Natalya Volkova: Volunteering Improves Competition Performance

This blog is from piano teacher Svetlana Volkova , mother of Tacy volunteer Natalya Volkova. She's noticed how performing as a volunteer has helped many of her students do well in competitions, including her daughter.

I have been teaching in the USA for 27 years and my overall teaching experience is over 35 years. As a graduate of Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory (Russia) with Masters Degree (1987) and Ph.D, (1990) and having a husband, Oleg Volkov, who is a winner of numerous international competitions, I have been introducing my students to the world of competitions for many years. Having competitive nature myself from my childhood as a person and as a teacher later, I brought all this into my studio and on to my students.

For decades, all my students have always been participating in many piano competitions and judged testing programs on a yearly basis. We have always strived for perfection in piano skills to meet the competitions requirements.

It has always been a challenge to find a place and opportunity for my students to try their programs in public before presenting it to the judges. As a professional who is very much familiar with performing process and challenges, I understand how tremendously important it is for anyone to play their pieces several times in public before playing them at the competitions. I tried different ways for my students to expose them to these opportunities by sending them to different events at nursing homes, school’s concerts, performances at churches. However, all these concerts were not regularly held and did not fit all my students’ schedules.

About 2 years ago I have heard from a couple of my students (Anita Li and Jessica Hoang) that they started participating in recitals at Shady Grove hospital. At first, I have not paid close attention to this information as I continued my own established way of running a piano studio.

A few months later, I was very much surprised noticing that those 2 students’ performing and learning skills grew explicitly. I started thinking about what caused their progress and came to the conclusion that possibly it was related to their experience with participating in recitals at Shady Grove hospital.

I immediately contacted Mrs. Charlotte Holliday asking all the questions about the foundation and performing opportunities for my students. She was extremely supportive, nice and open to collaboration. I suggested to all my students to sign up for performing their pieces in public and also signed up my daughter Natalya Volkova and my son Vladimir Volkov for performances in some nursing homes and Shady Grove Hospital through Tacy Foundation.

As a mother, I was bringing my children to those recitals. As a teacher, I was watching and learning new world of performances of students-volunteers who at times have no such profound professional training in their instruments, but have a lot of love for music and great desire to share their music with people who were less fortunate at the moment – sick people in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, elderly people at assisted living facilities. It was always amazing to see how appreciative the audience was to every student’s effort when they played not only well prepared advanced level pieces, but also little elementary compositions. In the past, I would never even consider such lower level students to play in public until they grew up in their piano skills to play at least intermediate level pieces.

Watching dozens and dozens of the students-volunteers recitals in various locations gradually changed my attitude as a teacher. Finally, I saw the other side of the medal – music for everyone at all levels and styles. It also changed me as a person. Instead of only focusing on perfecting my students’ piano skills and going from competition to competition winning places and awards for themselves and making their parents proud of their achievements, I started encouraging them to volunteer and bring music to elderly and sick people to help them enjoy live music and feel better physically and psychologically.

I want my students to grow high not only as young musically gifted and well trained professionally people, but also to play from their hearts giving their music to the others and sharing their talents with the people in need. I want my students to become good people and citizens eventually carrying for others and helping others in any way they can, at their young age this will be bringing music as music therapy to others.

It makes me feel better and more satisfied as teacher. Incorporating volunteer recitals into my studio program for my students makes my teaching more complete. I feel that this extremely important mission was a greatly missing part of my overall teaching all these years.

I can see how much my own children, my daughter and my son, changed over this year participating every week in one or two volunteer recitals. Not only they matured personally, they became much better as musicians developing their love and affection for music. Gradually getting rid of stage fear, they also got to know many other young musicians and got new friends. My daughter also subsequently became an intern at Shady Grove hospital recitals helping Mrs. Holliday to run recitals smoothly.

I would even say that all this changed our weekend live style coming every Saturday evening to recitals.

My students became better musicians; they performed better at competitions this year too. My son and daughter played more successfully at competitive events as well receiving higher grades from judges.

Natalya and Vladimir also participated at Tacy Foundation project for recording CDs in February 2017. They had a wonderful opportunity to experience a recording session in a professional studio.

Natalya was selected for a Winners Recital after participating at Rockville Competition for Solo Piano and Strings held on April 30, 2017 at Montgomery College in Rockville. This was almost impossible task since there were around 500 participants this year from 98 teachers coming from all over Maryland and other states. Only 16 students, best out of best were selected by several highly qualified judges to participate in the Winners Recital. I was very much pleased and honored that one of my students was selected, but even more proud and happy that this was my own daughter! My other students, who volunteers to play at Tacy Foundation recitals have received higher grades and placements at various competitions this year too.

I know definitely that my daughter’s success is very much related to performing every week in volunteer recitals. My other students also volunteer more and more as they see how beneficial this activity is for themselves as well as for all people they perform for.

We also became good friends with Mrs. Holliday.

I want to personally thank her from the bottom of my heart for all the hard work she is doing and for such extremely important mission she took upon herself making a difference for the huge community, effecting lives of hundreds of people of all ages.

THANK YOU, Mrs. Holliday!!!

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