What inspired the Joan Dickson Chamber Music Fund?

Joan Dickson was a founder member of ESTA (UK) and, as its first vice-chair, had a profound effect on the direction of ESTA (UK) in its early days.

She was born into a very musical Edinburgh family, and throughout her childhood friends and family members gathered regularly to enjoy playing together, fostering her lifelong love of chamber music. She became internationally known as a cellist, an inspired teacher and a chamber musician of distinction: she was a founder member of the Edinburgh Quartet and later joined the Scottish Trio.

Her pioneering involvement with ESTA stemmed from a deep concern for fostering the highest possible standards in string teaching at all levels. At ESTA courses and similar events she preferred to call her classes “workshops” rather than “master classes”, reflecting her unpretentious attitude to her role as teacher and facilitator. Her influence was widespread and embraced conservatoire, private practice and peripatetic class teaching both at home and abroad. The sound musical logic of her interpretations was conveyed through her wonderful use of the bow as well as her mastery of the fingerboard and her book ‘Freedom of the Fingerboard’, a collection of exercises which she was persuaded that cellists at large would also like to adopt into their practice regimens and which was originally published by ESTA UK and now by Spartan Press, is always in demand.

Joan taught for many years at both the Royal College of Music and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music & Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and her presence and dedication to teaching greatly enhanced their status. At the RCM her students received a balance of one-to-one and group lessons, as she believed they could learn so much from each other’s lessons. She was endlessly supportive of her pupils and colleagues and was passionate about introducing young players to the world of ensemble playing at whatever level and wherever situated. She always had a number of younger pupils under her care as she believed that the most vital lessons are those taught in the first year. In 1965 she was awarded the Worshipful Company of Musicians’ Medal for Services to Chamber Music.

She undertook any activity with great energy and commitment, expressing the competitive side of her character on the golf course, in croquet and table tennis, and becoming an enthusiastic computer user when they were still in an early stage of development.

Joan combined a serious, honest, no-nonsense approach to life with a youthful energy and a surprisingly girlish sense of fun, all of which made her a natural choice for the teaching faculty of ESTA summer schools and conferences.

It is a mark of the respect in which she was held by the chamber music world that the first of the series of fund raising concerts which raised the initial £26,000 from which JDCMF bursaries are awarded was given by the Endellion Quartet.


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