A ‘dreamer’ sees a life full of music
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As she practices her selection on the piano, Liliia Oliinyk listens to gentle words of instruction and encouragement from her professor Kenneth Boulton.
Senior piano performance major Liliia Oliinyk calls herself a dreamer. If her past work is any indication, her dreams most likely will come true.
Oliinyk was the unanimous choice of judges in winning the Louisiana state round of the 2011-12 Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Piano Competition held in Baton Rouge in October. The field included competitors from universities throughout the state and opens the door to regional competition in 2012.
A native of Kherson, a port city on the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, Oliinyk studied in her hometown music school as a child, while attending her regular school. At the age of 14, she entered Kherson Music College, earning a “Young Specialst” certification that allowed her to be an accompanist and part-time music teacher.
So, how does a young Ukrainian woman end up 6,000 miles away to study music at Southeastern?
“In my third year in Music College, I started thinking about continuing my education and began looking for music schools and conservatories,” she recalls. “Then I found out from friends a
bout some teachers who came to visit the college.”
“I first met Liliia in 2007 during a trip I took to the Ukraine,” says her Southeastern piano professor, Kenneth Boulton. “While there, I heard no fewer than 10 wonderful piano students, including Liliia. Any one of these students would have been a top recruit anywhere in the United States, although Liliia was clearly one of the most promising I heard.”
After learning more about Southeastern and its music program, she decided to apply. She recorded her solo piano performance on a DVD and sent it to the head of Southeastern’s music program.
“I didn’t expect a reply,” she says. “It seemed too unrealistic for me to be able to go that far from my home. I was happy and shocked.”
The one barrier was the need to pass the English language test. Just like her drive to study music, Oliinyk immersed herself in language studies.
“I was so motivated to prove to myself that I could do this, I managed to learn English in about six months. I had to forget about playing the piano for a while, because at this point all I was doing was studying the new language, listening to tapes, writing grammar exercises and speaking in front of a mirror. It’s my fourth year here in Louisiana, and sometimes I still cannot believe I am here.”
Honors are not new to Oliinyk, having collected awards and prizes at Kherson. In 2009 she was the grand prize winner of the DeBose National Piano Competition in Baton Rouge and placed second in the 2009 Rapides Young Artist Concerto Competition in Alexandria. At Southeastern, she has performed as a soloist with the Chamber Orchestra playing Beethoven’s “Emperor” concerto.
“Liliia certainly ranks among the very best students I have had the privilege of working with,” Boulton said. “She exhibits all the qualities we hope for, but only rarely encounter in a student. For all the talent she possesses, Liliia remains humble and grounded and recognizes those areas where she can still improve.”
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