Monday, October 14, 2013

NMTA Guest Artist and Clinicians: Spend your life with music

Libby Larsen, Dmitri Vorobiev, and Polina Khatsko are the guest artists/presenters for the 2013 NMTA State Conference. Larsen, the commissioned composer, will share “The Art of Composing Music” and will be present for the premiere of her new piece which you can read more about in her interview here. Vorobiev will perform ($15/adult, $10/student) on Thursday, 7:30pm, in O’Donnell Auditorium on the Wesleyan campus. He and Khatsko took the time to share a little about themselves and what they will be bringing to the conference.
Polina Khatsko - guest clinician at the
NMTA 2013 State Conference
Khatsko, guest clinician this week, has a special place in her heart for Nebraska already, having studied at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

“Kearney, NE, was my first American home... It’s hard for me to think of another place as ideal as Nebraska to start my journey in the U.S. The sincerity, simplicity, and generosity of Midwestern people is extraordinary, and it’s what stole my heart from the very beginning—what made me feel incredibly welcomed, encouraged me, and helped to overcome any hurdles on the way to assimilating into a new culture.”

Indeed, Khatsko shared, “Kearney, Nebraska, is also the place where I truly learned to smile – a quality that in the 1990’s, wasn’t too common among people of Belarus, where I came from.”

Khatsko will bring her smile back to Nebraska as she and her husband, Vorobiev, will present a Master Class on Friday afternoon for the winners of the MTNA Piano Competition. Khatsko will also be giving two presentations on the Russian School of Piano Playing; she wants her audience to be aware of the importance attached to “the culture of sound, or more precisely, sound production as related to piano playing.

Vorobiev, who will be performing Thursday evening, at 7:30pm, in O’Donnell Auditorium, says that for him, the “culture of sound production” that is so vital to the Russian school of piano playing, is the way that he was taught from an early age.

“I am thankful for that particular way of upbringing that I had. It really gave me so much in depth and dedication to help me get where I am now. Focusing on: how you listen, what you listen for, and how you respond to certain things when you play.”

In addition to the focus on listening, Vorobiev said that he received a “vigorous training in music history and music theory.” Music was certainly in his blood, Vorobiev’s grandpa and mom were both musicians, and he was enrolled in music school, “not just lessons, actual music school—theory, history, and two lessons per week,” from the age of 6. His love for the piano was especially strengthened by going to concerts, and he remembers fondly hearing the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto when he was six.

Dmitri Vorobiev - performing
Liszt and Beethoven on
Thursday at 7:30pm in
Wesleyan's O'Donnell Auditorium
Vorobiev went on to explain that he was not only involved in classical music. Around the age of 13 or 14, he got into heavy metal. “It was all part of me. But, something about classical music was always sacred for me, I guess.”

Like any kid, he studied and practiced, but at times, “I was lazy, too.”

Ultimately, about the age of 14, Vorobiev made the decision to become a professional musician—because he really loved piano. Although he had not heard the phrase yet, “One of the best ways to spend your life is to spend it doing something that will outlast it,” Vorobiev says that it sums up what was at the back of his mind with that decision.

Khatsko says that, for her, pursuing music as a career has to do with “the privilege of making an impact on and enriching people's lives, and the privilege of connecting to people on any level, at any time, in any place.”

On Vorobiev’s program for Thursday night, he will be sharing a little bit of himself by playing works of Liszt and Beethoven. A year ago, he recorded a CD of Liszt, and right now, Vorobiev has set himself the goal of performing the complete solo piano works of Beethoven. Therefore, this performance of two composers very close to him will represent “who I am, and what I am doing.”

Both Khatsko and Vorobiev have advice for young musicians.

Khatsko reminds them:

“Aside from all the known benefits of having music in your life, you should realize that music has unique power... power that lets you open up, express the inexpressible, find comfort, unleash worries and tame anger, and most importantly - discover yourself, find sides of yourself that you didn't even know were there.”

And Vorobiev, while relating a story of a young student who couldn’t remember where Middle C was from week to week, reminds parents:

“Inspiration also comes from parents—how much do they do. Take the kids to concerts. Teachers can tell you all these great things, but if the parents do not participate, it just stays on the side and doesn’t become a part of life. I wish that kids would have a little more eagerness to learn classical music.

‘Live your life...’ might not mean much to an 8-year-old, but learn how to practice, learn in piano, or violin, or whatever. It will ensure that you will have a very successful life. A recent Nobel prize winner, a chemist, in his acceptance speech said he owes everything to his music teacher—because that’s where he learned to practice.”

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