Michael Hining has been launching the musical journeys of his students from his Oak Park studio for over 35 years. His enthusiasm for mentoring future artists is contagious. When asked to describe a typical teaching experience with a student, Hining proudly recalls a lifetime of moments. There was a recent college freshman, a viola major, whom he first met as a 2 ½ year-old toddler; or the student who started lessons at 69-years-old and found life’s ultimate fulfillment in the musical experiences of the studio (culminating in a performance at Carnegie Hall); and the student orchestra he founded, The Windy City String Ensemble, performing at the Sydney Opera House and the White House. “This is why I teach everyone,” is the motto of his teaching philosophy.
“Every student is unique and has different needs. It is incumbent upon all teachers to strive to communicate the goals, and how to reach them.”
Professor Hining’s own career was inspired by his father’s love of classical music. “I would wake up on weekend mornings to hear Beethoven, Mozart, or his all-time favorite, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.” Hining began violin studies at age nine in Winter Park, Florida. He realized that he wanted to become a professional musician at 13, sitting next to his father at a performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony at the Eastern Music Festival summer camp. “When the orchestra finished movement six, “What Love Tells Me,” I was sold!”
Another important influence was his high school violin teacher, Sabina Micerelli. “She was direct, with a great sense of humor and a smile.” Her advice that Hining recalls today with gratitude was to be alert to the precision of the pitch: “You can play a million-dollar Stradivarius but if you are out of tune, no one will want to hear you!”
Hining, or “Mr. Mike” as his students call him, began his teaching career while still in college, studying with the Vermeer Quartet at NIU. His classmate, Ann Montzka Smelser, introduced him to the Suzuki world, and inspired his fondness for the Suzuki Method.
With degrees in violin and viola performance, Hining loves playing and teaching both instruments. People often ask him which one he prefers, and the answer always is the same: “Whatever is under my chin!” In addition to teaching and performing, he founded the Windy City String Ensemble to enable students to perform great orchestral repertoire under his watchful guidance. Under Hining’s baton the group has flourished and was invited to perform in a variety of high profile and exciting venues—in addition to the previously mentioned gigs at the White House and in Australia—including the benefit concerts of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, The Animal League and PING!, a nonprofit venture making musical instruments available to the students from low-income families.
In addition to developing orchestral performance skills, Hining values these opportunities as the means of personal development for his students. “To be a teenager and see that your gifts and hard work can change the world for the better, it almost makes you want to practice a little bit more!”
Today, the alumni of Oak Park studio of Michael Hining perform in some of the world’s greatest orchestras and chamber groups as well as teach in public and private institutions. The tradition of casting the young, inspired people into the world of music is going strong and growing exponentially.
Professor Hining connected to the CMPI program through one of his colleagues, and immediately saw an opportunity for his students. “When one hears something familiar coming to you in a new way, its valuable. CMPI allows students to perform in the venues outside of the studio environment, to trust the work they are doing, and to blossom.”
Looing back at his career, Hining has this advice to the young musicians: “The last thing the world needs is another disgruntled employee at a job they dislike. I would tell my 13-year-old self to go for it. This path is challenging, there are some things I would have done differently, but I am sure I will never regret my decision to be a musician and teacher!”
ABOVE: CMPI Faculty Member Michael Hining leads his Windy City String Ensemble in Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.
TOP: CMPI Faculty Michael Hining, with student and fellow Bryce Kayser, outside of Orchestra Hall.