"We have lost not only one of the most influential piano teachers of our time, but a loved member of our publishing family."
Faber Music composer and author Dame Fanny Waterman has sadly died at the age of 100.
Dame Fanny Waterman occupied an eminent position in the piano teaching world for over sixty years. Her emergence as a visionary teacher led to relationships with many internationally renowned pianists whose lives she touched through her work. She became most well-known for founding the world-famous Leeds International Piano Competition in 1963 with Marion Thorpe, then the Countess of Harewood and her husband, Dr. Geoffrey de Keyser.
Born in Leeds in 1920, into an artistic family in impoverished circumstances, her prodigious musical talent and sheer determination was her passport out of hardship, leading to recognition as one of the most talented young pianists of her generation. She studied with Tobias Matthay and later as a Scholar at the Royal College of Music, London, with Cyril Smith.
After a notable performing career, she felt that her real vocation was as a teacher. Her extraordinary success and position in the piano teaching world stemmed from her concentration on security of technique placed at the disposal of imagination and musicianship.
Dame Fanny Waterman’s catalogue of piano books is published by Faber Music, including the legendary Piano Lessons series with Marion Harewood and best-selling beginner series Me and My Piano, which have sold millions of copies worldwide and inspired countless generations of young pianists.
For many years, she was a highly sought-after jury member of international competitions including the Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Horowitz, Hamamatsu, Chopin, Bach, Vina del Mar and UNISA. Several of her students were prize winners in the Leeds, Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, Busoni, London, and Geneva competitions.
In recognition of her services to music, Dame Fanny was awarded the OBE in 1971, the CBE in 1999 and in 2005 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She was also awarded Honorary Doctorates by the Universities of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan and York and was a Fellow of the Royal College of Music.
For nine years she served as Vice-President of the World Federation of International Music Competitions from which she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. Earlier, in 2001, the Incorporated Society of Musicians bestowed on her its Distinguished Musician Award for her outstanding contribution to music in this country.
In 2004 Dame Fanny received the Freedom of the City of Leeds, the highest honour the City can bestow and, in 2009, was to be invited to become President of the esteemed Harrogate International Festivals. Dame Fanny was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2010.
In 2015, at the age of 95, Dame Fanny retired as Chairman of the Leeds International Piano Competition, becoming its Life President and Founder Director Emeritus, and she also published her autobiography, Dame Fanny Waterman: My Life in Music. Even then, she continued to involve herself in music education through projects such as Young Audiences, Live Music Now! and the Harrogate Festival, explaining that ‘you’re born with a passion for music and it never leaves you’. She received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence in 2016.
Author and friend of Dame Fanny, Alan Bennett described her as, ‘not someone to be trifled with! She is a phenomenon and she is unique.’
Richard King, CEO of Faber Music, said:
“Dame Fanny has been a part of our company since its inception. We have lost not only one of the most influential piano teachers of our time, but a loved member of our publishing family. First published in the late sixties, her piano tutors (Piano Lessons and Me and My Piano) continue to be bought and used worldwide by thousands of teachers and pupils today, testament to the timeless principles and meticulously structured repertoire behind her piano teaching method. Our hearts go out to Fanny’s family and loved ones. We will also miss her deeply.”