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"When I was about four or five years old, growing up in the Soviet Union, I remember my parents listening to Enrico Caruso and Mario Lanza in one room, and at the same time my older brother listening to Blood, Sweat and Tears, Chicago, and the Beatles in another room. [Laughs.] I really had this kind of double music world from the very beginning, but it was so natural to me. And I think this was a really great thing—it opened my ears to every type of music."
"I try to do the same thing for my students in my counterpoint, traditional harmony, and composition classes. I give examples of compositions from different styles, genres, and centuries. We can listen to the music of Tchaikovsky and Puccini, followed by examples of Stevie Wonder and Queen. It makes a really big difference to hear great music from different eras—it's like an awakening. I hope to make them start thinking, 'Oh, this is really interesting. I want to learn more about it.'"
"Often students get inspired by what they hear, and afterwards want to go create something. I'm always happy when students say to me that they want to incorporate a particular counterpoint into a composition they're working on. I think this is the rewarding part; you see interest, you see development, you see curiosity, you see everything that is so necessary for a musician. To put that excitement into a student—it makes my day!"
"When I teach, I try to remember when I was a student. I remember that it was difficult for me. I then try to explain from this point of view, to make each part understandable. When teaching the principles of music theory, if the students miss one link, then it's very difficult for them to continue on to the next step. I think sometimes the subjects that we're talking about are not immediately understood during class, but they click later."