Q: How old were you when you started?
A: I started piano lessons when I was 5 years old back in 1992
Q: Where do you live?
A: I live in British Columbia, Canada
Q: Do you teach piano in real life?
A: Yes, I do actually, I currently teach roughly 30 students on a weekly basis
Q: Why are you teaching piano for free?
A: I’m doing this because I believe music is a gift that everyone should be able to have access to. Some people aren’t lucky enough to be able to have access to piano lessons. Maybe they don’t have enough money? Maybe there are no teachers where they live? Maybe they’re just curious and don’t want to make a serious commitment? So I’m here to inspire and ignite people’s passion for music. That’s all I want, and if you want to learn from other teachers at the same time, I encourage that as well! Learn as MUCH as you can and follow your heart. I believe people contribute best to society when they’re following their passion. So if you’re passion is to learn, then I’m here to give you some direction, for no cost at allJ. My payment is the happiness I feel when I hear you talk about how proud you are of yourselves; those stories of success. That’s more valuable to me than anything.
Q: Can you teach me this _______ song?
A: I’m sorry, but I don’t take requests to teach a certain song. If I did, I would never sleep, I’d just be learning new songs to make videos on. I prefer to give you the knowledge to learn the song you’d like YOURSELF. That way EVERYONE can learn the songs they want! (not to mention I can get some sleep!) In this way, everybody wins. I DO take requests on future lessons for learning how to play the piano or music theory though so send me your wishes!
Q: I tried contacting you but you didn’t reply, what gives?
A: I’m REALLY SORRY! Normally I get back to almost everyone I can. (Unless you’re rude) If I haven’t replied, please don’t take offense. I DO read EVERY message I get, so rest assured, if you have sent me something, I’ve read it. Sometimes though my arms hurt too much to reply, but I’m pretty good about keeping contact even though it KILLS my arms. Either way, if I don’t reply PLEASE don’t take it in a bad way; I’m honestly not trying to be rude! I love messages! ^_^ (I actually love the messages best when people just talk about this or that and don’t ask me a question, LOVE those!) ^_^
Q: How many lessons are you planning on doing?
A: At this point, I’m not planning to EVER stop, as long as I keep getting new ideas for lessons, and have people who want to watch me, I’ll keep on teaching! So, no worries I’m not going anywhere! (Now, just watch me get run over by a bus tomorrow! *wink*)
Hey Guys! I’m writing this Bio here for any of you who wish to know a bit more about me and my background.
So, obviously, my name is Andrew Furmanczyk. I was born and still live in Canada.
I was born in Ontario, but I moved to British Columbia when I was 5 years old. I actually broke my left arm pretty bad a week before we were supposed to fly across the country to our new home. It was a clean break through both bones in my arm. It was all wobbly etc. Anyway, a few months after we got here, my mom asked me if I’d like to take piano lessons and maybe make some new friends. So I said yes! And that’s how it all started.
I first started piano lessons at the age of 5 in1992. I loved piano right from the beginning. Surprisingly enough I was REALLY obsessed with scales, and I would go into my class and show off by playing my scales sitting on the bench backwards! Obviously not much has changed since then; I’m still a show off even now! (laughing)
Four years into my piano lessons, I composed “Victory”, entered it in the 8-12 year old category province wide competition and won! That was my first taste of success with piano. I got published in the paper and had my picture taken with my small trophy. At that stage of my life, when I was done practicing what was needed, I would actually sit at the piano for hours just playing around making songs up on the fly and improvising, which I found to be very enjoyable! ^_^
Eventually, I had to switch teachers and that’s when I enrolled in the Local city Music School. I took lessons from a teacher named Mrs. Rommel. We spent quite a few good years together from grade 1 until grade 7 piano. Around grade 6 piano I started to learn songs that were in higher grades that I would pick out myself and learn on a side. For example, I learnt the first movement of the Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven in one week. ^_^ After doing this I saw my skills started to improve quite a bit. I think my teacher was impressed and maybe felt that I would learn better under another teacher? So then she recommended me to her own teacher, Lori Elder.
So, I was told I had to “audition” for her. Just that word alone scared the heck out of me. I’d never done anything like that in my life. What if I wasn’t good enough? What if she rejected me? What if what if what if…
When I got to the audition, I was amazed to see two grand pianos proudly placed next to each other. Surrounding the pianos were bookcases stacked with… (you guessed it)…books! This place was amazing! There was even a photocopy machine! There was just so much stuff I couldn’t believe! I felt like I was in piano heaven! All these stuff intimidated me even further, but I decided that I’d just have to play my best and pray she accepted me. I played Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, and also a few other pieces including the first page of the Revolutionary Etude by Chopin.
After I finished we talked a bit and she said that I could come back next year and study with her. (That meant I was accepted!) So for the next year I continued with Nil. After I finished my grade 7 with her, we said our goodbye’s (I was sad to say goodbye, but also excited to continue my piano journey!)
Next September I started with Lori Elder, a piano teacher with a very respected and well deserved reputation. We started grade 8 together, and she immediately started shaping new things in my playing. I remember, we worked on a Beethoven piece together and she was drilling me over and over making sure I got my tempo steady. I was a pretty strong willed student, and rarely listened to my teachers as much as I should have, but Lori’s way of doing things forced me to listen to her, which was difficult back then. But looking back, I’m so happy things worked out the way they did. I started to learn so many new things and techniques I was previously unaware of. I consider her to be the top piano teacher in the northern half of British Columbia. I am so thankful of Nil for recommending me to Lori.
Shortly after I started with Lori, I got my first job! It was at the skating rink as a public skating supervisor. This job was important in my development as a teacher and person as I had to deal with the public a lot, and enforce the rules when necessary. Eventually I also started teaching skating classes of kids. This is what first got me teaching. I found out I loved teaching, it felt so good inside to pass on my own knowledge and skills to others, but it wasn’t for a few more years of teaching skating that I went into teaching piano.
While I continued to skate and teach, my piano playing ability continued to climb higher and higher, until I got to the point where I felt like I could learn anything and take on any piece. That’s when I started work on Chopin’s Polonaise in A flat major. I tackled this ARCT piece right out of grade 9, but I managed to learn and memorize all 14 pages in just two months. This piece became my triumphant piece where I could show off to the crowd, I was so at home playing it, and my technique had gotten so good that I could literally play this piece back to back to back 20 times in a row without a pause or break. Playing anything amount of notes or chords took no energy or consequence to my stamina; it seemed that nothing could stop me. When I performed this piece in public, people told me things like: “The keyboard looked like it was on fire!” “You got such a big sound!” “You played amazing!” and such. All these comments started to go to my head a little.
Later that summer, I started working for a youth camp run by the YMCA as one of the camp leaders. It was a BLAST, and it had a “music day” which I was put in charge of running. This was my first experience of teaching piano. I was a bit nervous, but I just buckled down and did my best. I ended up teaching 20 kids a song in just one hour total, which left me 2-3 minutes per kid to teach them a song on the piano. After the time was over we ate our lunch, and then had a recital, and every kid got up and was able to play their song. Every kid there except one had never taken a piano lesson in their life! That’s when one girl I taught named “Bonnie” really enjoyed playing the piano. She enjoyed it so much that her mom approached me for private lessons. I was a bit shocked because I didn’t think of myself as a piano teacher yet, but I realized that every piano teacher starts SOMEWHERE. So I told her I had little to no experience and I wouldn’t charge much because of that. I started teaching little 8 year old Bonnie and was amazed at how amazingly gifted, extremely smart, and dedicated she was! In just the first year of piano lessons we finished primer book 1, primer book 2, and finished the GRADE ONE book! (3 years of studies in just 1 year!)
Next, I began performing on a very regular basis. I started out at a place called Simon Frasier Lodge, a place for senior citizens. I played for an hour every Friday before lunch. I quickly expanded to other facilities, eventually working my way up to playing to an audience of over 650 at a massive dinner on a beautiful grand piano. I was performing on average about 4 solid hours a week, which is a lot considering that when you play in a recital you perform for 30 seconds to 5 minutes, and you do that maybe twice a year. All this performing further accelerated my skills and helped me understand what made a good performance, how to play to the crowd, draw people in, and put on a satisfying show. I started to get standing ovations when I played at different events. Later on I even performed a violin piano duet with my friend Ian on stage in front of over 4,000 people on Canada day. It was AMAZING! It’s still to this day one of the greatest memories of my life!
Everything was coming together and I was looking towards university next, getting a performance degree, maybe teaching a little on a side, and hopefully becoming a concert pianist! I was just starting learning Chopin’s e minor Concerto (it’s over 100 pages long) along with a new Beethoven sonata. That’s when disaster struck.
Out of the blue, I woke up with massive pain in my chest. It hurt to breath. My body throbbed with pain. Every breath I took felt like my ribs were shattering from the inside out. My neck hurt; my eyes hurt; my whole body was in pain. I had cold chills, sweat all over; I was vomiting. But most of all, my heart felt like a thousand knives were stabbing it in all directions, while at the same time I felt pressure on my chest as if a sumo wrestler was standing on it.
I was extremely scared of what might be wrong. My heart felt bruised and tight, almost as if a snake was squeezing my heart from the inside. Every time my heart beat, thunk thunk, thunk thunk, there was pain like someone was punching my bare heart. I tried to fight it out, but eventually my breathing became so shallow, that when I laid down I couldn’t take even a drop of air into my lungs. If someone held me on my back, I wouldn’t have been able to take a breath to save my life. When I was sitting up, I could take a small gasp of air before the pain would be so great that my body wouldn’t let me take a bigger breath. That’s when I got taken to the hospital… While at the hospital, my breathing got even worse and I started to loose consciousness due to not being able to take enough oxygen in to keep myself awake. They quickly put me on pure oxygen, and started taking massive amounts of tests. They said I had something called Paricarditous, which means “inflammation of the outersack of the heart”. In other words, my heart was inflamed and was grinding up against my lung like sandpaper. My body tried to compensate by adding more fluid around the heart, which actually constricted my heart. Because of this extra fluid, if I tried to breath, there wasn’t as much space in my chest cavity anymore. That’s what shortened my breathing. If to much fluid built up, that high amount of pressure could pop my heart and I would die. They put me on some anti inflammatory drugs and sent me home once I stabilized. They had me on MASSIVE amounts of these pills, but didn’t warn me of the side effects. One of them was muscular weakness.
It took over a month just before I could do normal things like walking, or skating, and even playing the piano. So when I tried to go back to playing the piano, my muscles were so weak that they couldn’t take the abuse they were used to. I was so puzzled by this, but I had always just forged ahead through difficulty, so I just told myself I’d work through it.
Little did I know I was actually hurting myself because my muscles weren’t strong enough to take that much practicing anymore. I quickly developed tendentious in both arms, and was forced to stop anything to do with piano. Then I got paricardious AGAIN a few months later, and had to stop everything I was doing. I couldn’t do anything active. I could barely sleep. I had ulcers in my stomach from the meds I was on. I couldn’t even play piano anymore. After 5 minutes of playing, my arms would hurt so much that I couldn’t move them. My life was shut down just like that. Everything, all my dreams were gone. Every time I tried to get back on the horse and recover, from paricaritous, it was like starting from square one again. It just kept coming back every time I started to get somewhere. Over the course of time I’d had over a dozen cases of paricarditous.
I was forced to quit the job I loved, and took a job where I didn’t need to be active – making maps on a computer. My boss (John) was awesome, and he treated me great. However, I thrive on being around others, and interacting with a computer 8 hours a day really depressed me a lot.
So, everything was going downhill, and I didn’t really have an identity anymore. I was really depressed and was starting to give up on life. Despite all this my piano teacher, Lori Elder, was AMAZINGLY supportive and understanding.
Then one night when I was feeling sorry for myself, I stopped myself thinking, “you know what, at least I HAD all those experiences; I bet there are people out there who would have loved to experienced all the cool things I got to be a part of”. Then suddenly I realized how lucky I really was. I was appalled at myself for being so self centered. So what, I can’t play like I used to, but I still have my memories, I still know what I know. There are people out there who don’t know these things. There may be people who desperately want to learn but cannot, because of high priced lessons, or maybe the lack of teachers.
That’s when I decided I was going to continue sharing my talents in music, not through playing, but through teaching, and I didn’t need ANY payment for it. I was just going to enjoy and savor the feeling of contributing again. That was enough payment for me. So that’s when I started making the video tutorials. I was still at that depressing moment in my life in that first video lesson, but since then my life has slowly been turning out for the better. Paricarditous still comes back once and a while, but I control it as best I can. I’ve STILL got tendentious, though it’s not as bad. Typing actually hurts me the most out of everything. So responding to e-mails can be a bit painful. If I reply to 9 or 10 emails, my arms might burn for a day or two after, but I still LOVE reading all those messages! I love hearing the stories of you guys following your hearts! It inspires me to keep going!
Now, things are going wonderful for me. I’m healed from my health problems from before. I’m teaching piano full time, and I’ve got over 30 students. I teach with two amazing and wonderful piano teachers, Maureen Nielsen and Dona Mcluskie. I feel so blessed to be teaching along side them. I’m also still with my awesome teacher, Lori Elder, and we’re working on getting my playing back up to what it was (she’s sure got a lot of patience with me!). Also, she’s teaching me how to be a better teacher myself; I’m studying piano pedagogy with her. I feel so lucky to have her in my life as well. I don’t think I would’ve gotten to where I am without her; she’s like family to me.
Also my own family supports me so much. My Mom Susan, my Dad Larry, and my brother Josh, are all such a big part of my life. They’ve helped me so much. Most of all though, I want to thank God for everything that He’s done for me. He’s never let me down, and I’m so thankful for everything in my life!
I plan to keep going and keep teaching, expanding this website, but also expanding my own knowledge so that I can pass that on to you guys.