I was born in Tehran, Iran, where I began studying music as a child. My rigorous piano training; however, began at the age of seventeen under the tutelage of Hovic Hakupian, who not only taught me piano, but also inspired me to teach it for the rest of my life. During that time the study and practice of music was strictly prohibited. Music, then, was not just an art I was passionate about mastering, but, was a medium through which I could transcend the earthly suffering of my environment; it was a tremendous source of joy and transformation for me and those around me. In so many ways it was a precious lifeline. I continued to pursue my musical studies in secret and was eventually persecuted by the Revolutionary Guard, who confiscated my musical books and notes, when they discovered my endeavors. When Hovic moved, I had the privilege of studying with Malek Asslanian – the most prominent piano instructor in Iran at that time. His instruction caused me to change my understanding of piano, realizing it was not just an art, but rather, a philosophy of life.
I endured grave torment and witnessed indescribable tragedy during my time in Iran. Throughout all this piano was always there; music never discriminated – I could manifest the deepest joy in the midst of my greatest suffering, telling my story and sharing my life using piano as my medium. At the age of twenty-four I moved to France where I continued to teach music sparingly.
In 1988 my mother and I moved to Los Angeles. We both faced and overcame severe, life-threatening illness here. Throughout this too, piano was my constant companion.
My musical education in America continued with Maria Sobolovsky - a Russian Piano Instructor whose artistic brilliance was matched only by her staunch criticisms. One of the most important life lesson I learned through studying with her, was how to persevere wholeheartedly no matter what. Subsequent to my time with Ms Sobolovsky, I became a student of Sheldon Steinberg – my most beloved teacher, not because of his tremendous talent, but because he taught me the importance of teaching with compassion. He became my true mentor in piano.
Sheldon encouraged me to listen for the uniqueness of every student so that I could perceive the needs of each person and tailor my teaching style to nurture and benefit each one. Through his instruction, although strict and serious at times, I was able to truly experience the joy of playing piano and develop the confidence to help others do the same as well.
I have steadily sought to use music to help others create joy in their own lives. My deepest wish is to eradicate war because I have seen the inhumanity and tragedy and destruction it causes. My greatest hope is to inspire and support youth through teaching piano and that their journey in learning piano also transforms their lives. I think music, like prayer, is hope. Above all I want to give youth hope. Everything starts with this.
Angel Fereshteh Ajdari
Culver City, CA
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