Rena Slavin is a music educator, aspiring musicologist, and pianist.
Rena’s musical training began at the Pre-College Division of the Manhattan School of Music, where they studied with Sheryl Canellakis from 2005 to 2015. While in school, Rena performed in several New York venues, including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, and Alice Tully Hall. They performed in the Lincoln Center Young Musician’s Concert and served on the board of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society’s Student Producers.
Rena continued their piano studies as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago. They graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and Economics in June 2019. Their senior thesis, Commemoration and Nostalgia in the Music of Mikael Tariverdiev for ‘Seventeen Moments of Spring’ earned them departmental honors and the Leonard B. Meyer Prize for Musical Excellence. Rena hopes to pursue their interests in Soviet musical traditions and film music in graduate school.
Currently, Rena works as a teacher at Stellar Music Space, where they give private piano and violin/viola lessons. They are also teaching on a freelance basis and performing as part of ReSonance Duo with flutist Rebecca Schifilliti. When Rena is not practicing, thinking about practicing, or reading about music, you might find them studying a foreign language or enjoying one of New York City’s many wonderful parks.
I improved so much through these lessons and have a new appreciation for music. They are an incredible teacher, and so knowledgeable about music theory and history.
Amazing instructor - best I've ever had! Incredibly patient, friendly, and easy to communicate with. Also very reliable, organized, and receptive to feedback. I made more progress than I ever thought I would.
Rena (RJS) is the most engaging, enthusiastic, and hard-working teacher I have ever had. As a student entirely new to piano, RJS helped me overcome all of the obstacles of actually beginning the journey, staying focused, and committing to practicing. For students anywhere on the spectrum of skill, I cannot recommend these services highly enough!
I really enjoy my weekly lessons with Rena. She is always looking for ways to take my playing to the next level. I also get a lot of music theory background, which I appreciate!!
I like to meet prospective students for an initial consultation (free) to get a sense of what their current level is (if any) and what their goals are. This is an informal chat and mini-lesson that usually takes about 30 minutes.
I started teaching piano lessons as a hobby while in high school. I am grateful for my informal start in teaching because it led me to formulate the philosophy that has guided my pedagogical approach ever since. Not being glued to rigid, predetermined methods allowed me to see how my students learned best. Today, I continue to go into each lesson with a flexible mindset and I see my job as helping students achieve their goals, not mine. While it is important to have clear, organized long and short-term plans, I remind myself daily that my work as a teacher must be motivated by my students’ objectives.
The greatest difficulty in teaching is that students often practice in a way that does not align with their established goals. It is my job to reconcile the practice method with the long-term objective of the student. Unsurprisingly, students who have agency in the process of learning the piano are more motivated and successful. When choosing repertoire, I never force students to work on pieces they dislike, and I would never value the allegedly proven fundamentals of piano technique more than I value my students’ sense of fulfillment and their love of music.
While at the University of Chicago, I continued to teach and had a studio of fifteen private students by the end of my senior year. I have experience teaching all ages and levels, from children to adults and from absolute beginners to advanced pianists. I also have group teaching experience from my time as a teaching assistant at the Great Neck Public Schools Summer Enrichment Program. During the summers of 2014-16, was assigned to Beginner Strings, Intermediate Strings, Jazz Band, and Chamber Music classes where I assisted students individually, coached small groups, and led larger ensembles.
Beyond logistical questions (budget, purchasing an instrument, lesson location & scheduling, etc.), you ought to think about why you want to learn to play your chosen instrument. Learning a skill as multi-faceted and expansive as music takes time and energy. You have to truly want to learn to remain motivated. Think about how much you can commit and be up front with the teacher about this. I am happy to work at any intensity level; I have students who practice hours per day and others who can only do 5 minutes. The important thing is that you are honest with yourself and your teacher about how much you can do and what you want to achieve.