Aza Torshkoeva, World Class Piano Performer and Piano Teacher at State College of Florida

Aza Torshkoeva, World Class Piano Performer and Piano Teacher at State College of Florida

In the halls of the SCF Music building, you often hear, "Ms. Aza! Ms. Aza!" as student affectionately call her. To her colleagues, she is simply known as "Aza, piano player and teacher extraordinaire." Her road from Russia led her to an unfamiliar place, hearing an unfamiliar language, but performing very familiar music. Take a listen as Aza Torshkoeva describes her upbringing, early piano successes, navigation of the immigration system, and love of teaching the piano students at the State College of Florida. Come along and join the club!

• Aza Torshkoeva Website & Facebook & Instragram & YouTube & Spotify

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State College of Florida Music Program Website & Facebook & Instagram

State College of Florida Foundation Website & Facebook & Instagram

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Robyn: Today. It is a real treat for me to introduce to you our piano instructor here at the state college of Florida. She has her master's degree in piano performance from the university of South Florida. And before that she was a student at the college of music and Petra  Russia. How did I do? Yes. And the school of music and Elizabeth Russia.

Was that any better? How do you say it? Oh no, we've never got it. Where she studied piano and won every piano competition on the planet. She has soloed with the Florida orchestra. I'm very proud to say the Bradenton symphony orchestra she's won the presidential scholarship from the president of Russia and is included now none of our other  guests.

Can say this. She was included in the encyclopedia of the most talented children of Russia. Didn't even know there was such a thing.  Here at the state college of Florida, she teaches private piano lessons, class piano, performs with many of our ensembles and is a breath of fresh air.

Every time she enters the building, Mrs. Awesome. Torsh Gava welcome to the club. 

Aza: Hello. Thank you. Thank you so much. 

Robyn: So let's start in the beginning because piano players, you and I talk about this. We have the very different start to their career versus say someone like me who joined band in seventh grade and sort of tutored around a bit until I got serious about it.

How did all of this piano playing stuff start with you? 

Aza: Well, let's start from that. I'm from Russia. And this is part of a culture for us to play an instrument, which was the most famous piano. And then Beilein. Yeah, the schools of music are very different. There. , we have a separate school of  music where you enter your five, six or seven years old and you actually have the exam to get into this school.

Robyn: No pressure for a five-year-old. 

Aza: Nope. And again, it's nineties, it's just past the color of Soviet union. So there's all this mess happening. And, , I was seven when my mum brought me to the school of music and one of the reasons. It was funny.  I'm left-handed and my mum wanted me to use my right hand somewhere.

So, and the piano, the main hand, his right hand. So that's how she decided to do that better. 

Robyn: Wow. Yes, because you would think maybe violin, left-handed no book, piano. Your mom said, Oh, she needs to use her right hand more. 

Aza: I'm a fully, left-handed  person who doesn't use their right hand for anything.

Robyn: Other than playing piano. 

Aza: And even if you look at my back, my back was developed on the left side a lot more than right side. So my mom decided yes, , that  would help me to fix the problem. Did it? Oh, completely. Yeah. I mean a lot of hours of practicing buddy, I did completely fix my back. 

Robyn: So you started when you were five or six years old, 

Aza: seven, seven music.

Music was seven. I was in sports since three years old to make sure that, you know, Strong. Yes. And then five years old, ballet, seven years old music. 

Robyn: Wow. And so you stayed in sort of this specific music school in Russia? 

Aza: Yes. So, , how it works. We have elementary school that is usually from eight in the morning until 1:00 PM.

And then one 45, the school of music starts and it's half a day. You are at the school. So you have classes, you have your instrument, you have choir, you have theory, you have everything. Even the drawing, they were teaching us hard or the arts. Yeah. So  I'm there from like one 45 till around 6:00 PM. And then I have a belay 7:00 PM until like 12 

Robyn: at midnight.

Aza: Yes. 

Robyn: And then you get up and start again. 

Aza: Yes.  . 

Robyn: Did you have a piano at your house? 

Aza: Yes, my mom is a pianist. , 

Robyn: okay. So , she kinda knew, did she try to help you? 

Aza: That's the thing. And my teacher was very against my mom being involved. Yeah. It's a very competitive field. Used to be at least in Russia.

Robyn: Right. 

Aza: So, , when I had the entry exam, . it was a very silly exam. It's your senior song? You will repeat the Eurythmics patterns. So they see how you feel the rhythm,  what's your pitch. , so they check all of those little things and then they talk to the parent and I was a very enthusiastic kid to know what people talking about.

So I listened and , the teacher, she said, Oh, she has a good peach. She has a good rhythm, but I don't think she'll ever be pianist. She said to my mom and I heard it. And I'm this kind of person on the call. You think I cannot do it? I'll show you. That's my first thought being the seven year old, I'm like, I'll show you.

Robyn: Well,  look where it's gotten you, right? Yes. So about what age did you think to yourself? You know, this piano playing stuff could really be for me. Like I can make a living at this. Do you remember nine, nine? Was there like , an event that happened when you had told me about it?

Aza: Competition? , See, it took me two years to develop my right hand  a little better. ,  because like to work hard. I like to practice, but I was always behind other kids because my,  right hand just would not work. S my left hand, my left hand was perfect from the day one. So, , it took me two years to kind of bring it back.

And then when I was nine, I entered the first very little competition and I got the third prize in form mean, it was like, Oh, no, that's bad. Yeah. Yeah. I was very, very sad that day. , but it was my very first competition and my,  mom was happy and then months later I got them, the Russian competition, all like far East of Russia competition.

Okay. And that's where I won. And the judge was from Moscow conservatory and I'm like, okay, since then. And then in Russia, when you win bigger competitions already, people get to know you, especially when the Moscow St. Petersburg is involved, big schools, Moscow conservatory, one of the biggest ,  , and then these Moscow professor, he got interested. So he started giving me lessons and then the other people. And then that's how you kind of get spread it out around schools and people get to know you. And when any guests come, they put the winner of the competitions to work for a masterclasses.

So kind of after that, you get so involved. And I was already not seeing myself anywhere else. 

Robyn: Sure. Yeah. It really opens up a lot of doors for you , winning those competitions. Interesting. So you're doing all your playing and learning your craft in Russia, winning all these awards and accolades.

, then what brought you to United States? 

Aza: Well, that's a very interesting story, actually. I never wanted to come to the United States. Yes. I didn't know. I've never, I've been here in 2003. I visited my brother. He lived,  here, , , at that time already, , but . Since nine years old, I always dreamed about Moscow conservatory.

And you know how here probably musicians dream about Juilliard. Sure. I dreamed about Moscow conservatory and , one day I was on the third year of my college and I went to my father and in my family, my father's word is the last one. So he's a big figure in our family. And, , I went to him and I said, I want to go pursue my music degree in Moscow, Moscow conservatory.

And it does require a lot of expensive to get there and Moscow by itself, a very expensive city. Plus, you know, you have to know people, you have to start going, taking lessons and all this, even though I already had a lot of lessons with most school professors because they keep coming to come chat, come chat case a very far, far, far plays of Russia and kind of Moscow was trying to get there often to see talented kids.

So I was lucky enough with them. So I went talk to my father and he looked at me. He's like, well, I'm not going to help you because I'm against it. You go into Moscow. Yes. And he is like, if you want to get in, if you want to do anything, you have to do all on your own. Not going to give you money or anything, because I don't want you to go to Moscow.

, and I'm like 13 or 14 years old and my eyes, God, so rounded and I'm like, Oh my God, what would I do? I know I cannot do it without his help because  has been so supportive of me with music always. , and then, , there was a pianist, his name, UT Rosen. And he came to come chat again, to look for talented kids and all this is there.

You were as always. And I practiced the lots to be honest. , I remember he was practicing a neighbor room for his concert tomorrow, and then I'm practicing for my exam. There was some kind of exam coming up. And then he stopped by and he said like, listen, I already had lunch. , played with my friends, Hey, now with practice and you still see it in them, this room not getting out of it.

And then , we kind of talked and he's like, what's your plans? And I told him that, Oh, I want to go to Moscow conservatory. I get to practice hard that at the time. And , he said, okay, audition for me tomorrow. Wow. And I looked at him, I was like, Whoa, what? And then it appeared that he has a font that helps tell him to keep, to get into Moscow conservatory, even though he lives in Germany.

Three cheers for funds. Exactly. Yeah, of course, of course. I practiced whole night that night and next morning I went to his rehearsal and he kind of gave me a 10 minutes and I played, I remember stabbing BA Beethoven. And Debussy. .  And then he said, yeah. Okay. Uh, you're accepted.

So, and he was a teacher at the Moscow conservatory? No, he was a director of the fond and he will decide. So he's the people who he accepted. They are going. , to Moscow because he has his spots right. In the Moscow for his own choices. Got it. It was, he was a very famous musical sponsor. Exactly. Got it.

That's probably it. And so I got accepted to there. And so now I have free education in Moscow. I have a free living in Moscow and I explained that, , my father wants me to be always with my mom. To make sure that I'm safe in everything. So like, I can't leave without my mom. He said, no problem.

You can leave with your mom. I'm like, okay, 

Robyn:  And that was your dad's stipulation. You can go. Which mom has to go with you? 

Aza: Well, he didn't say anything. He said do all on your own. I'm not helping you, if you figure it out, you go. Right. So I figured it out. I got accepted and all this, . 

So , you imagine a proud kid run into her dad. I'm like, dad, I did it here. I am. I'm going to Moscow conservatory and he's looking and he's like, no, you're not. Oh, so he said, he thought I won't be able to do it because there's a lot of things required to get into the Moscow conservatory.

But no one knew that this guy will come that bright week. So, and I look at him again, I'm like, no, And then he kind of said that, , if you go to United States, you'll have more opportunities. And in Moscow you always have to have connections. You'll all know that it's harder there. And plus I'm from Kamchatka, even for Moscow.

Kamchatka is like trash in the back. Really. Okay. So kind of here you, the people, the life, of course, he was older than me and he knew that I will have more. Interesting life and more opportunities here than in most school. 

Robyn: So your dad is the one that ended,  up pushing you to come here. 

Aza: Yes. And that year, , I was 15.

I went to Finland and I,  got the , third price on the Finland international competition and we had a full recording of it. , , we already had a  recording. I sent it here to Florida. And again, this university I chose just because my brother was leaving around. So kind of like, I wish they come to nowhere, right?

Cause I was a plant. I'm like a home plant who cannot do anything without her parents. So , I found a Bulgarian teacher. I needed someone who kind of knows , Russian language or something because I have. No idea English and it's like, hello, bye ABC. Yeah. 

Robyn: Yeah. That was actually my next thought is , how were your communication skills in English when you moved over here?

Aza: . Zero. Yeah. Hello. Bye-bye ABC. Have a good day. No, I didn't know. Have a good day. That's it? That's it. Yeah. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. Well, that's a lot more in English than I know in , Russian. So professional. So you started with the vocabulary and the language from scratch.

When you moved over here, we do have like English classes at school, but again, income Chad go. We don't have such a good. Knowledge of English. So our teachers will just like use a cabler is, and bless it. Say English, uh, Britain. English. Yes. British English, just English that we learned there. And it's,  quite different for us when you learn British English and then you come here and.

I remember my first diamond Starbucks. , she said something to me. I had no idea what she said to me. I thought she would say hello, but she said a lot more. Hello? Yeah. 

Robyn: So yeah, you start using pints and the pronunciation is very different. Even in, , England, they. Called the rhythmic notation, different instead of quarter notes and eighth notes.

It's quavers and semiquavers and they have a whole different language for music. 

Aza: Yeah. Well, music theory. I had no idea in , any kind of English, it was only a Russian. So I learned rules. , I knew alphabet. I knew how to read, but they would not understand what I'm reading. Right. So kind of like 

Robyn: , how old were you when you moved here?

Aza: 1818. 

Robyn: Okay. And that was to go to the university of South Florida? 

Aza: Yes. I got accepted through the DVD. , but again, we didn't know a lot of these things that you need to have Teufel because my English is a second language that I had to pass that exam. So I came here accepted in the school of music, but , we didn't know the system.

Wow. , and my teacher's like, but you have to still get accepted to USF as a university. And I'm like, what  does this mean? It's Storyful so I had to go to English school, Andrew USF. And to be a non-degree seeking student at the school of music until I get through that Teufel thingy.

Robyn: Wow. Yeah. I did not know that 

Aza: there was a lot of interest in things turned that I was not accepted 

Robyn: as a, how long would you say. You were in America before you kind of felt comfortable having a conversation with someone you understood what they were saying, and you can speak back to them. 

Aza: Well, I started understanding a lot by December, so I came in August.

Robyn: Okay. So six months or six months, 

Aza: I started understanding, but what my brother did there, good thing that he did to me. He never allowed me to speak any Russian. He never allowed me to call my parents. To talk to them. And then every time we go South, where he pushes me, he's like, she wants to say something and I'm like  forcing you to learn the language, the language everywhere I go.

Robyn: Very smart. Very smart. And did you watch a lot of TV with closed caption on 

Aza: friends, but this is the only show that I love to today's day dearly. Phoebe taught you English. Oh yeah. I love Phoebe, who does it. So she's the best character ever as far as speaking. Oh, it took me a good two years to start speaking without being afraid.

You know, till today's day talking on the phone is hard for me. To respond on the phone for some reason. 

Robyn: Really? . We have another friend, you know, Jenny Kim Godfrey, she's from Korea and she kind of says the same thing. You wouldn't know it. I mean, speaking to you, you speak great. We have conversations, same with Jenny and she says she still likes to watch the closed caption.

Yeah on TV shows and things like that because it helps her. But also, , she said, and you might find this cause we wear masks. Now you can't really see people's mouths move in. That when you are translating in your head as quickly as you are, you kind of need to see them mouth moving. Right.

Aza:  It is unbelievable how much problems I had this year because I leave here for 12 years, right?

13 years now. And the moment we started wearing masks, I was not understanding a lot of things. And I'm like, what is going on? I know English, I knew it before COVID hit, but , it's surprising that I was using a lot of lips. Understanding. And then when you have eyes in them, just like I'm trying to understand something.

, and a lot of people have hard time understanding me in the mask because I speak with an accent. So when I speak through the mask, like I'm ordering something, I have very. Often the question, uh, what do you say, excuse me, come again. I'm back to the beginning of me living. 

Robyn: Thank you, masks. Well, as I remember when I first met you and we had this, what I found to be a very interesting conversation about this very specific region of Russia that you're talking about, where you're from and  how you were kind of expected to meet and marry someone from that exact same area and region. And I remember thinking good heavens, how is that going to happen with you over here and that small pool of suitors over there, but it did happen, right? 

Aza: It did happen. We do have in Russia, we have more than 40 nationalities.

And then these additionality is, are kind of tried to keep. Keep it to its nationality. So like in my father and my mom, they also lived all over Russia, but then they went back to our roots where we're originally from. They met, they marry them then. All 

Robyn: right, we'll see. And now you're married and you have a beautiful baby girl.

I'll be how old is she now? 

Aza: She's three. 

Robyn: Oh, I am born here in America. 

Aza: She was born here and she speaks mostly English. Okay. 

Robyn: But you're teaching her Russian as well. 

Aza: Yes. We speak only in Russian with her, but she prefers English to respond in English. Yeah. It's easier. 

Robyn: Yeah, it is. Well, we do everything as easily as we can in a month, 

Aza: which is not bad at all.

Robyn: And so now you're making your living, you're on the Suncoast as a musician. Talk to us about how you piece together, your work and what all you get to do in Sarasota and Bradenton as a piano player. 

Aza: Well, , I moved here in the end of 2013. , kind of started searching for jobs, just writing some emails in Tampa. We did a very, , active performance life because our teacher was a touring pianist. So we would go to Europe all over us. So I kind of was. With this background because I studied there. , when I came, I kind of, I didn't know anyone at the Sarasota, no musicians, no one, except a couple of people in the artists series because they , invited us once.

. And then , I remember right in emails left and right left and right left and right. And then melody responded to me, 

Robyn: melody and our choir director here. , cause she was the program manager at the time you contacted her saying I would like to teach 

Aza: or just myself saying that I have master's degree in piano.

I leave current in Sarasota and I would like to find some job teaching . Because I have a pedagogy and the performance, I see that degree. 

Robyn: So she was your first bite? 

Aza: Yes. Well, first one was the Allegro school of music. Yeah. So, yeah. , but I wanted somewhere where it's college degree.

Because, , I've, we've studied Latin plus I had the big experience of teaching right. And accompaniment. , , she responded and then we met. I remember, Oh, it's scary it 

Robyn: bright. And now you're like, Oh, it's just melody. Oh, it's just Robin. And then, uh, Dr. Tron. Yes. Charles Turon. Yes. He was recently moved from our area.

Aza: Yes. He, he called me. He's in Tennessee. Now almost North Carolina, Carolina. Yeah. We're very close. So, yes. And then kind of, we talked in the funny part. I came here to be a teacher for music appreciation. That was the interview for. Okay. And then I remember melody responded to me. It's like,  at first, , it's about music appreciation, but we really want you to teach piano here.

So it's kind of like moved. 

Robyn: You were probably jumping out of your skin. 

Aza: God, I was so happy because it's,  rare when right straight from university, you go and teach at the college. Right. For,  my understanding was rare. I didn't expect that for me. I thought I needed to go like through a million schools before I get to the college.

Robyn: You have your job here. We pay you just a little pittance. , but you also play out and about, you've been in piano grand at the,  Sarasota opera house. 

Aza: Yes,  I've been in piano, grand Miami grants. Okay. Same kind of concept. . 10 pianos, 10 pianos. Yes. Dan pianos and , percussion.

Yeah, then pianos and percussions, you accompany for people everywhere. Um, part of my degree is also accompany, so I accompany everywhere. I can, a lot of people thankfully know me now here. Right. So , we have fun. And I play with, , Mendoza family now. Yes ma'am. Yeah. , and I teach privately also I have students, , little students who prepared for a college degree.

Yeah. So I'm very talented. 

Robyn: That's  awesome. It's interesting. I mean, you almost have to be an entrepreneur in your line of work. , you are always piecing things together to make a better

Aza:  kind of , hard thing because you,  just go everywhere, whatever you can, you catch it.

Right. You can not miss the opportunity if you miss that opportunity. Well, bet for you. There's no second chance in that. 

Robyn: So you were here then at USF. On a student visa. Yes. And you graduate, you start putting this career together and that includes obviously working here at SCF, but there've been some hurdles along the way with you and this immigration status, right?

Yeah. So for those of us that never have to go through that pile of paperwork or have that experience, can you tell us what all you've had to do as a performer, a piano performer, to take those steps to becoming a us citizen? 

Aza: Well, That's probably my full-time job. Yeah. Immigration documents.  It is a full-time job. You have to do so much papers. Every move you make, you have to document it. Because otherwise you cannot prove it. And uni, we have experienced you. You hire me to play like little parts somewhere. You have to write a letter that I am there, proving it.

You probably save all the programs and say, here's my name? And yeah, every move, every email, every communication, all people who write to me with who I meet with who I play, 

Robyn: you have to document your, every professional staff, 

Aza: all the, , internet publications, , every single tiny thing. Dang what I do professionally.

I have to document and submit it to immigration to prove them. That I'm a pianist. 

Robyn: And so where are you in the process? 

Aza: Well, I am, I am hopefully at the end of my road to receive a green card, hopefully, but it's been hard with COVID. Everything is delayed. Yeah. , and then after I receive a green card, about three to five years, I can apply for citizenship, but all the time, no matter what , because I am receiving my immigration documents on my profession.

On my career. So if I ever quit this career, you have to start all over. Yes. So because all my documents are, according to that, I'm a pianist. I'm a talent that I have to prove every day that I grow, , I cannot back up. , that's why, , I always try to do concerts and everything. Right. So for immigration was important, , for, as an immigrant that I always grow and I always bring good things to the country.

Right. I never stop. 

Robyn: We don't want you to be an unemployed piano player that our tax dollars have to provide for. Yeah, no, I understand the concept, but boy, it's , quite a burden on you, , to do 

Aza: sometimes mentally it's very hard because I don't have a break. I cannot stop. Like sometimes, you know, you feel, you want to get away a little bit, even for my vacation.

If I leave, I take my keyboard with me and I record, right. So.  They're probably not even a month break where I don't do something with piano. Wow. Well , but it's your life and it's, you know, 

Robyn: it's good. , you're in a situation where in order to stay here and eventually get citizenship, you have to prove your worth.

Yes. In the music industry. And, , I can tell you, you do it here every day. So, , we are as you know, all in your corner for that. And when we come back on us and I are going to talk about the effects of COVID on her piano career and visit about some real successes as a piano teacher on the Suncoast back after this break.

Welcome back to the Suncoast culture club, where today my guest is AZA torch. Gava piano, performer, and teacher at the state college of Florida AZA here at SCF. You teach all levels of piano, students from beginners, all the way to competition level students. How does your approach change with someone who is sitting down at the piano for the first time versus someone who could potentially be a world-class piano performer?

Aza: Well, , first my,  most important thing is to talk to them, to make them feel that I'm their friend and I'm on their side because very often there's this barrier where they're just afraid to talk to you or to tell you what they want. , lately I found that when I have a very beginner, because it is hard to put all this theory on them, all the reading and music that they never been even listening, which is classical, like  Baroque.

So I kind of play. A game with them. , I ask them what's their favorite genre. I asked what they would love to play. And then  let's say, they said some song on pop song. I pick out the,  melody from it. I just make it a very, very simple melody with one note in the left hand. And then I kind of take their attention by giving them what they want.

And slowly, I squeezed the knowledge of reading the notes because without reading the notes, you can not read your favorite melody right. There you are. That's it. , so slowly I take their attention and they become really, really, really interested. And then I have contract with them. So I give them what they want as a melody, some kind of awesome song that they love, but then they have to play classical piece.

Robyn: They have to give you what you want. Exactly. Got it. 

Aza: So that's how I work with beginners. And of course it's different if it's a kid beginner or it's an adult beginner, or if it's a college student age like 18, 19, they're all different. And I have to understand what their favorites, what they like, even what kids watch as a cartoons.

You have to know those little songs that they listen this way. You'll understand where to start, how to get their attention. 

Robyn: And, you know, there's adults, I'm around them all the time and they go, man, I would give anything to have learned piano. I wish I could have learned piano. It's never too late to start.

Aza: No, not at all. 

Robyn: If you're 60 years old, you could start piano and still get to pretty high level of proficiency. Don't you think? 

Aza: I absolutely agree. And that's the thing I think most of it is being afraid to start. Or being afraid to just get into that vulnerability. Exactly. Because even classical music like, Oh, classical music is so hard, there are thousands of pieces starting from  very easy to very hard.

And then the hard one can be simplified. Everything can be done  it's you once in it, that's all, . and , 

Robyn: one of the great things I love about teaching here at SCF is that these older. People that say, Oh, I want to learn when I say older, I mean, older than college kids, I don't mean everybody's old.

I don't mean that. But if you're sitting there thinking, Oh, I'd like to learn to play piano. We have here set up at the college away for community people to,  pay for a non-credit class and they get you as their teacher and the college pays you and they get once a week lessons. And that's a really.

, beneficial way for an adult, like a lifelong learner to learn a new skill. We haven't actually on any instrument, but a lot of people want to learn to play piano. So if you're interested in that, go to, and we can hook you up with lessons with miss AZA, no problem, really, and really on it on any instrument.

It's more fun than work it is. But now you have kind of a superstar student Caden, right? Have to now you have 

Aza: two superstar students. I have Caden Smith, , and Kristianne Mendoza. Okay. So now they are going off into the world and winning competitions and, , competing Kayden is already, um, senior in competitions.

He competes a lot and he loves it. I think there's two types of people who doesn't like to be in competitive field and it kind of like competition kills them. Right. And there's people who love competition and competition helps them to grow. So Caden is that kind of person who needs the push and a behind which has competition.

And I was the same person. If I don't have competition than board. So he's the same. He's like MRSA two, three months. We're not performing anywhere. He's like Misa, I need a competition. I need a concert now. He's like, I want, I want a solo concert. Oh my God. It's COVID kid. We all want that young man. And how old is he?

He's 15. He's 15. 15. Oh no, no, no, just turned six. Oh my goodness. December 3rd. Okay. No, they're both happy 16th birthday Kayden. He's driving by himself though. That's 

Robyn: I'm sure his mom is so happy bringing him to his piano lessons like every day she's she's relieved. So how has the last nine months living through the pandemic affected you as a performer, a teacher.

And also personally, we talked about that made a difficult, more difficult for your immigration paper, but what changes have occurred in your life due to the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Aza: A lot of changes, I think, , because I've been a lot out in the concerts and for me to not have that, I think for a month I was mentally, it was very hard for me.

I was kind of what do we do with ourselves? Yeah. Yeah. That's the thing. I didn't know what, where to go, what to do. And plus I was not. Too good with online teaching because it is hard for me. Like I need to have a good sound to hear well, and then you have those kids who are like, face-timing, , they don't have professional gear, they don't have good instruments.

You know, piano is very hard to have a good instrument that they have. 

Robyn: Well, and one of the things we've discovered too, even if you have a decent piano, they get out of tune and you have to have a. Piano tuner come in and tune them in with COVID people don't know. Yeah. And so these may be decent instruments, really sound horrible.

Aza: , I think if to take a hundred percent of my students, there's a 1% with a good instrument. Wow. And then, , you have these weird sounds happening because the microphone cannot catch the sound of a big piano. , if it's a grand piano that they have, it's too loud for the computer or full microphone.

So it gives those, this sounds 

Robyn: and she need to see right. You need a good camera on the hands. But for fingerings and 

Aza: the first lessons as we started the whole hour, we were learning how to set up so he can see me. I can see, and , you have to have additional things to hold the cameras. And some students just cannot afford some things.

So we would create like books on the books or some kind of construction engineering around. And I ended up recording myself like, Oh, you can put it like this on the, you can put it like that. So I was sending videos to my students, kind of give them ideas. 

Robyn: So, not only did all your performances get canceled, but your teaching was severely affected, 

Aza: severely affected.

And, , the students, I find it's harder for them because you are not there behind them. , I'm pretty strict when I teach and I kind of give them push. 

Robyn: Cause there's,  posture the way you hold your hands position. Yes. You could take , a kid's finger or hand and go, no, it's this finger and do it this way.

Aza: Starting from the shoulder elbow. We used fingers, height, , even for the, each sound is different risk position. There's so many things that they are, unfortunately don't have now, because even if I'm showing, I have to push, I have to feel because every hand is different. So the position will be a little differ from each.

So you can't follow some kind of methods. You have to adjust to each person individually 

Robyn: things slowly getting a little better for you then. 

Aza: Yes. , even those students who were online, mostly I do meet with them like once a month to make sure everything is correct, or like adjust a couple of things and hear the sound.

Because when you hear life, you're like, Oh my God, I didn't hear that. The camera. And it's awful. 

Robyn: How many total students do you think you have? 

Aza:  Around 2020. 

Robyn: Okay. And it's funny because you're talking about students having instruments or not having instruments. And, , we often get.

Calls here at the college was someone said, Oh, my grandmother died. I'd like to donate her piano to the college. We don't really need it. But if you're listening out there and you have a piano to donate, , with some photos and some information, we will put it  out to our students. And many times they will reach out and they'll,  end up with a piano that was at somebody's house  the student gets it as a new piano.

Aza: That would be wonderful. 

Robyn: Yeah. Yeah. So we'd kind of set up . Pianos that need homes with students that need pianos. And it works out really well. I mean, somebody has to eventually pay for the moving of the Beatles. That's not cheap, but,  we do do that service for our students. So 

Aza: that would be very great for the students 

Robyn: besides practicing teaching and performing on piano in your area.

What are some of the cultural things you and your husband enjoy doing on the Suncoast? Like some of your favorite arts organizations you go to concerts or some of your favorite restaurants? We all need to check out 

Aza: . I loved to go to, , the theaters, the musicals.

Robyn: Yeah. 

Aza: Black theater, 

Robyn: the West coast black theater. True. 

Aza: Oh my God. Um, we, uh, last year on their Christmas show, , I want my daughter to study with one of them, their voice. 

Robyn: Really, really good. Yeah. , great production value to the Oslow do on musicals. Yeah. , 

Aza: I've been to all the musicals. , it's interesting for me because I'm not from this culture and we don't have musicals.

Robyn: You have opera,  in Russia. 

Aza: It's more opera. Of course it's more Italian, but they're Russian opera is, is really, really famous. 

Robyn: Both since you've been here, here, though, especially at the college, you've been able to play in some of our musical productions in the pit orchestra. Do you enjoy that? 

Aza: I absolutely enjoyed it because it was so new for me and this music and the beats and all of this. I absolutely love it. 

Robyn: What's amazing to me about a musical , in the music and a two hour musical is they, and they do this on purpose. It's like every style you always have a gospel tune, you always have a rock and roll tune. You always have. Six eight tune. You know, they keep the variety. And so as a musician, it really keeps you on your toes. Cause all the different key, 

Aza: you cannot relax. That's I love, I love it. That makes your brain so excited. 

Robyn: Now the piano parts that are generally accompanying the singers, but then there's always like synthesizer parts where you get to do different sounds and stuff. You like playing the sensitizer parts.

Aza: You know, before I probably started working here, I was the person. I only play acoustic piano. I was this, this kind of kid, um, a girl. Like you're

Robyn:  a girl, a spoiled girl, 

Aza: spoiled, you know, and again, it comes from my culture because in Russia, I mean, again, I'm talking about late nineties up to 2010. It's always was about acoustic pianos. , we were not really allowed to touch other styles. We were like, Oh, you're a classical pianist. You're this. So, yeah. But when I came here, I was like, there's so more opportunities, this jazz blues rock and roll. And I, I love it.

Robyn: Yeah. It's different voicings, different way to play.  , our friend Joe, hold, you know, he calls a synthesizer and appliance. Isn't that funny? Yes. See. Yeah. 

Aza: Well, I love, I love synthesizers now, especially to play around with sounds. And that's your fault. Yes, I got you love in that. 

Robyn: Yes, I got you in on all of that. Yeah. Sorry about that. 

Aza: That's okay. I'm thankful.

Robyn: So also, if you only had one concert left to play in your whole life and you know, it was going to be your last concert, what three pieces would you program? 

Aza: Well, for sure. Number one is mine of the second 

Robyn: Rachmaninoff. Second concerto. Maybe we can do that with the BSO. 

Aza: Have to, we must, 

Robyn: we must. Yes,  we'll call that concert Rocky. Yes. Okay. Perfect. All right. That was one to 

Aza: Goshen or I'm sitting Lou. 

Robyn: Yeah, you've played that with us. 

Aza: Yes. And I love it. This is my favorite thing. Piece with 

Robyn: no, it'd , that'd be a peace. You wouldn't learn in Russia or did they consider that too jazzy? And non-classical enough.

Aza: That's the thing I've never heard. , at least in the far East of Russia, that this piece was too popular. I know that it existed. Of course we study this, the history and everything, but it was not that famous there. It's more that at that time, the classical music was number one, jazzy. I mean, it's cool to know it, but it's not. Prestige cause you would play it off.  okay. 

Robyn: So, so far you've got to concertos, like you have to have an orchestra behind you. All right. How about the third? 

Aza: The third one, you know, lately? I would say Mendelssohn's songs without words. 

Robyn: Oh, nice. No orchestra there. Now that's just piano. 

Aza: It's a solo piano. I've never been too fan of Mendelson, but lately I started playing them and I'm like, Why 

Robyn: are some good stuff there?

Aza: They're so beautiful. There's so much you can say through these lines that amazed me 

Robyn: and his sister Fanny. She had some great music too. She never got the notoriety because she was a woman, but she really had some good stuff. As a matter of fact, they think some. Compositions that are credited to Felix Mendelssohn were really written by his sister, but they knew they wouldn't get published. So they put them under his name. , thank goodness. We live in a different world. Now, 

Aza: some stories, , in the history that we read  they scare me. 

Robyn: Yeah. 

Aza: It's like how much they've been through then I think, and we complain. Oh, I know our world is so much easier. 

Robyn: Yeah. I mean, we can't get complacent, but I know what you mean. There's always pushing for better and we can really also point to Felix Mendelssohn and credit him for bringing Bach back to us because I was, yeah, because Bach,  people were so tired of that sound and the Brook period. They had shelled his music and it wasn't played for long time, long time, 50, 75, a hundred years. And then Mendelson says, Hey, look what we have here. And now the world knows Bach again. So 

Aza: it is one of the most challenging. Pieces to play , for a pianist , technically because of the voicing, you have to voice each essay soloist. There's no accompaniment in 

Robyn: for the average listener. Voicing means what fingers are playing, which keys on the piano 

Aza: layering. Imagine that three people seen him. It's three individuals seen in three solos at the same time. Right. So we have to do it on an instrument. Let's say our half of the hand, like a fourth and fifth finger pinky and the ring finger we'll play one melody. Then the other fingers, the thumb, the bottom fingers, we'll play another melody. And then there's a left-hand might have two or three layers. So there's, you kind of have to divide your hand. The voice that 

Robyn: had just exploded as a stop. 

Aza: Yes, actually you have a very big headache when you play BA 

Robyn: I bet it makes you think.

Aza: Yeah. Yeah. And it's proven in science, you think like in math 

Robyn: now, you know, a lot more about the history of the panel than I do, but when buck was alive, there was no piano. It was invented towards the end of his life. But I've heard that even the harpsichord or the Oregon, that he would have played a keyboard instrument that.  There was no thumbs that they just played four fingers. Is that true? 

Aza: Yes. Well, they did use the thumb sometimes, but it was the less used and plastic keyboards were very small, so they use two keyboards at the same time, the register and plus the, um, pedal Oregon. So it's like, Pedals pedals at the bottom. , so, , all of his music is more church music, so there was no like crazy. Um, well, how will you call it? Technical. Technical. Yeah.  and the few exert. Those are hard. Oh yeah. They're extremely hard. And I feel like on piano it's even harder. 

Robyn: So then the piano was invented right towards the end of Bach's life. I've heard that maybe he saw wander in his lifetime, but.  Even when it was invented. So we go into the classical period, we got Haydn Mozart that it didn't have the 88 keys that it has now. Right. It was smaller. 

Aza: It was 56 keys. 

Robyn: And so as a performer, if you go to play Mozart piano concerto, , you don't have to stretch all the way to the ends is a little easier.

Aza: Um, Technically is hard because he's very , in the massages and the runs. Um, but 

Robyn: we would say passages 

Aza: passages as harsh, a passaggio, something you get with a Massoud. So they do the massage and it's different passages runs let's be right. Um, so it it's easier to kind of digest it. It's light music for the head, if you compare it to romantic, because romantic is, Oh, the death. Right. , but. , if you talk about classical music, , bit Hoven is the one who started using wider because he's the only one who actually got to play on that. Piano forte. 

Robyn: Yeah, the one that the expanded keyboard, 

Aza: you still not 88, but little expended. So, but most are tied and they all play harpsichord mostly, right?


Robyn: The dinghy Herb's accord. So we are to our rapid fire section here. Miss AZA, you get a couple of choices. I've got, I think maybe 10 or so questions for you. You have to answer really quick. The first thing that comes to mind. And we don't take no for an answer here. Are you ready? 

Aza: Oh my God. I'm afraid. I'm really bad with you. 

Robyn: Should be. You should be very afraid. Okay. 

Aza: Kamran. 

Robyn: Yeah, no, you have to sit right there. Number one, Steinway or Yamaha 

Aza: Steinway. 

Robyn: It is the Mercedes-Benz isn't it? Yeah. , what are the kind of cars they drive in Russia?

Aza:  Oh, Mezzetta says 

Robyn: Mercedes 

Aza: it's very, very famous. Golin Golin bargain. Gil fog and G G wagon 

Robyn: G wagons. 

Aza: Very popular. Alright. Like luxury. 

Robyn: Yes, everybody does. Okay. Russian vodka or beef stroganoff 

Aza: be strong enough. 

Robyn: That's a great Russian  dish. Right? 

Aza: I love this drug and 

Robyn: I do too. , can you make it with chicken though? I don't eat a lot of beef. 

Aza: Uh, I mean, there's going to be very different tastes, but , it will taste good too. Okay. What about some? We have to do chicken stroganoff, then 

Robyn: chicken or salmon stroganoff? 

Aza: Uh, no.

Robyn: Well, I know, I know I was just in this edible magazine, edible Sarasota, so I've become quite the cook. So I'm trying to put some things together. So you have to tell me what I've done. How are you a cook? Do you cook? 

Aza: I cook a lot.

Robyn: You cook a lot of Russian rush. Oh yeah. 

Aza: No Italian, because my husband loves Italian food. He doesn't really, it's not very healthy. Well, Russian is all about do, 

Robyn: Oh, it's even more carbs than the pasta 

Aza: heavy. So dial-in is little less heavy. 

Robyn: There was a great Russian restaurant I went to in New York city called Stravinsky. Yes. You know, it. Ugh, so good. They actually, um, they stole my debit card number though when they it's the only time in New York, I, I use my debit card.

Um, the eight there for dinner that night went to see wicked. And then the next morning I got a call from my bank saying that somebody tried to use my card to buy. Something in Germany and they shut my card down and I was like, those Russians stole my debit card. 

Aza: Now you have to have an experience. Right. I'll never forget this. 

Robyn: I never, I never will. I never will, but it was a really, really good meal. I like Russian food. Okay. A day at the beach or a day, a Disney 

Aza: beat. 

Robyn: But do you have a three-year-old you've got to take her to Disney. 

Aza: I know she still doesn't understand anything. 

Robyn: Thank goodness for that. That's saving you a lot of money right now. 

Aza: Five years old. That's the name? 

Robyn: Oh yeah. Yeah. Then they're like, take me to Disney every day. 

Aza: Yes. And then you come up with stories. Why you can not, no, 

Robyn: I agree.  Beach way over Disney. Okay. Now I see you drive up here at the college and your different cars. So I have to ask BMW or range Rover. 

Aza: Ah, no. Range Rover really. 

Robyn: Okay. So I've never driven a range rovers and it's an English car compared to the BMW German car. What do you like about the range Rover? 

Aza: I drive range Rover now.  So I wasn't BMW Parson for many, many, many years. And then I got this range Rover and I'm cheating on BMW. Big time. 

Robyn: Yeah. You feel like you're going against your. Grain? 

Aza: Yes. 

Robyn: What do you like about the range road? Does it drive better cars? BMD, those German cars have a nice drive to them. 

Aza: They're very similar. Um, in drive, I mean, BMW, little heavier, like more rougher. Okay. Oh, can I say okay. Yeah. More rough. Um, but it's just very comfortable car. It has everything you need in this car range Rover,

Robyn:  like driving your living room sofa. 

Aza: Yeah, that's it. So like I'm driving in the house, like I'm seating all the time. The seats are very comfortable and all the buttons are easy, accessible, all this stuff 

Robyn: for a piano player. That's very important that the buttons are easy.

Aza: The buttons has to be clear. 

Robyn: That's so funny. Yes. 

Aza: But you caught me on that. Um, that was a hard one. 

Robyn: Yeah. All right. Well, I've never driven one range. Rovers turned my heads though. I see them pass by and I go, Oh, I want to go test drive one of those. 

Aza: So we switched the cars for one day. 

Robyn: Okay, 

Aza: sounds good.

Robyn: Yeah. We'll I have a VW. It's not a BMW. It's a Volkswagen. It's fun spiking. I know. Yes. Log-in well, yeah. Well it's Vogle the wagon of the folks, right? It's it's a nice middle class cars guy. I like the color. Yes, my hub and your orange. , I want to be able to find it in a parking lot. That's my whole goal.

Aza: I always see you when you pass somewhere. Yeah. And then sometimes it's not you, but I think it's you because it's the color. Yeah. They tried to wave, but they don't respond. 

Robyn: Here's what I've found. , it's really difficult. Like the least little scratch, or if somebody opens their car door, that orange color, it really, I don't know if it's a VW thing or if it's just that particular color, but scratches, you see them all the time. Yeah. That's hard. That's okay. 

Aza: I blank one. You see everything. So 

Robyn: I guess White's probably the best for that kind of thing, 

Aza: but not for the love books. 

Robyn: No, God love Lubbock's dykes. Okay. Awesome. Christmas or new years, 

Aza: new years. 

Robyn: That's a good, and that's celebrated  everywhere around the world. So that's, what's great with new years. All right. . I think I know the answer to this, but I'm very interested because there could be some nostalgia here, Russian winter, or Florida winter. 

Aza: Russian winter 

Robyn: really. Okay. So that surprises me. 

Aza: So here it is Russian winter for two weeks. That's 400%, but then after two weeks you get bored. Not bored. You get too cold. Yeah. Yeah. I love Florida winter, but the snow and, you know, again, Russian winter is different. If you talk about my Russian winter from Kamchatka, that's like the fairy tales that you see on the pretty white, it's not dirty. It's never dirty. It's always a white and fluffy, like a fairy tale. That's why I love it, but I would never choose like more score reenter all my dirty New York. Yeah. Very dirty. So isn't my ration. Winter. 

Robyn: You miss miss winter chat.  yeah, . Okay. Ooh, this one's a good one. Melody helped me come up with this one. Oh, no high heels or tennis shoes, 

Aza: high heels. 

Robyn: Yes, that's my AZA.

Aza: That's me. Remember? Why do you wear high heels? So my apps is always working. 

Robyn: Yes. It's a good AB core workout to wear your high heels. , every time I put them on, I think of that actually 

Aza: does work, right? 

Robyn: Yeah. Well, yeah. 

Aza: I, I like it. I feel like I'm, I'm I'm more feet. What do you mean? 

Robyn: Yeah, it good for your calves too. Yeah, but my friend that's a foot doctor. He says all you're doing is making sure I have a good retirement. Keep wearing your high heels. So evidently it's bad for your feet 

Aza: around. Um, yeah. I could see that 

Robyn: hard in piano to play with the peddling with the high heels. 

Aza: No, I have a secret. I do wear heels, but all the shoes that I wear are from the ballroom dancing.

Robyn: Oh, 

Aza: they're like soft on top, on the fire as a battle. 

Robyn: , you just released your secret to the whole world, 

Aza: but it's a good thing because when you see the person playing on heels and  you can hear this pedal, it means that they don't feel it better go watch. Right. But  ballroom shoes, they are created like they have a heel, but in front of their, like a ballet shoes 

Robyn: now, , , is there some place in Sarasota you buy these shoes or you ordering them online?

Aza: No dealers, they're all really Sparky. There's one little spot, a lot of Sparky Sparky shoes. And they're like really soft. Okay. In front. 

Robyn: Okay. This one is pretty good because it says a lot about us. I think, as musicians and teachers attending a piano masterclass or giving a piano masterclass. 

Aza: Oh, that's a good enough for a student or for you or me?

Robyn: You would you rather go, 

Aza: go 

Robyn: get help or would you rather help someone? 

Aza: I like to attend because there you go. And new ideas for your work. 

Robyn: That's right. When you're just giving it, you're only giving your ideas to people. Yeah. That's a great answer. Yeah. All right. , I don't know if we answered this one already or not. So we'll come back to it. Okay. Piano or synthesizer? 

Aza: Yeah. 

Robyn: Yeah, of course, of course. Okay. This is the last one and it's the most important, it's a really hard question. If you need to take your time, understand roundabouts or stoplights. 

Aza: Oh round about 

Robyn: you feel safe and around about 

Aza: yes. I love them. 

Robyn: They're putting them everywhere in Syria.

Aza: Now we don't really have a choice. Now you go downtown. It's all about 

Robyn: I get dizzy driving my car now. Well, congratulations, you are now officially a part of the club. So if people want to find out more about what you're doing and where you're playing, where they can go to follow your career, where can they go? 

Aza: , website as a or Instagram as a pianist. 

Robyn: Instagram. That's where it's all at right there. Yeah. So we'll,  put links in our show notes to both of those places, your website and your Instagram. , so people that are listening, if they're listening on our website, you should just be able to scroll down to show notes, click right there and get to it. So as a, it is such a pleasure to have you here teaching and performing for us, our students and our community. You're such an asset and a gym to not only the SCF music program, but also to the entire sun coast of Florida. Thank you for sharing your talents with us every day. And for sharing your story with us today are really appreciate it. 

Aza: Thank you. I'm so happy to be here. 

Robyn: We're happy to have him take care. 

Aza: Bye.