When great piano teaching must be recognized

In my four decades of teaching piano, I never had a student recital quite like this one. Reams of Irina Gorin’s pupils ascend the stage in Indiana at what looks like a piano store with a recital hall. (The backdrop is the Meridian Music Company’s Munger Hall) There’s a Steinway for the children to play on, and a second piano that I’m assuming is the same judging by its timbre.

A 4-year old boy leads the troupe, playing a Russian folk melody that comes straight from a Tschaikovsky Symphony. The child has been studying piano for just 4 months and already he’s at ONE with the instrument. His relaxed arms, supple wrists flow in and out of phrases, communicating a primordial connection to the music. He’s well on his way.

Another child performs a concerto movement by Peskanov as the teacher plays the tutti, orchestra part at the second piano. This youngster is a bit older, at 10. But we witness the same oneness, visceral connection to the music– easy breaths, paced, graceful motions–something that many students around the country will struggle with. Most pianists of all ages are very tense, and devote too much energy in the wrong direction–grabbing, lunging for right notes–tensing up, when they should be breathing a deep sigh of relief before they even begin to play.

This is not a fluke–or an atypical display of talent. All these children have studied under Irina Gorin using her materials that have a central theme: imbue the earliest beginners with an awareness of the singing tone capability of the piano, and teach them how to physically create it.

A 6-year old boy and his 9-year old sister perform a duet. (a tender moment)

Another 6-year old:

and her sister, 9 years old

***
Irina Gorin has something special and its not just her book, Tales of a Musical Journey. It’s what she does with it in real time, devoting herself to the development of beginning students from pianistic infancy (as early as 4) to their teenage years and beyond. She’s the rare teacher among teachers who takes very seriously the musical development of very young pupils, refusing to parcel these fledglings out to assistants until they’re ready for her. (unlike the usual caste system among teachers affiliated with prestigious music schools) I remember reams of string players who had to wait their turn to be worthy to study with Ivan Galamian. In many music schools, even with prep divisions, students have to audition for teachers. It’s a difficult ladder to climb.

Whereas, Irina, a top caliber performer in her own right, is attainable and willing to do the hard, patient work from the ground up. And sometimes, it’s not a piece of cake. To harness the energy of little ones can be a test of will and endurance.

***
Still more children, one by one, step on stage with the poise of pianists three times their age. If there is any nervousness, it’s undetectable, so noble and graceful are their performances.

Here are some additional recitalists:

A 12-year old:

Duo partners playing an arrangement of Bach’s “Badinerie” (Winners at the Carmel Arts Competition)

As a footnote to these inspiring displays by youngsters who take the piano quite seriously even at their tender age, I must admit that while using Tales of a Musical Journey with a 4-year old, I came to the conclusion, that it’s not just the book that provides a magic passageway to music learning and progress, but the relationship forged between student and teacher bolstered by a solid technical foundation. To teach with the finesse of Irina Gorin requires an understanding of the singing tone and how to produce it, at the very minimum.

An instructor of the earliest beginner should be hard at work, practicing and perfecting technique and musicianship skills all in one. Attending concerts of fine pianists on the local concert series; frequenting music teacher conventions for idea exchanges, seminars, classes, demonstrations, add up to expanding musical horizons.

There can be no stasis when teaching children. Learning along the way with our students as we, too, polish performance skills helps us become better at what we do.

We can also benefit from Irina Gorin’s teaching videos and materials, or just be inspired by her work priming the next generation of pianists. It’s time the Chinese and Russians allowed a crack in the door for Americans to squeeze through, stage center. We’re no doubt on our way via Carmel, Indiana.

Links:

Irina Gorin’s You Tube Channel

http://www.youtube.com/user/pianoteaching

***

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/if-this-is-the-russian-singing-tone-school-of-piano-teaching-then-its-a-winner-videos/

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/irina-gorins-piano-students-shine-again-videos/

http://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/24/irina-gorin-creator-of-tales-of-a-musical-journey-shares-her-thoughts-about-braving-a-new-piano-teaching-universe/

REVIEW: Tales of a Musical Journey

http://elcerrito.patch.com/groups/shirley-kirstens-blog/p/bp–my-review-of-a-creative-new-teaching-material-for6207751051<a href=" http://pianoaddict.com/2011/07/review-tales-of-a-musical-journey/http://”&gt;

http://pianoaddict.com/2011/07/review-tales-of-a-musical-journey/

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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10 Responses to When great piano teaching must be recognized

  1. Irina: This is phenomenal! How do you get young students to work this hard? Also, do you ever present at World Piano Cup in in Cinncinatti?

    Like

  2. timtopham says:

    Great blog post – thanks :) I’m keen to know how many of her talented youngsters continue their piano playing past their teen years. ie. is this method, which looks very slow and time consuming in the early stages, effective at keeping students engaged as they get older?

    Like

  3. timtopham says:

    Reblogged this on Tim Topham and commented:
    More videos showing the result of Irina Gorin’s piano teaching. The fluidity of movement in her students is very impressive and a tribute to her tireless efforts with the really young beginners in her videos. What do you think of this teaching method that puts so much emphasis on wrist movement and the singing tone?

    Like

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