will be delighted but not surprised to hear that Jane has just been awarded a place to study piano at The Royal College of Music from September 2016. The RCM is the acme of professional music education in Britain and to obtain a place there is a truly remarkable achievement.
Exciting times lie ahead for this gifted young musician. The name Jane Hammond is one to look out for in the future.
Jane would like to express her appreciation to staff at Tallis, to the Greenwich Music Trust, and to Michael Schreider, who between them let her prepare superbly for her successful audition.