Since we are very isolated as piano teachers, nurturing one-to-one relationships with our students for months and years at a time, we sometimes forget that there are other teaching universes beyond our own with repositories of ideas that may enrich the learning environment. One example, is the cosmos of Irina Gorin’s studio in Indiana. I’ve been following her You Tube videos and was specifically drawn to these teaching examples that resonated with appeal:
My comment: While this basic hand position is an essential for the beginning student, I tend to teach more flexibility, particularly when an advancing student is playing a combination of black and white keys with large leaps that require hand/finger adjustments, for example broader, longer feeling fingers, not restricted by the ball paradigm. I teach finding a center of gravity, and patterning groups of notes. Nonetheless, when you have a true beginner, the ball, or ripe plum analogy works well.
The dead weight arm, supple wrist drop:
I love Irina’s use of the hair band as a perfect way to teach the total, relaxed arm drop with flexible wrist. I had to wait 6 years into my own piano study to acquire a teacher who worked with me in this way, minus the hair accessory, though her points were well taken. In the area of tone production, alone, this dead weight arm drop with supple wrist goes a long way to imbue the singing tone approach to the piano. Bravo, Irina! And much gratitude goes to the late Lillian Lefkofsky Freundlich, my beloved New York City teacher. If this is the Russian school of piano playing/teaching, may it continue to thrive and produce more generations of music loving pianists.
Swinging arm from side to side:
Irina aced it here, teaching the relaxed arm swing from side to side, and not hugging the body. This going with the flow motion nurses beautiful phrasing, and in concert with the arm drop and supple wrist produces a gorgeous singing tone, molto cantabile.
Teaching Staccato to a Beginner:
This is a riveting approach that imbues the follow through wrist motion that is so pivotal to beautiful phrasing. I love how Irina’s uses the “frog” as a picturesque example for motivating the spirit of short, crisp, detached notes.
Later today, I will use the hair band and arm swing teaching tools with Nayelli, age 10, and put up on you tube.
In a few weeks, if not before, I will start teaching Rina, only 4, who has had considerable Music Together classes. We will use Irina’s materials, (Tales of a Musical Journey) and I will videotape parts of each lesson as we move along. (Teaching students under 6 or 7 is not my usual preference, though I’ve been impressed watching Irina work sensitively and effectively with this younger age group)
Thanks again to Irina for sharing her dynamic and creative teaching strategies with students, parents, and teachers throughout the world!