The Russian-born Canadian piano teacher and composer, Boris Berlin, studied at the Sebastopol Conservatory, at the Conservatoire de Genève from 1923 to 1925, and with Mark Hambourg and Leonid Kreutzer at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Although he began his career as a pianist, performing in Germany and Switzerland, he soon concentrated on piano pedagogy. While visiting Canada in 1925 he toured Ontario in a concert trio and held a position as piano teacher From 1925 to 1927 at the Hambourg Conservatory. He began teaching at the TCM (RCMT) in 1928 and at the University of Toronto in 1970. He became naturalized Canadian in 1931
Disturbed by the lack of Canadian material for music students, Boris Berlin wrote over 20 pedagogical works, beginning with The Modern Piano Student (Harris 1930), the first of a number of collaborations with Ernest MacMillan. Other widely used manuals and teaching pieces were published by Boosey & Hawkes, Harris, Heintzman, Jarman, and Thompson in Canada, and by other publishers in England and the USSR. These include 20 Lessons in Ear Training (with MacMillan, Harris 1939), the eight-volume Four Star Series in Sight Reading (Harris 1939-55), and the ABC of Piano Playing (Harris 1941, rev edn 1983-5; also issued in the first French edition as L'ABC du Piano under the pseudonym René Saint-Jean). Some of his pieces were published under the pseudonym Lawrence London. Berlin gave workshops for teachers and, with Warren Mould, prepared a teachers' manual, Basics of Ear Training (Toronto 1968), published in a translation by Juliette Milette as Rythme et son (Toronto 1969). Milette also translated Berlin's Keys to Music Rudiments (Principes élémentaires de la musique), both published in Toronto in 1968. His more than 200 publications comprised pieces for children, compilations, and pedagogical materials, including the seven-volume series Ear Training for Practical Examinations in collaboration with Andrew Markow (Harris 1989). Claude Champagne was another of Berlin's collaborators. Berlin's books have sold over 4 million copies. His pupils included Louis Applebaum, Dorothy Sandler-Glick, Gwen Beamish MacMillan, Keith MacMillan, Bernadene Blaha, Andrew Markow, Adrienne Shannon, Christina Petrowska, Geraldine Schuster-Leder, Peter C. Simon, Lydia Wong, and the jazz pianists Rudy Toth and Norman Amadio. Berlin also served as examiner, lecturer, and festival adjudicator.
On April 6, 1990 Boris Berlin was honoured by the RCMT with the title 'Heritage Teacher.' He received the Order of Ontario in 1992, as well as the Canada 125 award. In 2000 Berlin was made an Officer of the Order of Canada; he passed away before the ceremony could be held. The citation read, "Known as the teacher of teachers, he profoundly influenced musical instruction in our country. Having taught some of Canada's most illustrious musicians, he was known for his extensive contribution to pedagogical material and for his piano pieces for young performers."