Allan Chen – Boston University

‘What Michael has showed me is that music must be expressed by what you have experienced in life, and one cannot express what one has not experienced – that is why it is important to have those other things in your life while understanding that to be a musician, music is a discipline.’

Having been taught by Michael for many years, I can look back and see that, in terms of teacher student relationships, it has been an awesome, one of a kind experience. I only started with him in music theory training, and I can remember really enjoying his classes – the work was taught and approached in a way that was enjoyable, new, relatable to my other daily activities and, in so doing, the class was made fun. Michael, no matter what he is teaching, approaches the subject with interest and also makes the students interested in the subject. Every student differs and I find it amazing how Michael finds some way to tap into each individual’s personal interests, relating those interests to the piano playing or music knowledge that that person is learning.

Michael has a very eccentric personality, which is no way a bad thing. It definitely adds to his teaching style and his random outbursts of comical frustration, in some weird way, makes the student feel more comfortable. One would think that eccentricity has a high possibility of putting off people, however this does the opposite. In fact, it is so welcoming and joyous that other students, who aren’t taught by Michael, enjoy chatting to him, know who he is, even smiles when his name is mentioned. I can see this in my own friends who were never taught by him. His personality grasps, not only his students, but the people around him – it adds to his relationships with his students: still the disciplined teacher-student relationships but at the same time a comfortable environment that promotes healthy teaching and even mentorship.

Having had my brother being taught by him, I saw a very close relationship build between them. Healthy teaching relationships aren’t always available and, often, bad relationships can occur. However with Michael, people see that he captures the student’s interests, not only in the music room but also outside it. People are lucky to be taught by him, as the friendliness is evident, yet the results show that even with this mentoring nature and welcoming environment he is still disciplined in teaching. Not always having been taught by him, I can say that, in comparison to my other teachers, he has definitely made a mark on my teaching – No other teacher has promoted such an open environment for expression, which I think is essential to music making, and no other teacher has kept relationships and interests going even after he has taught me.

For me, and I am sure for others, Michaels teaching style suits me very well. I look to enjoy what I’m doing, excel for personal achievement and really expressing the music through a deep understanding of the score and relating it to things in my own life, for music is my gate to emotional expression. Michael’s vast knowledge of musical history combined with his great example of a captivating performer, he becomes a source of knowledge and inspiration. These qualities add to his teaching and gave me exactly what I was looking for. When I can’t understand something, Michael seems to get through to me through understanding my own emotions with the piece, giving his insight that is marked by his musical knowledge and experience.

I regret not having started the piano earlier so that what Michael and I could work on, repertoire-wise, could have expanded. However, now studying at Boston University, I don’t have access to this wonderful way of teaching that I see others have experienced too through Michael, but in one good teacher, one always looks and hopes for teachers that are just as good, always understanding that they will not be the same but knowing that they are out there. What Michael has showed me is that music must be expressed by what you have experienced in life, and one cannot express what one has not experienced – that is why it is important to have those other things in your life while understanding that to be a musician, music is a discipline.