Today’s post spotlights one of the wonderful staff members and pianists, Elina Akselrud. She has been an invaluable asset to the CLA team through the many different roles that she fills. I enjoy the artistry that she brings to music-making through her independence as a solo pianist and the sensitivity that she offers as a collaborator. I hope you enjoy reading a little bit more about her experience. Look forward to posts about our wonderful concerts and faculty guests in the near future!
Where were you born and where did you live now?
I was was born in Sumy, Ukraine and grew up in Kyiv, Ukraine since the age of 7. I moved to NYC with my family when I was 15, finished high school and got my BM and first MM in Piano Performance in NY (Mannes) and Boston (NEC). Then, I moved to Europe to continue my studies in Florence, Italy and Lucerne, Switzerland. I still live in Lucerne at the moment but will most likely move somewhere again very soon.
Which languages do you speak?
To be honest, I speak none on a native level. However, I regularly use six languages in my everyday life, all on different levels. English, Russian, Ukrainian, German, French, Italian. More to come!
Why did you decide to study in the United States?
My family moved there so that my younger brother and I would have more choices and opportunities: a real immigration story. It was a major decision that my parents made, leaving all of their own past behind, knowing zero English, and barely having traveled abroad beforehand. I am more and more grateful for it every year: it gave me a huge jump start and a taste of real freedom. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
How did you come to be a part of CLA France?
A long time ago when I was doing my Bachelor's at Mannes I heard about Glenn Morton and his Song Interpretation class from my very close friend, a singer who studied with him. The course subject seemed to be really interesting and I wanted to explore it deeper, so I approached Glenn and asked him if I could take his class. He said he had no space in class, but I kept following him and asking if I could at least sit in and listen. Luckily, someone dropped the class and I was allowed to take it at the end. A few weeks later, CLA was approved as a non-profit, and Glenn asked in class if we knew anyone interested in graphic design. Since I have some background in the visual field, I took the challenge to design the logo and the stationery. Meanwhile, he invited me as a pianist to CLA Italy, and I have been working with CLA on occasion ever since. I always wanted to come to the French program but until now, the scheduling has been too difficult. It finally happened this year!
What is your favorite part of being a pianist here?
My favorite part is making music with the wonderful young artists. I love discovering new abilities, talents and 'shades' of each singer's voice and learning from the renowned coaches.
What is it like to fill multiple roles here?
Well, this is something I am quite used to by now, as I generally do multiple tasks in my life, career, and especially in my own projects. Sometimes it feels like a huge load, but it is always interesting to be involved in different things. For example, here in France, I am playing loads of new piano repertoire, taking and editing photos and videos, learning French, and more. I feel that every experience adds up as a skill and makes me more profound both as an artist and a person.
What has been your favorite moment so far?
The most rewarding time is when all our hard work transforms into the magic that clicks together on stage!
What has been the funniest moment so far?
When singers invent nonexistent words in French, I can watch Raphaël (actively mouthing) and Gaspard (gently conducting) in the first row during concerts. This is even better when I get to page turn and can actually see the audience. Hilarious!
Anything else that you want to say?
I am grateful and truly honored to be part of CLA and to work with all the teaching and student artists here. I wish every one lots of success and to never stop self-discovery!