Esther Cohen, the creator of Ebony Music, has been helping children to enjoy playing the piano for over thirty years.
Esther’s main instruments are piano and voice, although she also plays organ, saxophone, clarsach (small harp) and violin. Having studied social science at undergraduate level at Strathclyde University, Esther received her piano teaching diploma (LGSM) from London’s Guildhall School of Music in 1986. Continually seeking to develop her understanding of music teaching, Esther was awarded a Master’s degree (MA) in Psychology for Musicians by Sheffield University in 2003, for which she conducted original research into the work of teaching children to sight-read on the piano.
Esther has five children and is married to Archie McLellan, who also teaches the piano. Having taught both privately and in schools for many years both Esther and Archie remain successful, busy, full-time piano teachers in their home.
In her spare time, as in her professional life, Esther has great enthusiasm for a wide range of interests. Describing herself as a “dabbler”, Esther enjoys word games, cooking, sewing and knitting, exploring Britain, cycling and walking, reading, the theatre, and listening to music, especially choral music and vocal jazz.
For Esther, the Ebony Music books are a natural extension of her love of teaching: “When I see a need for music that a pupil could use, I enjoy creating it.”
In addition to all the music she has composed, Esther has written two books. One is about her childhood in Glasgow in the fifties. Click here to see it on Amazon. The other is a rhyming version of Little Red Riding Hood illustrated by Abigail Elwell-Sutton. Click here to see it on Amazon.
Archie was brought up in a large family in the north west Highlands of Scotland. There was always music in both home and school; an eclectic conglomeration from unaccompanied Gaelic songs to Beethoven Symphonies – but not much Elvis or Cliff!
It was classical piano music which intrigued him most; this spark was fanned into a flame when Thomas Wood, an insurance manager from Manchester, visited the area on holiday with his family every year. Thomas could entertain the guests in Archie’s parents’ hotel with his piano playing in all styles, never with a note of sheet music, and even on occasion accompanying singers in songs he didn’t know without sheet music or rehearsal.
And so, when he went to secondary school Archie started formal piano lessons with a fanatical zeal and a frantic desire to make up for lost time. Later he studied for four years at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow (now the RSC), gaining diplomas in piano teaching and performing and also (externally) from the Guildhall School and Royal College of Music. After graduating, he taught in the Junior Dept of the RSAMD for 22 years while becoming a piano instructor in primary and secondary schools, both state and private, for 38 years.
Throughout this time he also taught privately, in time forming a joint teaching practice with Esther Cohen, his wife. Having trained in the Suzuki Approach/Method for two years he came to value the involvement of parents in their children’s piano lessons and the use of recordings to assist young pupils in their practice.
In 1994 he began computer music typesetting and solved at a stroke the problem of the illegibility of his wife’s music handwriting! Together they evolved a 24-volume piano course which reflects their belief that teaching the piano has little to do with helping pupils to pass exams but about helping them to achieve the technical, theoretical and musical foundation on which they can build a lifetime interest in playing the piano, be it jazz, popular, classical; be it solo performing, accompanying or just playing for one’s own pleasure.
He has not forgotten his childhood mentor, Thomas Wood, and the magic he conjured for his listeners.