Dr. Chris Granias
Piano, Composition, Music Theory
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching since 1979.
Which Opus Music Academy locations do you work? Do you have your own studio? If so, where is it located? Do you offer in-home lessons?
I teach primarily at my home studio in the Mounds View area.
What do you teach? Anything else you teach?
I teach piano, composition, and music theory.
What is your studio story? How did you get to where you are now?
Through several avenues and institutions, and after spending much time performing and composing, it felt right to start teaching from my home studio to serve the Mounds view and surrounding communities.
What is one thing you think you do really well as a teacher?
I connect with students’ worlds, find their potential, and expose them to the world of music outside of the “typical”. I also work really well with students with special needs: specifically those on the autism spectrum and those with learning differences. Being a person with MS (Multiple Sclerosis), I especially work well with those who also have MS. I particularly connect well with adult students of any level from beginning to advanced.
What is one thing you really struggle with as a teacher?
Getting so excited about something that may not be so exciting to the student, and getting carried away. In other words, holding back on my enthusiasm.
A funny student story:
I once was teaching a World Music Class and had a student who was a phenomenal mandolin player. He wanted to do a final presentation on Peter Ostroushko, a very well known musician and artist in the Minneapolis area. I know Peter, so I contacted him and asked him to come to class. He sat in the back of the classroom. While my student was presenting, he looked up and saw Peter in the room and freaked out!
Another great story: When I taught ear training classes, I played Ethiopian music and had my students identify the polyrhythmic patterns. One of my students got into Northeastern College in Boston… and because of my ear training classes and approach, he completely tested out of the first year of college music theory class!
One more story: Years ago I had a private piano and composition student at the old Macphail. He was 10 years old… years go by and I went to Groth Music looking through music, and one of his orchestral pieces was published!!!
What do you do to retain your students?
I just connect well with them, challenge them, and make lessons really fun!
What is your niche? What sets you apart from other teachers?
I work with the students from where they are at, and work with them to analyze the music they like, so they can discover why they actually love the music and understand on a deeper level what they are hearing. They love this stuff. I also work really well in intense situations. I would also like to add that I really teach THE ARTS overall, no matter what that looks like or means. You can’t be frozen, you gotta think outside the box.
What is your favorite band, artist, or composer? Why?
Currently Bad Plus. They do avant-garde stuff and they inspire me to write.
I also love the St Paul Chamber Orchestra because they are such wonderful artists and play wonderful works.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I really look up to people who are strangers, who are in a lower tax bracket so-to-speak. For example, janitors. And then, I like to hear their stories, learn from them, and include them in my work.
Let’s say you’re having coffee with a brand new teacher. What’s one piece of advice you wish you would have known when you started.
Stay away from the computer: and instead meet, listen to, and learn from people. Too much is based on technology, and not enough face to face interaction is happening. For example, say a student is composing a piece with multiple voices… instead of relying all of the work on the computer, rather write FOR people by meeting the instrumentalists/vocalists.
Let’s say you’re visiting with a teacher who is feeling burned out. What advice would you give to them to give life to their studio?
First I would find out what is working and what is not working, and actively listen to them. And then go from there.
We’ve all had that one student or parent that drives us crazy. What do you do with that student or family?
Using a classroom situation, that student would become my “scribe”, so that they felt like they are part of the world, not isolated. In a private lesson situation, again I would actively listen to the parent and student to identify what is going on “behind the scenes”, investigating, for example, and making adjustments from there. I also have the student keep a journal daily with the date, what they are practicing, and how they feel about it (whether it is in words or in picture). This makes them take ownership of their lessons .
What is your craziest idea? What is something you would do if money, time, and space weren’t an issue?
I once met a visual arts teacher at the Perpich Center for the Arts. I would do anything arts related because my passion is in it.
If you weren’t a music instructor, what else would you do with your life?
I would love to be an English Teacher!