Zane Hrynewich grew up in Noranda, Quebec, where he began studying piano through the Royal Conservatory, as well as Jeunesses Musicales. He moved to Saskatoon in 1968 and continued his studies through the Royal Conservatory, while also beginning preparations for advanced studies through Trinity College of Music, London, England.
At the age of sixteen, Zane left his Saskatoon to join a rock band based in Thunderbay, Ontario. He spent the next four years touring across Canada with various bands.
After marrying his high school sweetheart, Zane left "the road", returning to Saskatoon, where he resumed his formal music studies once again through Trinity College. At this time, he also began his teaching career, implementing the same "Traditional Teaching Techniques" instilled in him by his former teachers.
To this point, Zane's musical career had consisted of performing "orchestrated" music - the classical music he had studied had to be "worked out" as did rock/contemporary music he had been performing in bands. The many years of formal Traditional Music study had left him with advanced technique, excellent note reading, and the ability to expressively interpret scores. These were all great skills to posses, but as Zane would soon discover, he still had much to learn.
In his early twenties, Zane began to develop a keen interest in Jazz. He began to "jam" with "unschooled" musicians who could barely read music, but grew up playing by ear. He soon came to a realization which would have a profound effect on his musical ideologies for years to come.
As Zane puts it,
"I played some Beethoven for these guys and they were impressed. Then, we started jamming. They were amazing! I was lost. I just could not keep up with them. I left, frustrated and extremely humbled."
Zane soon identified why he struggled to have "a spontaneous musical conversation" with these musicians. They had grown up "learning by listening" - he had grown up "learning by looking". He also realized this wasn't unique to him. His "Traditional Music" peers lacked the same abilities, as did the majority of other people who were products of this method of learning.
He began the painstaking process of developing his ear by learning jazz songs from a tape recorder. He re-examined his teaching philosophy, looking for ways to teach his students how to listen and how to be spontaneous. Then, he was introduced to the Suzuki Method by the lady who started the Suzuki String Program through the Saskatoon Symphony. At the time, in North America, it was regarded as a revolutionary and somewhat controversial method of teaching, especially in "Traditional Music" circles. It made perfect sense to Zane, and he still adheres to the fundamental philosophies of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki.
- Ideally, start children's piano education at a young age
- Teach children to play the piano in the same natural way they learn to speak their language. This is called "Mother Tongue" approach.
- Involve the parent in the learning process, and maintain a strong Student - Parent - Teacher relationship.
- ABOVE ALL - respect each student and nurture their abilities with patience, positive reinforcement and gentleness
- Look at musical education as a long-term process. Therefore, don't get caught up in looking for short-term results. Like learning their language, children progress at different rates, but they all eventually learn to speak.
Zane continued his own personal "ear" development, as well as making the transformation away from Traditional Teaching. He continued performing in Saskatoon in various jazz groups, and each summer, travelled across North America to study with various Suzuki Piano Master Teachers. Some highlights were:
- Saskatoon and Saskatchewan's first Suzuki Piano Teacher
- Founding member of the Saskatoon Suzuki Piano Parents Association
- Founding member of the Saskatchewan Suzuki Piano Teachers Association
- Was able to meet and closely observe Dr.Shinichi Suzuki as he worked with children and parents on three occasions
- Studied with Haruko Kataoka, founder of the Suzuki Piano Method
- Studied extensively with Elaine Worley, renowned North American Suzuki Piano Master Teacher
- Performed in various jazz ensembles in a number of Saskatoon nightclubs on a regular basis.
- Did studio session work and jingles
- Founding member of the Saskatoon Jazz Society
- Performed with his band "Collage" at the Saskatoon Jazz Society's inaugural event at Club Yip's
Zane remained a "Traditional Suzuki Piano Teacher" for the next decade. His performance career suffered a devastating blow when he lost the use of his right arm through what was eventually diagnosed as "Performance Syndrome". During has advanced Traditional Piano studies, Zane had spent countless hours practising and performing with excessive tension in his shoulders, placing much strain on the arm. This had gone unnoticed by his teachers. The result was permanent damage to his arm.
"I woke up one day, and I couldn't feel my arm. It was completely asleep. No matter how hard I tried I couldn't even lift it. I can still vividly recall the shock and the sheer horror I experienced that day."
Doctors told Zane his piano career was over, that he needed to quit performing and teaching. Today, "Performance Injuries" in musicians are widely recognized. Back then, not so much. Zane wasn't ready to give up. He rested the arm for a few months and then began the arduous process of teaching himself to play again - now, with an arm and fingers which were perpetually numb. Today, Zane can play with almost the same level of technique he had originally attained. To save his arm for his teaching, he gave up performing in public, however, he continues to play extensively with his students.
Zane continues to subscribe to the educational philosophies of Dr.Shinichi Suzuki, but he no longer calls himself a "Traditional Suzuki Piano Teacher", nor is he a "mainstream Traditional Piano Teacher". The two are based solely on the study of the standard Classical Repertoire, which is not a bad thing in itself, but in Zane's eyes not comprehensive enough to build "Versatile, well-rounded Practical Pianists."
To this end, Zane has spent two decades writing, compiling and developing materials for his students. Today, his teaching is based on the following:
- Introduce young children to the piano using the "Mother Tongue" educational philosophies of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki
- Use the standard Classical Repertoire to develop technique, musical sensitivity, and interpretation
- Study the reading of notation as an essential and vital element of becoming a Practical Musician
- Introduce the elements of Blues, Jazz, Rock and Pop at an early age
- Include developmental Pop, Contemporary, New Age, Rock, and Jazz pieces as part of the standard repertoire
- Encourage all students to explore improvisation as part of their musical education