/Stamford Music News/

Northeast Student

“The Advocate”
Tuesday. May 18. 2010

STAMFORD — In a brightly lit corner of the Blumers’ living room, a young pianist worked patiently to achieve the sound and meaning Franz Liszt intended for a passage of his “Waldesrauschen (Forest Murmurs).”

“Seth, this has to be dreamy,” said Svitlana Fiorito, 34, as she wrote a note on sheet music propped up before her student. “Everybody is going to sleep. The trees, the animals, the beasts, they are all sleeping.”

Carefully, Seth Blumer, 11, adjusted his play, extending his fingers and slowing his pace as his teacher gently lifted his right hand to direct his fingers to the keys, making sure he played with the proper pressure and duration.

This Sunday afternoon practice was a study in Seth’s attention and dedication to the instrument he has been playing since 5 years old, seriously since he was 7. To a casual observer, his first run-through of the piece, which appeared to be flawless, made it easy to see how he has received first-place honors and gold prizes in many competitions, including the recent Young Pianist Competition of New Jersey.

It also was an example of the skill that earned him a chance to play at Carnegie Hall.

But for this Northeast Elementary School fifth-grader, the Sunday session was a chance to get the piece just right and ready for the special recital he will be performing at his school at 7 p.m. Friday. The program also will feature a jazz composition “Daytune Blues” by Stratford resident Joe Utterback, as well as other classical music pieces, including those from Beethoven, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Bach and Chopin.

Seth, who aspires to be a concert pianist, said he hopes his peers, their parents and members of the school and larger community will participate in the concert by buying tickets to help raise money for the school’s music program. Seth plans to donate 100 percent of the proceeds, which he hopes tops $10,000.

Seth sees it as his way of giving back to his school and helping others pick up a new instrument. He recalled once learning that a classmate was unable to play cello because the school did not have a cello for him to use. “It saddened me that he was not able to play an instrument he wanted to play,” Seth said.

Ethan Margolis, Northeast’s principal, said the money raised at the recital would help the school in financing repairs to its inventory of instruments, which would help get more instruments to more students. “He is a very special kid,” Margolis said of Seth, who has attended the school since he was in kindergarten. “We’ve been able to watch him grow and grow and grow.”

In the last two years, Seth has grown considerably as a musician, which he attributes to a summer music camp at Colgate University that he attended several years ago.

“It made my love stronger, and I began to play deeper,” he said of the camp, noting that he went up from the half-hour practice to several hours a day. “After I came back from Colgate, I knew I wanted to get better.”

On an average day, Seth gets up at about 6 a.m. to squeeze in some practice before going to school. It means his parents, Dionne and Fred, have no need for an alarm clock. “It is a lovely way to wake up in the morning,” Seth’s mother said. He practices after school, as well, but his parents make sure he has time to keep up with other interests. He appears to be a fan of most sports, he likes to keep up with friends, and he has excelled in karate, with a bookshelf of trophies to prove it.

Both he and his parents noted that the discipline and focus he has gained while studying at Ryokubi Dojo in Stamford has been a tremendous help in keeping him on task as he practices and gives him an inner calm when he performs at competitions and in large halls.
Still, practice gets one only so far.

“I regard him as a prodigy,” said Fiorito, whose studio is in Stamford.

“It is a combination of natural talent, hard work, dedication and the fact that he wants to do this,” she added. “What also is important is his mom and dad’s involvement. They are carefully leading him to this field, and they listen to my suggestions.”

By Christina Hennessy, Staff Writer

By | May 18th, 2010|News|Comments Off on Northeast Student

Shaping Prodigies

“The Advocate”
Sunday. August 10. 2008

Svitlana Fiorito snaps her fingers emphatically as her student, Sean Lee, performs the closing section of Carl Maria von Weber’s “Rondo Brilliante”, an up-tempo, Romantic-era piano piece with dynamic tonal shifts. There are few 13-years-old with the skills – like his rapid finger movements and quick reaction time – to perform such a complex piece. But he wasn’t always this sharp.

“The first year with him was hard,” says Fiorito, who gives lessons on the ground floor of her Stamford home. “His hand position was out of control.”

But after just two years of instruction from Fiorito, Lee won the International Piano Competition in Puigcerda, Spain, and later performed with Greenwich Symphony Orchestra for Mozart’s 250 Birthday Celebration Concert.

Lee, a seven-grader at Middlesex Middle School in darien, is one of several local piano students Fiorito has fashioned into award-winning child prodigies. There’s also 8-year-old Annling Wang of Stamford, who won the Washington International Young Artist Piano Competition in June and will perform for Condoleezza Rice at the U.S. State Department on Wednesday. And 7-year-old Sean Yu of Stamford, who recently won the Young Pianist Competition of New Jersey and Performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Fiorito, who began her own musical journey as a child prodigy, credits these achievements to a pedagogical approach that draws on teaching methods from her native Russia and Western world. Taking inspiration from Russian system, Fiorito beginsteaching children as young as 4.

“I pay a lot of attention to kids at a very young age” says Fiorito, who started playing when she was 5.”If they can learn the letter alphabet, they can learn the musical alphabet.”

In a Western-style approach, Fiorito holds informal lessons and makes it a point to develop friendly relationship with her students. Fiorito says that by gaining their trust and maintaining a welcoming atmosphere, students are more inclined to listen.

“We don’t just talk about music, but also about their hobbies and priorities – about their lives,” says Fiorito. in a move that would make her Russian teachers shriek, Fiorito asks parents to sit in on lessons. The benefit, Fiorito says, is that parents can supervise and encourage their children and ensure they are practicing properly at home.

“I don’t treat lessons like a drop-off, like when some parents leave their kids to go grocery shopping or for a walk in the park,” she says.’Parents have to stay here. They’ve got to sit. They’ve got to watch and observe.”
Donk-Ok Lee, Sean Lee’s mother, admires Fiorito’s nurturing approach.

“She cares about her students and comforts them,” she says. “It’s not like kids are by themselves. They become one team and develop things together.”

Fiorito doesn’t just teach child prodigies – she has about 30 students who she considers “very,very good.” Among them is Stephanie Stich, a Greenwich High School senior who has taken lessons from Fiorito since she was 14.

“She really puts everything into teaching, she really dedicates herself,” says Stich, who won the top prize at the Connecticut State Music Teacher’s Association Competition in May. “You put in the hard work, she puts in the hard work, you get results.”

Fiorito, 32, first started playing piano as an elementary student in her hometown, Prokopievsk, a small city in Western Siberia. After moving with her family to Kharkov, Ukraine, when she was 12, Fiorito continued playing and eventually enrolled in the Institute of Music at the National Academy of Arts in Kharkov, where she went on to become, a member of the school’s faculty.

Students like Stich often think of her as a second mom. Like a proud mother who tacks A-plus papers to the family fridge, Fiorito keeps notices of her student’s achievements on the bulletin boards of her lesson room.

Says Fiorito: “I have a lot of kids! After a full day of teaching, and dealing with kids and educating parents, i really feel like I do.”

By Scott Gargan, special correspondent

By | August 10th, 2008|News|Comments Off on Shaping Prodigies