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I love teaching! I have come to regard it as my raison d’être and have found it to be invaluable in helping me to grow and mature as an artist.
It is precisely the sharing of musical concepts found within teaching that brings both the teacher and the student closer to the internal depths of a musical work. One can deconstruct the various elements of a piece into its diminutive fragments, which can later be recomposed and reinvented as if one had intentionally edited them, as Roland Barthes once opined in A/Z.
My Teaching Philosophy
It is a fascinating journey to uncover relevant knowledge about art, literature and aesthetics as it applies to the compositional writing style of the time. However, this is only so valid as long as the epistemological quest never overshadows the original intentions of being able to pragmatically and persuasively convey this knowledge to a student. On the other hand are the compositional criteria, which include relevant observations in the areas of harmonic orientation and destiny, contrapuntal & rhythmic relationships, melodic inflection, and structure.
According to Joseph Hofmann, great pianists are like “skilled artisans” who have an expanded “chest of tools” available at their disposition and know precisely which tool to use when. My own recollections of the most admirable and uplifting experiences in the classroom occurred as a result of teachers who successfully sensitized me to the tools of their very own toolboxes using carefully articulated ideas and suggestions – teachers who at the same time enticed me to engage in probative thinking. Most importantly, these ideas were conveyed in a manner that could be easily understood and put into effect, without ever having to resort to the use of unilateral doctrine.
I am greatly indebted to the many books I have read on the topics of music philosophy, pedagogy and the various essays that introduced me to important theories about historically informed performance practice, which ultimately laid the foundation for my current teaching methods. Some of my favorite reference books include, Schnabel’s Interpretation of Piano Music by Konrad Wolff, Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments by C.P.E. Bach, Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: A Short Companion by Charles Rosen and The Art of Piano Playing by Heinrich Neuhaus.
I believe that one of the greatest challenges in teaching is to ensure an optimal level of engagement between the teacher and student in an effort to bring out the student’s maximum potential. A teacher should remain adaptable and responsive to the unique learning requirements of the student, in accordance with their distinctive learning styles (auditory/tactile/kinesthetic/visual) and present abilities.
For example, I believe it is futile to teach a student a late Beethoven sonata (i.e. Sonata in E major, Op. 109), if he/she has had little exposure to the astounding structural developments that already took place during the “early” and “middle period” of his compositional writing. In this case, a study of Beethoven’s sketches together with his middle-period string quartets may prove to be a useful and practical way of helping the student to grasp important concepts related to Beethoven’s compositional mind frame at the time.
My Musical Training
My professional musical training over the last two decades has spanned a wide range of musical genres and styles. It has also equipped me with a host of ancillary skills in the areas of sight-reading, arranging, chamber music, conducting, composition, physiology, performance psychology, improvisation, recording, historically informed performance practice and the ability to work constructively with composers.
During my studies at the International Piano Academy Lake Como in Italy under the tutelage of William Grant Naboré, I gained exposure to an incredibly diverse range of teaching traditions including proponents of the Russian school (Dmitry Bashkirov), the French school (Dominique Merlet), the German school (Andreas Staier & Claude Frank), the Polish school (Fou Ts’ong) and important aspects of hand & arm physiology as they relate to piano performance. The Peabody Conservatory exposed me to the Schnabellian tradition of piano instruction under the tutelage of Leon Fleisher, resulting in the performances of the complete Preludes & Fugues from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (Books I & II) and the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas in a collective project with other students.
In 2007, I completed my Master’s Degree in collaborative piano performance at the Guildhall School of Music in London where I accompanied many singers and instrumentalists. My commitment to working in a variety of musical settings has been a continued source of inspiration and the primary driving force of my teaching experience. During my residency at the Guildhall School, I taught piano and coached singers at the undergraduate and graduate level as a Guildhall Fellow, teaching students how to place a work within its literary, historical context while studying strict, compositional criteria in great detail. I also helped pianists solve technical problems in their playing using my understanding and knowledge of hand physiology and body language.
Since the completion of my formal studies, I have continued to teach privately and given lectures and lecture recitals in a variety of academic settings on unique topics, such as The Role of Technology for Classical Musicians in the 21st Century, A Rising Incidence of Hand Injuries Among Pianists and A Treatise on Oppression: Jewish Composers Banned by the Third Reich.
My Musical Language
Aside from the external influences of my childhood upbringing and my exposure to various teaching traditions, my musical language was shaped by a vast set of principles that govern the many philosophical, aesthetic and psychological aspects of music performance.
Like the poles of a magnet, the dichotomy of interpersonal versus extrapersonal pursuits has formed a powerful synergistic motive that has been the driving force of my musical language.
On one end lies the endless quest in search for the following criteria:
- An in-depth understanding of the relationships between pitches and the perception of sound.
- The psychology of piano performance as a creative means of expression.
- The discovery of lesser-known composers whose works beg to be acknowledged and performed.
On the other end, lies the perceptible communication of music to a broader sphere, in which the performer plays an active role of bringing the music to life. This module requires a panoply of pianistic skills that make it possible to transmit the illuminated ideals of a composer’s intentions. This includes, but is not limited to, an understanding of hand physiology, articulation, fingering, pedaling, body language and visualization.
What The 2015 Year Holds In Store
Over the years, I have been the recipient of numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts (CCA), The Adam Mickiewicz Foundation and the W. Reymont Foundation, which have helped me to develop and hone my pianistic skills, while allowing me to pursue the repertoire of lesser-known composers. In 2014, I received a special grant from the CCA for the research and promotion of exiled composers from the early 20th century, including Szymon Laks, Karol Rathaus, Józef Koffler, Władysław Szpilman, Viktor Ullmann, György Ligeti, György Kurtág and a selection of Polish composers who studied under the tutelage of Franz Schreker in Vienna during the 1920s.
Consequently, the 2014-year was an introspective year spent in quiet reflection that allowed me to uncover new repertoire, while devising new and interesting concert programs for the upcoming season. Furthermore, I will pursue further collaborative work in 2015 with eminently distinguished musicians I have had the pleasure of working with in the past.