Demanding the best from herself and her students

“I don’t know what’s so interesting about me,” Tina Yanchus said.  “My job here is to help each individual achieve their own goals.  I love teaching.”

Yanchus is a professor in the master’s program in piano at the Don Wright Faculty of Music at the university.  A teacher at Western since 1999, Yanchus said teaching wasn’t always what she wanted to do.

“I wanted to perform,” she said.  “I wanted to become a very good pianist.  I only started teaching to pay the bills.”

Yanchus, a Guelph-native, teaches alongside her husband and performance partner, James Hibbard. The two, known as the Yanchus-Hibbard duo, collaborate to offer their students a wider range of feedback. 

“It’s good for the students,” Yanchus said. “We coach each other’s kids so that they can get two points of view.”

Yanchus, a graduate of the Juilliard School in New York, said it’s what she learned during her time there that she tries to reiterate to her students.

“It takes many years to learn how to teach,” she said.  “Even then you never know everything.  I studied under Jacob Lateiner during my time (at Juilliard).  He was a great pianist.  What I learned from him inspired the way I teach today.”

Yanchus is a hands-on teacher, said Denise Jung, a student of hers.  Yanchus doesn’t tell students what she wants to hear.  She knows what she wants to hear and shows the student how to play it.

“She’s demanding. She has high expectations. But she gets great results,” said Jung, who has studied under Yanchus from age 4.

Now 29, Jung gives Yanchus credit for getting her where she is today – a second-year student in the master’s program for collaborative piano at Western.

“She really cares about the progress of her students,” she said. “A lot of the work I do now, I learned from her. She never looked at the clock. The lesson was over when I made progress.”

Yanchus devotes most of her time to teaching. An average day includes around seven hours of teaching along with two hours of practice, Yanchus said. Even though she doesn’t perform as often as she used to, she said the practice is still important as a teacher.

“I practice because it’s good to remind myself of what students go through in their performances,” she said.  “It can be very stressful performing.”

And yet it doesn’t stop her from performing from time to time as part of the Yanchus-Hibbard duo.

“Performing takes a sort of physical and mental energy,” said Yanchus. “Nobody pays you to practise. We are privileged to do something we love. It has rewards beyond monetary value.”

Yanchus’ passion for music has transcended to her children.  Her daughter Laura, 40, followed in her mother’s footsteps and obtained a Master’s degree from Julliard.  Although her son Mark, 38, became an anesthesiologist, Yanchus said he still loves playing music.

“Mark played viola while he was in medical school,” said Yanchus.  “Once a year he rents a hall in Oregon so that Jim and I can visit and play for him and his friends.”

Mark and Laura are only part of what Yanchus says is her greatest accomplishment.

“It’s my kids – my own as well as my students,” she said. “My students love it and want to be there themselves.  In many ways, they inspire me.”



Story originally published by Western News


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