Balancing Performance with Teaching: A Pianist’s Journey

Anna Kislitsyna – Concert Pianist/ Harpsichordist/ Music Educator

(Philadelphia, PA)

Anna at the start of the interview

Hazel: How did you decide to become a musician?

Anna: Both of my parents are musicians.  My father is a bayan player and conductor, my mother is a violinist, and my younger brother is a violinist/violist.  My brother and I collaborate quite often, and we have a very special connection through playing music together that we cannot experience with anyone else.  

As a kid, I was always surrounded by music and musicians.  LPs were my babysitter when my parents were out of the house.  I could not imagine becoming anybody else but a musician.

Hazel: What do you identify yourself as more, a performer or teacher?

Anna:  Teaching and performing are both equally important. I combine performing as a soloist and collaborative pianist with teaching. I pass on what I have learned from my teachers and what I have learned as a performer to future generations. 

Hazel:  What inspires you as a performer?

Anna: I get inspired by discovering and performing new music.  One of my missions as a performer is to introduce rarely performed music to the audience.  There are still so many composers to be discovered and celebrated!

Here are a couple of music videos as a reference:

Hazel:  I LOVE both videos so much! Thanks for sharing!! I especially like the fact that you are playing less well-known pieces.

Anna: One of the projects I am working on is a concert program which includes only female composers from different musical eras. The performance will include compositions by Clara Schumann, Emily Beach, Sofia Gubaidulina, and others.  Many compositions by female composers were not appreciated during their time but they are now receiving a lot of interest from both audiences and musicians. 

Hazel: I’m glad to hear that you are working on bringing spotlight to some of female composers’ works. I remember fondly listening to you perform the Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto earlier this year. It was truly amazing! What inspires you as a teacher?

Anna: I take the same approach as I do in performance.  I keep myself and my students interested by trying out different music and avoiding teaching the same repertoire over and over again. 

Sometimes, I would organize a concert based on a certain theme where I perform together with my students such as a concert featuring all Baroque Music on Harpsichord. I also encourage my students to participate in competitions.  Such events motivate both me and my students to achieve the best possible results and stay focused. 

Hazel:  How did you start your teaching career?  Did it come much later than your performance career?

Anna: I started teaching when I was 21 as an assistant to my conservatory professors. I was assigned to students and served as their daily practice coach.  These students were very advanced-level musicians and this experience helped me to learn to teach at a pretty high level very early on in my teaching career. I was able to learn directly from my professors and experiment with different methods.  

Hazel: Any special teaching moment that is dear to your heart?

Anna: It is a special moment whenever I successfully connect my student to a composer’s intentions.  Also, there was this time when my student Melody Yu won the prestigious Greenfield competition and was given the honor to be the soloist playing with the Philadelphia Orchestra. She was only 11. Although winning competitions isn’t everything, I’m proud to say my students have won more than 130 prizes in my 15 years of teaching.

Hazel: That’s amazing! What about for performance side of your career? Any interesting performances coming up soon?

Anna: There are many, but I have a very special one coming up in November this year.  I will be performing J.S. Bach Keyboard Concerto (BWV 1054) on harpsichord with the Omsk Symphony Orchestra in Omsk, Russia. This is the orchestra I made my debut with when I was ten and with whom I played many piano concerti. My mother has been playing there for more than thirty years, and, as a child, I attended most of the rehearsals and performances of the orchestra. I personally knew all the musician and I am very much looking forward to playing with them! 

Hazel:  Are there people in your life that inspired you to be who you are as a musician?

Anna: In addition to my parents, I was very lucky to study with outstanding teachers who always inspired me.  I want to give special thanks to:

Galina Tavrovskaya (Omsk Music School)

Dr. Igor Resnianski (West Chester University)

Professor Larisa Smeshko and Professor Mary Lebenzon (Novosibirsk State Conservatory)

Dr. Joyce Lindorff (harpsichord) and Dr. Charles Abramovic (Temple University)

All of these teachers have been supportive and believed in me.  I’ve gone further in my career because of them. They always encouraged me to explore my own ideas, pursue competitions, performances and various other projects.

Hazel: Any word of advice for aspiring musicians?

Anna:  Do what you love.  This is how you can be successful.  You must follow your heart. It’s important to pave the path that reflects who you are.

For additional information about Anna, please visit her at www.kislitsyna.com.

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