Hellene became a piano teacher, moved to the US in 1993 and two years later founded "Little Mozart", a developmental music program. She started a music studio where she used her music program to teach her students. Later on the program was adapted into a computer software called "Soft Way to Mozart". She is also the director of the "Do Re Mi Fa Soft" company, which has been approved by the State Board of Educator Certification as a provider of Continuing Professional Education activities.
Were you always fascinated with the piano or did you consider other musical instruments?
When I was a child, I was very fascinated with drums and cymbals, but my parents never supported my hobby, even though I tried to practice only when they were asleep (I am joking). Piano is a unique tutor of music basics. It trains melodic and harmonic ear and rhythm at the same time. Piano is the best starting point of music education. If every child would be able to play piano and read music, other instruments would be more appreciated.
What age did you start taking piano lessons?
When I was 6 or 7 years old, I became a friend with one Russian family. They had a baby and a piano. I fell in love with both! One day a hostess jokingly told me "We have decided to sell you the baby and piano for a reasonable price!" I ran home feeling so excited! But my parents found money just for the piano. They all laughed afterwards, but I was stuck with the piano for many years and had no choice but to go to music school.
Who were the most influential people in your life as far as being a pianist is concerned?
My grandfather was the most influential for me. Once he was a sailor of the Baltic Navy and participated in storming Winter Castle in the 1917 revolution. All his life he regretted that he never had a chance to learn how to play piano and read music. He showed me how to play "Dog's Waltz" (something similar to 'Chopsticks'). He was the one who took me to music school for lessons. Sometimes I was not happy with him for being so enthusiastic, I ran away and hid somewhere to have play time instead of piano. Now, when I think about my Grandad, I am very thankful that he gave me music education.
What was the most memorable advice a music teacher gave you?
My beginning in music study was not very glorious. I didn't understand much, I hated tedious drills and I was not happy with my teachers, because I thought they caused me all these troubles. Should I mention that my teachers were not very happy with me either? But in 5th grade I got the ability to hear perfect pitch of every sound. I also got a new teacher. She was so fascinated with my music potentials and so determined to make me successful, that one day I found myself practicing piano for several hours with great pleasure and joy! After my graduation at the music school with honors this teacher recommended me to become a professional music educator. I guess, this was the most memorable advice a music teacher gave me.
Any advice for parents who are looking for a music teacher for their child?
I am a parent myself. My daughter is going to be 20 in March. I think, music education is the best thing that ever happened to her. She never pursued the career of a professional musician, but she became an educated music lover. Ability to play instruments (she later learned accordion on her own) saved her from a lot of troubles and now she is getting to a great place in life.
My advice to the parents would be to take music education seriously. Be present at your child's piano lessons, get involved and see if the child is making progress and being happy. If not, never hesitate to look for another teacher! Many people quit piano lessons if anything goes wrong from the start. It is a very bad idea. Music literacy is a life lasting skill. If your children is musically illiterate, they are not enjoying life to the follest, in my opinion.