From 7 years old, Olga Kern knew the piano was like a second home to her. Playing piano runs in the family, past and future, and is her lifeblood.
“When I saw the stage lights; when I felt the energy of the public in the hall, I realized that I never want to leave the stage and want to play piano there forever,” Olga said.
Her historic gold medal win at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition featured her vivid stage presence, confidence, and extraordinary technique, which she carries on to each performance. Olga takes her inspiration from many great artists including past and contemporary pianists and opera singers such as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Van Cliburn, Sviatoslav Richter, Claudio Arrau, Emil Gilels, Daniel Barenboim, Placido Domingo, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Kathleen Battle, and Renée Fleming.
Classical music is the base for everything else
She believes classical music is not something to be afraid of for those unfamiliar with the music because of its importance as the base for all popular music that we have now.
“Classical music is so beautiful that it’s necessary to experience it in live concert as it is absolutely unique and unforgettable,” she said.
More than performances, Olga tries to reach out to other musicians of all ages. She thinks there should be required classical music appreciation classes in academic schools all over the world in order “to teach children from a young age that this incredible, beautiful music exists.”
“It’s impossible not to like it as it brings you to a different, magical world when you listen to it,” she said.
Giving back in big ways
In order to fuel this appreciation and education, Olga has a foundation, Aspiration, which helps musicians of any age with the financial portion of their endeavors. The foundation buys instruments, provides scholarships, and endows special prizes at competitions through collaboration. She also founded the Olga Kern International Piano Competition (OKIPC) in November 2016 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is considered a big success. The OKIPC provides performance opportunities all over the world for young pianists who win the top prizes.
“I love to help; it’s very important for me,” she added.
Olga began teaching at Manhattan School of Music last year. It is a very special experience for her to share knowledge and help students achieve great success.
“If I can support young talented musicians and help them with their career, I will be the happiest person in this world!” she said.
Olga said young artists should try to have big repertoire in their hands, never stop wasting precious time, and never stop being curious. Pianists should love what they do, and be passionate and serious about it because only then will the music be magical and touch the hearts of listeners.
“Sometimes a single lifetime is not enough for it, but this is what we should have in mind and try to achieve it,” she said. “Our profession is so special. We are responsible for making this incredibly beautiful music come alive.”
Mother and son on the concert stage
This learning continued to grow with her own family, as her 20-year-old son, Vladislav Kern, is a talented young pianist. He is her most cherished accomplishment in life and she enjoys performing together playing Mozart’s Double Concerto with an orchestra and some duo recitals.
“I am a proud mother!” she exclaimed.
Though all things lead back to the piano, there are intriguing aspects of her life outside of music.
Olga loves nature, of all types, and paints as inspiration for her work. She does mostly landscapes and sometimes still life with watercolors, but loves to mix the colors. This might be why she would love to visit the Galapagos Islands someday and see all the unique creatures that are native only to that area of the world.
“It’s a very special feelings when you can create on the canvas something that is close to life’s real colors,” she said.
Going forward, Olga still wants to see herself on stage performing 10 years from now as it is her passion and profession. She said there is nothing better than sharing what you love with others.
“I would not change anything in my life,” she added. “It’s so interesting and challenging already, why change anything?”
Olga has many performances coming up, including back-to-back performances at the prestigious Portland Piano International series on October 6 and 7, 2018. This is a must-do for piano fans on the West Coast!