My background is with the Russian School of Music Education and Piano. Music schools in Russia are
highly professional, follow a single syllabus and are tightly regulated in terms of subjects, exams and
time frames. All the teachers are government accredited and responsible for the teaching and learning
outcomes of their students. The Russian School emphasises correct technique, hand position and posture
through technical exercises to develop what A.B. Michelangeli calls, ‘The hand that obeys the intellect’.
By teaching theory, music history, and the structure of music, the Russian School cultivates ‘imagination’
enabling students to explore the world of artistic and expressive ideas.
Pillars of Teaching
The First Pillar of Teaching: Discovery of Beauty
Beauty leaves a lasting impression and the discovery of beauty can awaken the spirit. The first time I
heard Chopin’s piano Concerto N1, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I needed to learn and
possess this music, which I was able to do when I studied at Kuznetsk Musical College and Saratov State
Conservatorium of Music. Listening to and studying music allows us to experience beauty as well as the
joy of learning. My understanding of beauty and how I apply this to my teaching is in line with one of my
favourite philosophers, Aristotle, who defines beauty, ‘as a form of order and symmetry’.
The Second Pillar of Teaching: Knowledge
This is very simple. A teacher without knowledge has nothing to pass on, while a student without
knowledge can’t pass exams. I agree with both Sir Francis Bacon who said that, ‘knowledge is power’
and Descartes, who taught that true knowledge comes only through the application of pure reason. Reason
and logic must not be overlooked. In music they are called good Musicianship. Piano is a musical
language that needs to be understood to be played well. To make my lessons with young musicians
productive, I always include musicianship.
The Third Pillar of Teaching: Simplicity and Systematic Approach
As Albert Einstein said, ‘If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’.
Using a systematic approach to piano studies is absolutely essential. Every new level is built upon the
foundations of the previous level. Motor skills take time to develop properly and I teach them in parallel
with musicianship. My young beginners learn roughly 300 small pieces and exercises as they progress up
to Level 2-3. While that may sound like a lot, it’s not because they learn so fast and easily. In every
lesson, they learn something new that builds on what they have already mastered.
Establishing self-discipline is important in any study, but crucial for developing skills in piano. Practice is
vital for supporting newly learned skills and practising no more than 10 hours after lessons is necessary to
enhance the learning. The quality of practice is also important, and I describe deep productive piano
practice as: paying attention, focusing, mindful repetitions, connecting, building, entire body awareness
while playing, attending to mistakes, repeating again and again.
The Fourth Pillar of Teaching: Consistency
Developing and using both a syllabus and curriculum that are organised in a clear and consistent manner
are important tools in teaching. However because I understand that every student is different, I am
flexible in my approach. This ensures that the student’s needs and the teacher’s approach are consistent
and always working together.
The Fifth Pillar of Teaching: Independence
Ultimately, the goal of teaching is to guide students to the point where they don’t need the teacher
anymore. For this to occur the teacher and the student must be in constant two-way communication. A
teacher is not only a source of information, but also the one who is able to draw out the students’ ability to
think for themselves and objectively evaluate their own practice and performance. As my favourite
philosopher Socrates says, “I cannot teach anyone anything, I can only hope to make them think”.
Piano is also a tool for developing character, as it takes perseverance, grit and resilience to do well. As a
rule, mental toughness becomes second nature for a well-trained musician, who must perform consistently
under stress and pressure.
For me, the legacy is a measure of the quality of teaching. I feel certain of that and I work hard to make
sure that my legacy continues. While some of my students are now successfully running their own
studios, others have gone on to the Sydney Conservatorium and many are accomplished pianists. See
Testimonials for their views on our time spent together.
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