Day 8: Evgeny Chugunov's Chamber, Coach, and Play

Evgenys photo


Name: Evgeny Chugunov

Area/Discipline: Piano Performance and Pedagogy & Chamber Ensemble

Dr. Evgeny Chugunov is Assistant Professor in the Department of Music of Lakehead University. He performs as a concert pianist, both as a soloist and collaborator with different programs for audiences locally as well as across Canada, the U.S.A, Russia, Switzerland, and Italy.

The Technique

Over the summer, I was asked to consider the possibility of delivering the Chamber Ensemble course in the fall online, since we could not do so on campus. The limitations of Zoom, with students not being able to play together at the same time without serious feedback, presented a real possibility it might be cancelled. I decided I wasn’t going to let this limit get in our way.

Chamber ensemble, by its nature, is about musicians collaborating to play together. To highlight students’ ability to create their own musical concepts, I chose to use multiple spaces (breakout rooms) to help learners become better prepared ensemble players. I set up these spaces to create dynamic/expressive maps and to practice pieces that would be shared afterward with our ‘panel of experts’, i.e. other students in the course. Within breakout rooms, pairs of students would coach each other, placing one student on mute while the other played.

In private pairs, students can create an interpretational concept. What has been different in Zoom is that students do not immediately start playing right away. Instead, they begin with discussion and decision-making, and then rehearse with purpose. This method of practice is so much more effective than playing immediately that it practically defines the professional musician. It helps learners to create the expressive map of a piece and then continue with the rehearsing stage of ensemble playing. It has sped up the learning and performing processes while in-person classes started from the other, much less effective end.  We now design the interpretation before starting to play together instead of the other way around.

The Panel of experts is the final stage of each class. One pair will play their pieces, practiced in the private breakout room, while the remaining members of the course give their positive and constructive feedback.

How I Use It

  • I propose (or sometimes have students decide on) the repertoire that will be the focus of the session.
  • When the class goes live, I move pairs to their small group coaching space (breakout rooms).
  • Students decide on the elements to work on and then clarify the concept, form, balance, etc.
  • Each participant will play, with the partner's audio on mute.
  • The other partner then plays for the other.
  • The pairs then clarify the concept and discuss what worked well and what needs to change in the piece.
  • I move from room to room to propose corrective actions, if any. Mostly, I listen and observe to make sure they are working as well together as possible.
  • Once this segment is over, we all meet back in the main Zoom space. One of the pairs (who knows ahead of time) will play for the rest of the group, who act as their panel of experts. I facilitate this feedback discussion.

Feedback from Learners

"The zoom format definitely brings various musical challenges to ensemble playing as it is difficult to play to together, but provides the opportunity for musical discussion and planning that I think would otherwise not be explored as much in person."

"I have participated in many different ensemble classes over the years, and switching from in-person ensembles to online ensembles has definitely been a challenge. I have definitely had to focus more on timing and making sure it’s perfect as I don’t have anyone to listen to when I sing unmuted. It has been a good learning experience overall, and I enjoy the break out rooms."

"It is convenient to be able to attend from home and play on the piano I’m used to. It is also useful to know how to work with an ensemble online."

"I enjoy working with others in breakout rooms and reviewing the pieces. As well as going into the school and being able to hear the pianist and I work together."

A Short Task to Challenge You

By now you've had a chance to experience a few of the days/lessons within the 12 techniques series. We hope you will participate in our expert panel for the series to-date! Provided is a timeline with each micro lesson identified, with a link to jump to each lesson (in a separate tab). Below the timeline is a place to provide your expert panel input.


One Final Task

Is this something you can use in your online classroom? How might you utilize it?  If you want to share your results on social media, please let us know by using the hashtag: #12techLUDay8.