Regina Syrkin has been with the Community Music Division for 17 years,
almost from its beginning. During that time, her students have won
prizes and received high honors in local, regional and state
competitions including numerous gold medalists in the CAMTA
Sonata-Sonatina Festival and winners in the DePaul Concerto for Young
Performers. She continues to mentor some of Chicago’s most promising
young pianists while playing chamber music and engaging in her favorite
leisure activity, traveling all over the world.
Q. How old were you when you first started playing piano?
I was six years old. My mom was a piano teacher so I had no choice. Seriously.
Q. What did you study in school?
There were two schools, a regular school and a music school. At first
they did not accept me into (music) school because the only thing I
could sing was a Bb scale. I had a 45-minute piano lesson twice a week
and an hour of solfege. Once I reached fourth grade they added an hour
of musical literature and choir. We also had three recitals a year, but
instead of cookies afterwards you got a grade. Parents were not allowed
Q. What did you do after your general schooling?
I attended four years of Musical College and five years of
Conservatory. After I completed my degrees I went back to the college
and taught for ten years before coming to the States. December 14, 1990.
I started teaching for DePaul Community Music Division in 1992.
Q. What was your first impression of music in America?
The music scene in Chicago was great for me, it was so enriching. The
repertoire in the concert halls and opera houses was much more broad. I
saw a lot of musicians I never thought I’d hear. Very rarely would we
have a chance to listen to foreign performers in Russia because they
would not come to all the cities.
Q. How would you describe your approach to teaching?
I try to keep tradition alive. It has to be continued. I show my
students how to work. It’s expected that they not only learn the piece
but about the composer, the style, the technique; you have to study in
depth and not always with the fingers. I try to find balance between
different aspects: reading, technique, having fun, whatever it is. It’s
important to choose the correct repertoire for every student. We discuss
what’s difficult, I give exercises and we work on what the student
wants to say. After understanding what the composer put in, you add from
the inside of your soul, five percent of your own.
Q. Have you been able to keep up a performance career?
I don’t play recitals and concerts because I have a lot of students. I
can’t see a way to combine both. Performing would occupy my whole mind
and right now my mind is occupied with students and their progress and
development. I do play in some chamber groups. I’ve worked a lot as an
accompanist with string players and know almost the entire repertoire.
Q. Are there any composers in particular that you admire?
Prokofiev. He’s rebellious.