Bending Perspectives with Vira Burmenko
SB (StarBeat): When did the lightening strike: “This is Me. This is all I want to do”?
VB (Vira Burmenko): You may say I was lucky to be born with a purpose. When my mother was pregnant with me she went to listen to solo J. S. Bach Keyboard partitas each week. His theory and spirituality still leads my daily practice and I pay homage to Johann Sebastian in my Three-Mix.
The violin captured me as my calling when I was seven years old and auditioned for a music school. I fell in love at the first sight. This instrument was perfect for me: unique and challenging to keep my interest for a lifetime. I have also been involved in the basic ballet, but the main physicality came into my performance when I started thai-chi and martial arts classes at the age of twelve.
Then, a few years ago a student of mine came to his lesson all excited about this video he found of Lindsey Stirling and told me:
Vira, this is what you do, you should go do it!
That was a sign to launch violin and dance as my niche.
SB: Tell us a bit about what it takes to push your acrobatic virtuosity & fiery playing style?
VB: I exercise daily and practice my instrument every other day, that being outside of gigging and working. I simply need the “me time” with my instrument to recharge and meditate. The acrobatics and physicality are a natural extension of my performance.
Music makes us move, it mobilizes us and connects our inner world with the outer reality. Each time I perform at retirement homes, playing an old song, I tear up seeing people revive through music. Some of them do not recall their own names, but when they hear a familiar melody – they sing each word, clap and dance. They tell me stories of their love. I do not think about how much I have to do –
I just do it. In other words, you are what you think. Since I was little I wanted to combine all my loves into one: music, dance, movement, storytelling, visual art, emotion and I am now living my dream. As artists we are storytellers, and through our music we tell our story. No one else can tell your story for you, only you. What would you do to tell yours?…
SB: What is your single favourite achievement?
VB: My own achievement? It is hard to pinpoint what I consider as a single achievement. There have been many milestones that helped me become who I am today. I can give you my resume, haha: I wrote a book, I made two films this year, I am launching an online business, I met my boyfriend and we just celebrated our one year anniversary. All these things are shaping the ground for my next achievement.
SB: What will it take to eclipse it?
VB: The launch of my Online Music Coach this September will be my next adult dream come true. We are a bridge between students and teachers, helping students learn and teachers teach. I built this system so that the students in North America prepare their strong foundation for their success in music and beyond, like I had it back home at the age of seven.
Thanks to my Eastern-European Ear Training is the reason my adult education in music was a breeze, and I want to share it with my students here. it took me a year to build it, and it was worth each moment! With a functional training system, access to international community of expert music educators, and our unique affiliate program that allows the students to fully pay off their course and keep earning – we can reach thousands of students across the world!
We already have bookings for 100+ sales with music schools internationally! I know we are on the right track and in high demand! Create a profile today and start learning at www.myonlinemusiccoach.com. We will prepare you for our launch!
SB: How about your childhood in Ukraine? Shred some light on good & bad!
VB: From my memory I had a happy childhood. Looking back at it, each weekend we visited my grandma just 15 minutes out of Kiev, and enjoyed the wilderness of forests, lakes, mushroom picking, BBQing, and connecting with family; we travelled on summer vacations to Turkey, Bulgaria, Spain, Russia (Azov Sea), Slovakia.
Life was paced slower and we as kids had more time to develop our own routine, be creative and grow responsibility to entertain ourselves. During the week I was quite busy with my music, school work, composing, painting, writing music and poetry. I had an exhibit as a young artist of the Ukraine at the age of sixteen, just before we moved to Canada. I was a pretty serious child, haha.
For music, we went to classes most days of the week: violin, mandatory piano lessons, ensemble, ear training, choir, solfege, theory, history, and performed quarterly recitals. These things we only get to do here at a University level, and I think the students deserve to have a method helping them through their practice, that reaches beyond weekly lessons, and then forgetting about their lesson for seven days. This is why I am so passionate about my Online Music Coach. My goal is to help real families, like those I worked with for over a decade in my studio, – save time, money and develop good practice habits on a weekly schedule.
With the support my mother provided and surrounded by my teachers, I grew up knowing that I could be anyone I chose to be. I do not recall cases of feminism or discrimination in my immediate community. As a matter of fact, women have always been the heads of household and leaders of their community. It is a Slavic tradition, I believe. Everyone seemed in tune and moving in the right direction. I think it is a good place to grow up in one consistent culture who share the same ideology. Then when we moved to Canada, my world just got bigger, and it was a new stage of growth.
The bad… was probably the fear and pressure my father felt from the mafia trying to close his legal business. He is an inventor, mechanical engineer and he did not see the future for our family back home, given the criminal activity.
SB: How would Paganini rock it in the new digital age?
VB: I believe he would do the same thing we are all doing now: launch an online business, sell his new music online to reach millions, and design educational courses for artists and businessmen. He would do what Leah MacHenry does, haha! People often forget that sensations of their time, like Niccolo were truly innovators and it took years for them to be accepted as the new direction for music.
The modern industry is moving to niche marketing fast and now it the best time to brand yourself in the indie community. Paganini was feared by many and cursed, accused of signing a deal with the Devil. On another hand, this was a brilliant marketing strategy – it made people curious to see him play. In some cases there is no bad publicity.
I actually had a funny experience: when I was seven performing my fist recital at a music school, my teacher was tuning all our violins and accidentally gave me another student’s instrument. With no time to waste, pianist playing my intro, I picked it up, and performed. My parents laughed for months after that, calling me a young Paganini. Do you remember how he played on just one string? I didn’t think my experience was a big deal, it taught me I can play on anything.
SB: Expert mode: be honest! Yngwie Malmsteen – influence or not? (Yngwie is a renowned neo-classic guitar player that puts on incredible live show performances.)
VB: I frankly have not heard of [him]… Will check it out! I am often compared to Dr. Draw, Lindsey Stirling, David Garrett… Lemon Bucket Orchestra comes up a lot among my fans. Actually, Eugene Draw and I are nominated for the same award gala InFame Awards in 2017!
My musical influences go into the age of avant-garde: Sofia Gubaidulina, Arnold Schoenberg, Paul Hindemith. I enjoy their intensity and methodology. I studied with David Mott – he supervised my MA Thesis, a solo violin suite, based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, its Limbo state of Bardo – between life and death. I worked with Matt Brubeck, Casey Sokol, David Livod, Bill Westcott – all amazing artists and educators. My violin coaches were Peggy Hills – the head of Chamber Music Society of Mississauga, and Ian Grant – both innovative instructors, ahead of their time.
SB: Any upcoming projects & concerts?
VB: My Eastern European Gypsy band and I are planning on a concert series this summer. We are still in early stages, but will tell you as soon as we have dates! It will be in Toronto for starters, and then we will take it further. I have performed with these guys for over a decade and I love it! You can hear the influence in my Three-Mix. Right now however, I am focusing on my Online Music Coach, which takes up each day with preparations and marketing strategies for September.
SB: That’s a wrap! Shout-out time?!!!
VB: Thank you to everyone who has supported me and my music this far! To my wonderful parents who have nurtured the artist I am today, to my affiliate team in US, Toronto, Iran and Russia; to my professors at York University – it has been a long time, but they are like my spirit guides and always show me the way. Hi to my sister Lena, my boyfriend Alastair and our filmmaking crew! Big regards to Fred and Howard from Humble and Fred Radio! I was there two weeks ago and we had an amazing show on the air!
SB: Thanks Vira! We’ll keep an eye on you and keep doing your thing.
VB: Thank you StarBeat, my pleasure!
Vira’s Social Media Links:
Vira Burmenko | Performer, Author
Book: “My Key to Immortality” is available on Balboa Press: http://bookstore.balboapress.com/Products/SKU-000620068/My-Key-to-Immortality.aspx
Online Music Coach – Beginner Ear Training and Instrumental Technique Course: http://onlinemusiccoach.teachable.com/p/beginner-music-ear-training-and-instrumental-technique/
Online Music Coach Website: http://onlinemusiccoach.teachable.com
All of the above are also available through artist’s site: http://www.viraburmenko.com