Composer of the month of June…Irina Gorin!
Irina Gorin was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and holds Masters Degrees in Piano Performance, Piano Pedagogy, Chamber Ensemble, and Accompaniment. She comes from the “Russian School of Piano Playing” known for its impeccable technique, musicality, and the strict discipline required to follow this method. After moving to America, she noticed drastic differences in the teaching styles of teachers in Ukraine vs. America. This spurred her to develop her own teaching material for beginning piano students which combines the best of the musicality, careful listening, and technical skills emphasized by the Russian school with Western ideas, along with Irina’s creative, imaginative stories. Irina is also the founder of Carmel Klavier International Competition and Festival for Young Artists in Carmel, Indiana (just completed its 4th annual competition). This competition is open to competitors of any nationality between the ages of 5-18 years.
One of the reasons I wanted to learn from Irina in person was that I had seen her many Youtube videos showing her young students playing with musicality and relaxed body movements, and wanted to know her secrets to success in teaching so many successful students. Her students consistently win prizes in local and international competitions, and go on to continue advanced musical education and teaching. She is one of the few teachers who shows how she handles various challenges in a piano lesson. And she doesn’t always show successes; many times she shows the struggles her students go through in learning how to play the piano. She creates playlists of students so you can follow their progress over time. She shows endless patience and creativity in explaining and teaching young children, and I have used many of her ideas in my own teaching. Here is a video of her introducing the use of the pedal to a student. Notice how she emphasizes correct motions and careful listening with slow and clear instructions:
Workshop in Fishers, Indiana
In the summer of 2015, I went on a 9hr roadtrip from Toronto with a couple of other curious piano teachers to Fishers, Indianapolis, Indiana, to spend a few days at a workshop led by Irina.
Irina was leading a multi-day workshop for teachers, and we were all excited to learn about her methods and ideas. We were the only Canadian teachers, (everyone else was American), but many came from all across America, from Texas, to Florida, etc. It was a fantastic time learning from her (and she learned from us too!) and the workshop was small enough that she was able to spend time with each of us personally, and we could receive feedback on proper technique and relaxation of the wrist and arms and body. Below is a group photo:
Tales of a Musical Journey
This series is the culmination of her years of teaching young beginners, combining the best of Russian and American schools of methodology. Tales of a Musical Journey is written in the style of a chapter book and parents are encouraged to read the stories to their children about characters in the Magical Kingdom of Sounds including King Meter, Princess Melody, Fairy Musicalina, Wizard Metronome and Prince Rhythm.
Book 1 introduces concepts such as a freedom and flexibility of all upper body parts, tone production, patterns of black and white keys, directional reading and the musical staff. Since reading is not introduced until halfway through the book, students begin with listening and developing correct movements first. These basic skills set a solid foundation for musical playing.
Book 2 continues developing technical skills with more emphasis on articulation an reading notated music. Both hardcopy books come with CDs (USA only) with digital options for digitally downloaded books or books sold outside the USA. Although both books are geared toward younger beginners (4-6yrs), the concepts are applicable to any beginning student and transfer student.
I highly recommend exploring Irina’s Youtube channel, and her two method books “Tales of a Musical Journey” to new ways of developing musicality and a solid technical foundation in any piano student.