Last week, I attended a three-day workshop given by Irina Gorin in Fishers, Indiana (outside of Indianapolis) for her self-published piano method, Tales of a Musical Journey. If you aren’t already familiar with Irina’s work, you can read a bit about her in this written interview I conducted with her back in 2011. I’ve been an enthusiastic follower of Irina’s YouTube channel for a few years now and have learned so much from her teaching videos. I highly recommend subscribing to her channel.
When I heard that Irina was going to offer this workshop for the first time, I knew I had to try to attend because it is so rare to have the opportunity to learn about teaching beginner piano students and I am a huge fan of Irina’s teaching approach. Most conferences and workshops tend to focus on intermediate or advanced students. I am SO glad I went, because I learned so much that I can apply to every lesson that I teach in the future. And I will definitely be using her books with more of my beginners in the future!
Irina’s piano method, Tales of a Musical Journey, is different from mainstream piano methods in many ways. I have experimented with her books only a little bit over the past year, but I am intrigued and I can see that Irina is really onto something with her approach. Irina’s books are an attempt to combine the best pedagogy from Russian piano methods and American piano methods. The Russian Piano School is much older than the American and there are definitely many time-tested principles that we American teachers can learn from.
Irina was kind enough to connect me with another piano teacher from Ohio who I could carpool and room with. Tamara and I become good friends during the workshop!
I have lots of photos to share. Irina was wonderful. She is a gracious host and we learned so much from her. The workshop took place at a music academy in Fishers, Indiana that had a large room with a piano and projector screen.
We learned SO many things during the workshop. One thing that struck me during the workshop is how deliberate Irina is in her approach in holistically nurturing an expressive technique approach at every moment with her students. Technique is not a subject covered in a separate book or during warmup exercises; technique is taught through every moment and movement the student makes at the piano. And technique is never addressed devoid of a conversation about expression. From day one, Irina’s goal with a student is to nurture the ability to express.
Another example of something unique about Irina’s books is an approach developing a healthy and expressive technique using one finger at a time (starting with finger 3, then gradually following with 2, 4, 1, and 5) instead of requiring students to play with all five fingers from the beginning. The thumb and pinky fingers are awkward and more challenging to use at the keyboard, so it makes so much sense to wait until the student forms good habits with finger 3 before branching out.
In addition to lecture-style teaching, Irina gave us hands-on feedback at the piano.
We were like sponges, eager to gain wisdom from Irina! :)
Irina helped us experience what she does at the keyboard with her students to form a healthy and expressive technical approach.
In the evenings, we enjoyed dinner together.
Amber, who lives in the Fishers area, brought us to this wonderful restaurant overlooking the water.
One evening after dinner, we visited Irina’s studio. Do you recognize this room from Irina’s teaching videos on YouTube? :)
This is where all the magic happens! :)
On the last day, we took a few group selfies before leaving for home.
Many new friendships were formed during the workshop.
Irina maintains a facebook group for teachers who are using her method books, which you can request to join here. If you are interested in possibly attending a workshop by Irina someday, you will want to join that group to receive news about any future events. Irina’s method book is always available for order here.
Thanks for reading. I hope your preparations for the new school year are going well!