Your Story: Nikolas Sideris

Your Stories  No.3

Nikolas Sideris is a publisher, and the owner of Editions Musica Ferrum. He is also a composer, for classical music and music for computer games. He is a pianist, piano and music teacher and a food addict! Here’s his story…

Talking about myself

Who doesn’t like talking about themselves, huh? I think many, but I happen to love it! So, when Andrew, posted this, I thought that this is a chance of a lifetime! Here goes…

I’m 40 years old right now and I keep telling to my students that I’ve had 35 years of piano playing, which is more or less true.

What I neglect to tell my students is that I’ve changed, no less than a total of 7 piano teachers over the years and almost an equal number of theory teachers. Apparently I wasn’t so lucky with my teachers, or maybe I was a bad fruit when I was young. Who can tell really…

I should note that I grew up in Greece.

So, my first couple of teachers were visiting teachers at our homes. I don’t remember much, except on how boring the lessons where. That one of them would not stop smoking while teaching, to the point that I told her that she would get cancer (remember: 6-7 year old with a dad whose a cardiologist) only to be corrected that I should not be so rude…

Fast forward 2 years and my first conservatory teacher. (Side note: Greece was and still partly is, filled with private small conservatories, each with a few hundred students and a handful of teachers).

She would have two 20 minute lessons per week with me, and she would hit me. Yup! I cried before almost every lesson.

One year passed and I switched to a lovely old lady, who would not hit me, or yell, or anything, but did want me to study. Czerny, Beyer, Bach… The interesting stuff for an 8 year old.

I never studied. Never ever…

Instead I’d compose. To no end. To find interesting things to play. I mean come on… How much Czerny can one take? All of the book?

So, with a couple of breaks, when I’d say to my parents that I want to stop lessons, only to start again next year, I kept being with her until the age of 15, when I moved to a different city.

Progress

There, I met a wonderful piano teacher, who saw that I could clearly play the piano and gave me things to play that I loved. Chopin, Scriabin, Bartok, Grieg, Prokofiev… AT LAST!

I kept composing, but I was, for the first time, studying A LOT because I cherished my time with her.

In that city (Ioannina) I met my theory/harmony/composition teacher who saw that I had a keen interest in doing interesting things with my theoretical knowledge (rather than to solve harmony exercises) and he took me under his wings. Lovely times really…

About that time, I met with a couple of people who had studied abroad (remember we’re talking about 1995 with very limited, if at all, internet – and limited news other than the national media at the time) and I immediately decided that this is what I wanted to do.

Spend a few more years in Greece, got my diploma in performance in piano and degrees in harmony and counterpoint and eventually I left with a scholarship from the National Greek Scholarship Foundation (IKY) to study composition abroad. In the UK. In Royal Holloway! YAY!

2004-2005 M.Mus, 2005-2010 PhD. Not bad!

Only I was not too happy with myself. I was not happy with the possibility of being published by one of the big houses. They didn’t feel right… They didn’t feel that I’d have all the creative control that I’d like. And boy did I want creativity to flow. I was doing computer games (literally my own computer games), short stories, music and sfx for games and documentaries, concert hall works… anything you might imagine.

So… pretty soon… Edition Musica Ferrum was born.

Publisher & Piano Teacher

I think that I’ve kept true to my initial concept, of publishing the best quality music scores that I can, while allowing the composers of the house to advance their own careers…

Obviously through this journey and all this effort and time and a publishing house, things got lost in the way.

For example I no longer have a piano in my house. Not for a few years now. I have a digital one, but it’s not the same.

And even if I did, I wouldn’t have the time to study anything. I used to be able and play pretty well, but I’m not sure I can anymore. I love doodling on the keyboard but I know it would take some real effort to tackle a Chopin ballad (for example). On the positive side of things, when other people have their trust funds, I decided (with the help of someone special) to setup my piano fund…

And on a final thought, I’d like to say something to all the teachers out there…

As a piano teacher (and a father) myself, through all the hurdles mentioned above, I have decided that I never want to force any kid to do music! Never!

At the same time, though, I find that now more than ever it’s crucial for people to be educated about the arts.

So, my solution is simple: Just make the music and the teaching as enjoyable as possible. Make students fall in love with music, with piano playing, with the academy they’re in. Have them looking forward to come to the lesson. Through bribing (it is close to Christmas after all), through composing music for them (Gareth did a wonderful blog post about this, pretty much), through being a clown…

But I pass very little judgement to my students, if any at all.

If I stopped lessons so many times and switched so many teachers, while still getting a PhD in the end and a career in music, who’s to say that all these students, who are otherwise bored of piano lessons now, won’t change their minds in a few years time?

Nikolas Sideris
Editions Musica Ferrum website

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK. He runs a successful independent teaching studio and music education business, Keyquest Music.

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