Welcome to the official website of Sasha Valeri Millwood




Millwood performing at Madingley Hall -- photograph courtesy of Gregor Forbes

University of Glasgow

Millwood is currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant in Music at the University of Glasgow. In the 2016–2017 session, he taught on the Aesthetics and Philosophy of Music course, devising and delivering a lecture, leading a seminar and small‑group sessions, and marking coursework. In the 2017–2018 session, he will be teaching on the Opera course.

Private teaching

UPDATE (August 2015)

Due to my research commitments, I am unlikely to be able to take on new pupils, except for occasional or one‑off lessons. If you would like to be added to my waiting‑list, please contact me.

I offer tuition in the following:

I can also offer more general musical coaching, including for ensembles.

I teach from my home, in Brentwood town centre (a short walk from the High Street or from Brentwood railway station).

Teaching is not about telling the pupil what to do: it should involve attuning him/her to perceive his/her own strengths and weaknesses, and to appreciate the demands of the music. In practice, this means that the teacher must resist the temptation to simply point out errors and immediately cite the "correct" solution; instead, the teacher must draw to the pupil's attention the erroneous matter at hand and guide him/her (with a few carefully chosen words and gestures) towards understanding for himself/herself what he/she needs to do, and why. It is my belief that a pupil learns far more by spending two minutes scrutinising an issue that the teacher has brought to his/her attention, than by being told in two seconds, "X was wrong; it should be Y".

Pianoforte teaching

Discipline and thorough planning are vital to making progress as a pianist. However, this should neither be taken to entail interminable scales, nor depriving performances of spontaneity. On the contrary, it is my belief that equipping a pupil with a robust technique is ultimately a means to an end: achieving a security and certitude that will enable him or her to give confident and spirited performances (which may well be paratactic in nature), unhampered by nerves.

Another vital attribute I try to cultivate is restraint. The overwhelming majority of pianists, myself included, will, at some point, manifest a propensity to play excessively loud and/or excessively fast; surmounting these temptations will always be an ongoing struggle, so they need to be addressed early.

I expect my students to practise between lessons, on a decent instrument. I am prepared to advise on how to go about purchasing or hiring a pianoforte for the home, or, if that were impracticable, obtaining regular access to an instrument in non-domestic premises.

I recommend lessons of one hour (or, for very young pupils, forty‑five minutes) — this is because my teaching method involves in‐depth examination of issues, whereby the pupil is challenged to work out and understand solutions for himself/herself, a process which necessarily takes longer than simply barking instructions (which, a week later, will have been forgotten) at him/her.

Composition teaching

Whilst I am strongly opinionated in my creative outlook and interests, it is not my aim to produce a stylistic clone in a composition student. Indeed, it is my belief that the best composition pedagogues are those whose students have gone on to embark in radically different directions from each other.

Such diversity notwithstanding, there is much to be said for cultivating a highly disciplined approach to acquiring the rudiments of writing music, entailing a rigorous and graduated study of harmony and counterpoint alongside intrinsically creative endeavours (of course, it would be simplistic and counterproductive to construe "theoretical exercise" and "creative endeavour" as mutually exclusive: many of Bach’s greatest works were theoretical experiments in the possibilities of counterpoint). Many of the most subversive and revolutionary composers possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of music theory (most notably Schoenberg, who wrote several treatises thereon), and there is some veracity in the cliché, that "you need to know the rules before you break them".

I expect my students to draft compositions by hand; computer software may be used to prepare fair copies, once a thorough grasp of the rudiments of music engraving has been attained.

Music theory and analysis teaching

I can teach general music theory, including figured bass, to abilities from the complete beginner to degree‐level, as well as specialist topics including fugue and pitch‑class set theory.

Music theory is an integral facet of performance and composition, as well as being a fascinating, provocative, and intellectually locupletative discipline in its own right. It is often lauded for its elucidatory potential, ameliorating our capacity to appreciate patterns and phenomena in music, thus enhancing our musicality, from its practical demands such as sight‑reading and memorising to the mysterious art of interpretation. Whilst mindful of this, I believe that there is far more to theory and analysis than simply clarifying that which is readily discernible: the study (and application) of theoretical discourses is also locupletative as an end in itself, one which can sometimes elicit contradiction and subversion, as opposed to simply complementing other approaches. Analysis is at its most fascinating when it reveals that which we cannot readily hear.

A crucial facet of understanding any theory is an awareness of its limitations and bias: notwithstanding the highly quantitative — arguably scientific — systems that certain theoretical discourses utilise, the methodology and underlying assumptions leave much scope for subjectivity. Furthermore, it is always important to consider the manner and means by which an approach may be reductive, and observe that which is omitted as much as that which remains. Such considerations can be illuminated by reference to aesthetics, philosophy, and musical context.

Mathematics teaching

Although I specialised in music at university, my research interests include pitch‑class set theory, a highly mathematical taxonomy of music analysis. I hold General Certificates of Education (A‑levels), with A* grades, in both Mathematics and Further Mathematics (having studied C1–C4, FP1–FP3, M1–M3, and S1–S3 — yes, that is thirteen units!), and also qualified for round 1 of the British Mathematical Olympiad, twice (in the December 2008 paper, I scored 26 — only one mark short of what was needed to qualify for round 2).

As with music, my teaching approach involves encouraging the pupil to discover the solution, through the judicious use of leading questions: often, an inflection of the voice or a deliberate pause can be sufficient to draw a pupil’s attention to a mistake or omission in his/her working, although it can sometimes necessarily take a lot longer, especially when it requires a concept or formula to be explained or reiterated. By forcing the pupil to think (and not place too much reliance on the calculator) and physically write for himself/herself, I hope to instil in him/her a thorough understanding capable of prevailing against the intense pressure of an examination.

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