The Heroine’s Journey of Anna Ouspenskaya

What is the best thing that I love about my work?People. As a musician I meet, interact, work, create, collaborate with 1,000s of people, and from every part of the world. It may seem strange to say this, coming from a professional concert pianist. But being a musician goes way beyond sitting alone on a piano bench and “practicing”. I grew up spending many hours a day practicing, sure, but those hours were outweighed even in my youth, by many more which I spent interacting with teachers, peers, chamber music partners. As I grew my skills, so grew my circles – I started performing with orchestras, choirs, opera companies, and many other types of groups of musicians. I started to travel the world to give my performances, to teach, interact with students and their parents. As my interests widened, and my career developed, I started to develop relationships with music and business managers, radio and TV producers, creative crews, composers, sound and video engineers and producers; sponsors, donors, SEO’s of every business type who attended various fundraising events at which I was asked to perform and entertain as a guest artists, and many many others, from around entire globe, and from many different professional fields. I find this the greatest blessing of my profession – a musician’s access to meeting and learning PEOPLE.

What is my idea of happiness? To be in sync with myself and to be able to do today what I dreamed of doing yesterday

What is my greatest fear?To misunderstand the world, some event, or people around, and to make a choice by mistake with which I might unintentionally hurt someone  

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself?This is an awesome question! Got me thinking…I only have a long answer to it, no short simple answer. I have regrets about some things which I did, or which I didn’t do, or which I didn’t do when they mattered most. I can’t say there is a general trait of myself which I dislike or deplore. I acquire unhealthy tendencies in my attitude and behavior which come and go. When I notice a pattern of my own behavior which I dislike or foresee that I will grow to deplore if not corrected, I usually try to correct it. Developing some patterns of behavior which may not be most helpful to my own best self or to others is not something which I can or even aim to avoid – when I notice them, I try to train myself to follow better patterns.

Which living persons in my profession do i most admire?There are too many. I admire thousands of great people in my profession. Some are admirable people and also great professionals, others are just every-day musicians but great people nonetheless. 

What is my greatest extravagance?This is calling me to judge the “optics” of myself, in the eyes of others. I am an outside-the-box thinker and doer, so I suppose many things about me are extravagant when measured by prescribed standards? I am an avid long-distance backpacker, I take part in extreme backpacking expeditions. I am a risk-taking skier, too. I suppose that’s extravagant and goes against stereotypes of a pianist. I am also entrepreneurial and a life-long learner which takes me on adventures into organizing naval forms of music events. I established my first international joint venture music company when I was 21, in Russia which just changed from the Soviet Union. I led the first privately owned and operated International music festival in St Petersburg called Liszt in Russia when I was 23 and still a conservatory student. I conceived and led a massive international music and business festival VolgaFest’93 which engaged 1,000’s of musicians, orchestras, groups, businessmen, governmental and political delegations, and media, on a 10-day celebration of arts, colture, peace, and friendship through the cities along River Volga. Festival left a mark in the history of Yaroslavl and was included in the academic publication of the regional history: http://www.lib.uniyar.ac.ru/edocs/iuni/20000601.pdf (pg 271). Today Volgafest is run by other people and many different organizations, and it has grown into a massive regional multifaceted sommer program of 100’s of events. https://uar.ru/news/itogi-festivalya-volgafest/http://volgafest.com// I suppose then my greatest extravagance is my determination to follow my dreams and to actually make them happen

On what occasion would I lie?Out of mischief:) but seriously, I would lie to save a life 

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? I have a hard time with the “dislike” questions. I like finding “problems” – as a passionate problem-solver I have a particular soft spot for things I “dislike”: I like improving them. The process and the challenges are very engaging for me, so I kinda “like” things which I dislike”. But still, to give this question my best: I dislike when people in my profession engage in self-limiting, self-censoring, self-sabotaging

When and where was I the happiest, in my work?Oh, in so many places, and in so many roles! Onstage, for sure. On television and on broadcasts. In lessons with my students. In rehearsals with my music colleagues. In the kitchens during debates with friends and colleagues through the nights, over “where are we taking this whole music forward into the future?” 

If I could, what would I change about myself?I would love to live longer than a normal life expectancy, I might even like to live forever (that’s a risky statement, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to “get tired of living”?). 

What is my greatest achievement in work?People who got my “bug” of love for music – my audience, my students. This is not a resume question, so I am going to just say that I checked the standard boxes of milestones in my profession, in terms of performing around the world, making CD recordings, raising great younger professional musicians (and passionate music lovers), writing pedagogy materials and curriculums. I held positions, I led organizations and events. My work is in many forms, and it’s easiest to find my legacy by just googling my name. But here are some of the more recent creations:https://www.youtube.com/c/VCHs20https://virtualconcerthalls.com/
https://www.soundespressivocompetition.com/

Where would I most like to live?In several places at once. If there was a practical way to combine in one living where I live now, plus living in the saddle of a snowy mountain, plus living in my hometown Yaroslavl, plus in Moscow and New York, plus enjoying the Internet connection to the rest of the world? – I’d take it in a heartbeat. 

What is my most treasured possession?My music instruments, my sheet music with signatures and markings by some of the greatest artists from the past 100+ years, and my family’s history in letters, recordings, photographs, little trinkets collected through traveling the world 

What is my most marked characteristic?Abundance, courage, transparency, vulnerability. My fluency in English and my natural curls

What is my most inspirational location, in my city?Great Falls Park, and my home

What is my favorite place to eat and drink, in my city?I love hopping different restaurants, my favorite ones are buffets because I like sampling dishes

What books influenced my life and how?Russian classics and world classics. I think I misunderstood most of what I read in my youth, and I read like a read-aholic. I read too many classics which were way beyond my age and ability to really understand, which in turn misled me into many misconceptions, biases, and mistakes. But it also trained my memory and my ability to revisit and rethink.  

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day?I’d like to hope that my dying will stretch long enough to hear a collage of pieces. Bach Passions and Mass in B Minor, Rachmaninoff Concertos, Brahms Violin Concerto and Symphonies 3 and 4, Beethoven 32 Variations, soundtrack for LOTR, a few songs by Vladimir Visotsky and Bulat Okudjava…

Who is my hero or heroine in fiction?Jesus. Let’s leave out debates over whether He is fiction or real, ok? I take that this was meant as a simple question:)

Who are my heroes and heroines in real life?My mom who is 91, a violinist, a physicist who designed an electric scooter and had it built for her, at the age of 90. As her way to battle pandemic isolation fatigue, and her way of dealing with her weakening ability to move around town  

Which movie would i recommend to see once in a lifetime?I love too many of them! I would like to recommend watching movies, period. There are some incredibly great people who create them, many movies are modern day literature, classics. I look for great movie directors of the past and of today, they have a way to tell it all – the story, the morale, the message.

What role play stories in my life and work?Stories are my source of wisdom, my clear springwater of humor, my energy, my teachers, my models, my motivators – very important role

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ to me? A motivational message. A reminder to take seriously my personal responsibility to live the life which is my own and no one else’s. To tell my unique story through my deeds and through my creations. To share my story with people, and to not keep it in the back drawer in sketches. To shape my story the best I can, day -by-day, minute-by-minute

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime?YOU, the reader of my story. 

Which people or companies would I like to work with in 2021? Composers Howard Shore, Hans Zimmer

Which people in my profession who can make a real difference in my creative career would i love to meet in 2021? Paula Kerger (CEO of PBS); Jeff Bezos. I am looking for people who are interested in joining forces with me, by sharing their blessings through programs which help young musicians learn how to engage with online audiences in ways which can be helpful not risky; how to build their  own communities and independent careers; how to find paths towards real education which will shape them into unique creators and empower them to be impactful.  Learn more about my initiatives on Sound Espressivo and Virtual Concert Halls websites:https://www.soundespressivocompetition.com/https://virtualconcerthalls.com/

What project, in 2021, am I looking forward to work on?Sound Espressivo, second edition. It’s a music contest held in a format of live Internet TV over social networks and hybrids which combine virtual performances with in-person in concert venues. The goal of Sound Espressivo is to create a live virtual performance event which includes real time interactions with contestants and tell their stories. We connect international judges who give contestants feedback in real time on the live broadcast. We create interactive live broadcast programs in which judges perform, discuss current topics, interact with contestants, their teachers, parents, school representatives, and support groups. We include music industry representatives – managers, educators, creators of online music platforms. It’s a competition which gives the experience of a lifetime to everyone involved, by connecting people from around the globe, helping them interact and engage with each other and with the audience. We build cultural and music bridges across generations, continents, political regimes, in a live Virtual Concert Hall where people are not required to turn off their cell phones, but encouraged to engage instead. We follow up with Laureates and Winners, we provide them with further opportunities to perform on Virtual Stage, to attend master courses, to learn more about livestreaming LIVE music, and the incredible opportunities this format provides them, by opening the entire world to them, helping them continue their growth. https://www.soundespressivocompetition.com/I am also looking forward to continuing our film project of Beethoven Nine Symphonies, in collaboration with Architects of Music https://www.architectsofmusic.com/. It’s an animated documentary art film, the first in the series is dedicated to Beethoven Fifth, which release is expected in August – September 2021. It will be available first on iClassical Academy platform https://iclassical-academy.com/, with possibly becoming wider available later. Keep an eye on pre-release trailers, reels, etc., coming up on Virtual Concert Halls channels and social networks. The films are created in collaboration with some of the most brilliant musicians, script writers, narrators, and producers, it’s insightful, beautiful, funny, suitable for a wide audience, including people who may not currently be too much into classical music. It’s aim is to reintroduce Beethoven Symphonies to modern audiences in a format which is both engaging and educational.

Where can you see me or my work in 2021?Please check our broadcasts at https://www.youtube.com/c/VCHs20 On Facebook https://www.facebook.com/VCHS20 and other socials. On many other music companies’ websites, just Google me. Once the regular concert season is back – in brick-and-mortar concert venues:).

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me?I believe Passion needs to be nurtured with love and care, just like any other valuable asset. So it doesn’t retire. There are too many great reasons for Passion to retire, way more than there are reasons for the Passion to keep fueling a person’s actions.In the course of my life I was labeled and perceived by others as many things: “child prodigy”, “activist”, “driven”, “pushy”… Most often as “visionary” and “the passionate one”. From the outside these labels allow people to assume that I am “just born that way”, that I am “just talented and passionate”. That simply “being that way” makes it easy for me to do the things which many others don’t do. Passion doesn’t change how easy or hard it is “to do things”. “Things” stay the way they are, and it takes the same effort to get anything done, whether life is approached with Passion, or with a different attitude. Passion is an attitude which helps focus a person’s resources. Maintaining Passionate attitude over time requires daily exercise, just like maintaining any strength. 
 
How can you contact me?Email me: anna@virtualconcerthalls.com, or through our website https://virtualconcerthalls.com/contact-us/. You can message me through LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/anna-ouspenskaya-4217736/

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