Once I got to play with other musicians it became clear to me that my classical music education had given me a considerable amount of keyboard technique compared to those who had found their way into the amateur jazz scene without a proper musical grounding. And when the challenge came to play the songs of artists like Chick Corea I had to work really hard to match the speed and overall dexterity requirements of this music. I knew what I had to do!
So, I resumed my classical music studies, revisiting one of my high school-era music teachers in Pretoria, followed by some master classes with Avril Fasser, a fine pianist whom I had encountered in some of the music eisteddfods of my youth. She gave me valuable insights into how to best interpret and perform the pieces by Beethoven, Schubert, Bach and Chopin which formed the prescribed work for the Trinity College of Music's A.T.C.L. Teachers Diploma which I subsequently obtained.
During this time I taught classical music at a nearby high school - individual classes for children between the ages of six (beginners) to late teens (Grade 7) - and used the opportunity to prepare for the L.T.C.L Performers Diploma. Sadly, when the time came to commit to the examination I did not consider that I was sufficiently prepared (I was struggling with the last movement of a beautiful Schubert Sonata, and for the life of me could not get the Chopin Etude up to the prescribed speed).
But it was not all classical music alone. Johnny Fourie had introduced me to the ideas of Nicolas Slonimsky, an American musicologist who described a series of scales and exercises featuring permutations and combinations of note sequences framed around what he termed the ditone and tritone progressions amongst others. Then, to make things worse, Johnny hit me harder with George Russell's Lydian Chromatic Concept!
I set about merging all of this stuff with my practice program landing up with, in addition to the standard diatonic and diminished scales, a series of pentatonic scales drawn from the major and minor tonalities and slogged away for hours, practicing in groups of three, four, five, six and seven. I then associated each of the seven major and minor scales with the modes, rigorously learning each one on each degree of the scale. It took a month of working four hours per day to complete one cycle of the practice program!
In the end it all bore fruit in that melodic and harmonic consequences of these efforts are all embodied in my compositions and improvisations of today.