Russian Cellist Shares Classical Music, Culture

January 16, 2014

Striding across the Mary Baldwin University campus with a cello case strapped to his back, world-class musician Dmitry Volkov is visiting with students to share his passion for classical music. As the very first Heifetz International Music Institute’s artist-in-residence, Volkov is making an impression on campus and around the community.

Photo by Kat Kiernan

Because of a partnership between Mary Baldwin and Heifetz Volkov’s stay in Staunton is possible, extending the affiliation beyond the elite summer music program, which has been based at the college since 2011.

“Since the beginning [of the Mary Baldwin-Heifetz affiliation], we’ve been discussing ways in which the Institute could have more of a year-round presence at the college, so that Mary Baldwin students and faculty could have the opportunity to see, hear, and interact with some of these talented musicians,” said Professor of Music Lise Keiter. “Having Dmitry here this year is wonderful, because it allows the Mary Baldwin Community to do just that — they are able to hear him play, learn a bit about Russian culture and the life of a traveling performer, and just have a conversation with him.”

Volkov arrived in August and plans to stay until the end of the spring semester.

“This [residency] was created to help build a bigger, stronger relationship between Mary Baldwin and Heifetz beyond what happens in the summer,” said the 25-year-old artist. “It also fits with the Heifetz mission to reach out into the community.”

“I love this town,” Volkov said, adding that he’s impressed with the architecture, food, and people of Staunton despite its relatively small size. “I thought I was born in a small town in Russia until I moved to Staunton.”

Volkov was born in the city of Togliatti on the Volga River and moved to Moscow at age 14. He later relocated to Baltimore, where he attended the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He has won numerous scholarships and awards and has performed in several of the most prestigious concert halls in Europe. Volkov was selected to participate in the Heifetz summer program in previous years, including 2012 — the first year the festival was held in Staunton.

Since his arrival, Volkov has played for a winery opening and for officials at Augusta Health. He has also visited local public schools and the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind (VSDB) where he had an unforgettable moment with a group of blind students.

“It gave me some unexpected delight to hear their comments,” Volkov said. “They hear music differently.”

Last Tuesday at Mary Baldwin, Volkov and the Spencer Center for Civic and Global Engagement hosted a screening of the lighthearted film The Barber of Siberia with a short talk, performance, and Russian food to celebrate the old Russian New Year.

He said he has enjoyed getting to know Mary Baldwin students during class visits.

“I start out, of course, talking about myself. But then I adapt to the subject matter at hand. If it’s a history class, we talk a little bit about Russian history; if it’s a philosophy class, we pretend we are smart,” Volkov joked. “And I love it when people ask me questions.”

“He is the perfect first artist-in-residence for us, because not only is he a fantastic cellist, but he is also very friendly, approachable, and genuinely interested in those around him,” Keiter said. “Dmitry and I also enjoy working together, so our musical collaborations are another great example of the strong partnership between the institute and the Mary Baldwin Music Department.”

Volkov’s residency is scheduled to end in May but he is open to extending it into the summer.