Brest’s Shirma Musical College is a true factory of talents

Ten points for cembalo

Brest’s Shirma Musical College is a true factory of talents, producing thousands of professional musicians, and dozens of international competition winners. Over 100 of its students have won scholarships from the President’s Special Fund to Support Talented Youth. Among them is Alina Yakimuk, from Brest.

Alina’s friends know well that she is usually to be found at the college, as she arrives early, often at 6am, and stays late, wishing to rehearse. She’s also there at the weekend, wanting to attend additional classes. Her desire comes not just from the necessity of passing exams but from a deep need to perfect her skills: a habit she has inherited from family members.

She tells us, “My four years of study have passed in a flash. I have so many friends at the college, in addition to wonderful teachers. It’s a great atmosphere. However, life continues, and we need to move on.”

A member of the Folk Instrument Department, Alina plays the cembalo but admits that, in childhood, she dreamt of playing the violin. Due to scoliosis, she had to choose between the piano and cembalo. “I was so upset!” she recalls. “A violin was bought and I saw myself as a violin player in my dreams. I awaited classes with anticipation. However, my plans failed. Why did I choose the cembalo? It’s hard to say, but my mother is a pianist so we may have decided to ‘diversify’! The piano is my second instrument.”

Before college, Alina studied at Brest’s Gymnasium #4, with focus on music. It’s no secret that many parents force their children to study music but this was not Alina’s case. She always loved music and studied with pleasure. She had no desire to give everything up, even in the hardest times, to follow her peers’ lifestyle. During her fifth years of studies at school, Alina firmly decided to devote herself to music and to enter Shirma Musical College.

During her third year at school, she took part in a regional stage of the Zhinovich Republican Contest of Folk Instrument Players, and came second. “I received my diploma but left the stage in tears. Nobody could understand,” she recollects, adding, “I was crying because only the winner gained a place at the national stage. I wasn’t satisfied. At that moment, I realised that I craved this recognition.”

As the Zhinovich Contest is only organised once every three years, she had much time to prepare. Her parents and teachers were amazed by Alina’s determination. Three years later, she won the regional contest and gained the chance to perform in the capital.

Sadly, she failed to win on her first attempt but she set a new goal and, in 2012, became a laureate of the Zhinovich Republican Contest of Folk Instrument Players.

She entered the Shirma Musical College without needing to pass exams, and claimed a President’s Special Fund to Support Talented Youth scholarship. “This was a great joy and honour for me. My dream came true and I have no doubt that I’ve found my path in life,” she says.

The young musician has new plans and dreams now. In July, she’ll try to enter the Belarusian State Music Academy but her ultimate goal is to play with the Zhinovich National Academic Folk Orchestra. “I’ll be the happiest person in the world if my dream comes true. I also wish to lecture; it doesn’t matter where — in a school or at a college. Although salaries are modest, people take this path because they must.”

She is already preparing for her teaching job, training a pupil for the second year, and hopes the he won’t give up cembalo playing after graduating from musical school.

“The cembalo is a complicated instrument. Many children are perturbed on seeing it for the first time. They’re frightened of its many strings, although they master them with time. The first year is the most important, in building posture and hand position. It’s much harder to change this later,” Alina says.

Alina is pleased that Belarusian folk instruments are regaining popularity, with more children taking up the cembalo. At present, just seven people play this instrument at the college while, in the past, there would be four applicants per place. Alina has no doubt that the popularity of folk instruments is reviving.

By Pavel Losich
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