The first thing I try to teach my students is the love and understanding of music … Many of my students stay with me for a very long time … this is something that can be explored for decades“I consider myself an idealist when it comes to teaching music. I give myself completely as a person and as a musician. The first thing I try to teach my students is the love and understanding of music,of understanding different styles. Many of my students stay with me for a very long time because this is a process for learning for the rest of your life and because music is something that can be explored for decades. It never ends. When students fall in love with music, as I do through the piano, then we learn how to create. So creativity is an important part of what we do together and this is why students who stick with me for a long period of time produce such a level of playing.
My piano class consist of students of all ages and levels, from children as young as five years old, to amateurs, to diploma students, to professional pianists. With the young beginner, I use a combination of books. I try to get them to sing with the piano, sing without the piano, to make little phrases. I don’t obsess about the reading of the notes. I repeat the same things over and again; singing up the scale together, “A B C D E” and other methods so they connect with the keys. It’s a very gradual process of learning. I say to them, “If you play the same thing at home over and over, and you look at the music and you also look down at the keyboard, it will gradually just come”. The progress depends on the child and how much they practice. I have a rule for children that they must practice 20 minutes per day, and if they don’t do it, they have to make it up. Some do and some don’t!
During the lesson, at some point I stop the piece and ask them to name the notes they’re playing. I always teach them if they don’t recognise the written note, they have to work it out. I don’t want them to feel frightened that they don’t know the names, I teach them that they simply need to stop to work it out.
Teaching children is not an easy task and it requires much patience. The brain in the child is small and they are leaning several simultaneous processes; to play (mechanical finger movement), to have the co-ordination, to read music, to look up and down … many different processes combine when they are learning. This is demanding on the child and if you try everything at once it won’t happen. So we build very gradually and steadily.
Theory is an important part of learning to play. Even during the shorter lessons, I find a way to integrate theory, I’m doing it all at once so it’s a combined process. As students progress I encourage them to memorise; musical memory is so important. And when they know the work from memory, they can look down and learn about the space. But of course I have to make sure that their reading skills continue to improve. I do this by changing pieces regularly and integrating sight-reading.
And then when they become teenagers and go through many changes that are hormonal, for example, it can become a different story. Sometimes a student will have taken many grades but then during teenage years become unsure, and that can worry me. So, to keep them engaged I try to encourage my teenage students to explore non classical music and often we switch to a completely different style, either something trendy, or something they’ve heard and want to learn – and that’s how I keep them going.” (Marina Petrov was speaking with Markson Pianos Composer in Residence Lola Perrin)
Marina Petrov was born in Kiev and raised in Belgrade. At the age of 18 she won an award to study at the Moscow Conservatoire. She is based in London where she has also established a unique piano teaching practice. Connect with Marina Marina Petrov and Maya Jordan are the founders of Around the Globe Piano Music Festival, for all ages and standards, next taking place in London November 20th, 2016