I was lucky to meet a person who was like a musical father to me.

A great performer and artist himself, he inspired us, young students, with his passion, love for music, larger than life personality and rare combination of intuitive and extremely precise intellectual approach to music.

His name is Vladimir Nielsen and I had a great fortune of meeting and studying with him at the St. Petersburg Conservatory.

In celebration of his 100th birthday and his legacy I performed at Maly Zal of the St. Petersburg Philharmonia in the fall of 2010.

This trip put a great deal of life events in perspective and made me think of what all those years of teaching have meant to me.

I hope I have become a better teacher by understanding limitations of my students as well as my own, and, in spite of that, asking them (as well as myself) to strive for more.

Nielsen used to say: “One cannot be taught but one can learn,”

I love talented students who are hungry to learn, who are idealistically aspiring to rise to the highest level of musical accomplishment.

I love to share my experience with them, to discover the most truthful and honest reading of the composer’s intent. I feel it is my obligation to instill in them responsibility to the great composers and their masterpieces that endured time, editions and recordings. I also understand that it is essential to let go of your “ego”, for the sake of music. The paradox is that when a student’s goal is to discover the language of a particular composer, that student often finds his or her own voice.

It is an old cliché that teachers learn from their pupils. What a lesson in humility working with students can be. Sometimes I find that I have played a piece for a long time, so long that I am sure I know it. Then I teach it and see it as if for the first time, through the eyes of a student. I may feel something intuitively about a piece, but when I must examine it in order to explain it to a student, alas, I may realize how much I have missed.

It is very gratifying to watch those young artists grow and come to their own, to the point where teacher is no longer needed.

The older I become, the more I understand timelessness of my teacher’s philosophy, and the more I appreciate his gift to me.

Nielsen’s philosophy and  his artistic example, as well as great help from my friends, gave me the inspiration to create a summer piano festival in Sag Harbor, NY where his tradition continues...

Vladimir Nielsen plays Schumann's Waldszenen, Op. 82