Ken with the grand piano he use for his face-to-face and online classes. / SUR

'Some of the world's greatest pianists have been blind'

Music. Ken Ecury has developed a technique to teach piano to people with visual impairments which he is using with a seven-year-old student

JENNIE RHODES

Ken Ecury has been teaching piano in Malaga since he moved to the city in 1995.

Born in Aruba, one of the islands that make up the Dutch Caribbean, Ken, 71, has always been musical.

He started playing the accordion at the age of six and then moved on to the harp when he became fascinated by the instrument thanks to a neighbour in Aruba who was a harpist. It wasn't until much later that he started playing the piano, which he confesses was always his "true passion" and the instrument he had wanted to play as a young boy.

Before his travels, however, Ken left the island to pursue his education in Amsterdam, where he studied political sciences. He went on to do a Masters and PhD in Mexico.

It was with his harp that he travelled extensively around Mexico, the USA and Canada with other musicians and he reveals that travelling with a harp wasn't as logistically difficult as it sounds.

In 1983 Ken returned to Aruba where he left his musical life behind, temporarily, to focus on building a business and with a background in five languages, took advantage of the growing tourist industry on the island, opening a chain of pizzerias and even owning petrol stations.

However, his passion for music never really faded and after 10 years building a business empire, he sold off everything to go back to his art. It was then that Ken returned to Mexico where he spent two years learning to play the piano.

In 1995 a combination of "intuition" and needing to care for his ailing father brought him to Malaga, where he has stayed ever since. With the help of his wife Susana, who is also musical, Ken has built up a business of teaching piano to students both locally and internationally.

He admits that it was really during the lockdown at the start of the pandemic that the international demand grew, with students from as far afield as Chile and Taiwan. "Many of them have carried on and are still with me now," he says.

He has a studio complete with a grand piano and classroom in Cerrado de Calderón in Malaga where he divides his teaching time between face to face and online classes.

"I love teaching piano to people of all ages," the musician admits and says that his work is very "satisfying." He is able to teach in English, Spanish, Dutch, German and French and not only does he teach his students how to play the piano, but also how to compose music.

Braille technique

One of his newest students is Alejandra, a seven-year-old girl who is blind. Ken has developed his own technique for teaching people with visual impairments how to play the piano, using a simple method of notes and Braille.

Ken admits that he doesn't read Braille himself and explains that with his technique he doesn't need to. He started to develop the technique, which he has named 'Enkanto', in 1997 when he met his first student with a visual impairment: "Antonio Romero was my 'eyes' for the blind method I developed," the music teacher explains, adding, "The reason why I call the method 'Enkanto' is 'Enk' from Ken and 'Anto' from Antonio.

Ken says that the pair met several times while he was developing the technique and asked Antonio if he would "read/see" what he was doing. "Based on that, it helped me correct some details. Now that I am committed to teaching my new student Alejandra, I am purifying the system in order to make for easier reading. This method is not only for the students, but it will make it much easier for the teachers to teach blind students, from day one," Ken explains.

He says that through the technique, as well as Alejandra's "excellent ear for music and memory" she has learned to play a number of complex pieces and "plays beautifully". Ken points out that some of the greatest pianists have been blind including Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles.

He also organises concerts to give his students the opportunity to perform and the next one will be taking place at Finca Pay Pay in Chilches at 7pm on 2 July. One of the musicians will be Alejandra. For further information visit: www.pianoseminar.com