Pianist Sergei Kuznetsoff is Young Texas Artists’ 2005 Grand Prize Winner and Gold Medalist in Piano.
He recently shared an update on his career with us.
It’s been about 17 years since you won YTA’s Grand Prize and Gold Medal in Piano. What have you been up to since then?
It’s been a long time; a lot of things have happened. I used to live in Texas and was a student at Texas Christian University. About two years after the competition, I moved to California and started my doctorate degree at the University of Southern California.
Upon completing my doctorate in 2011, I was invited to take a position as a piano faculty member at Lone Star College, Montgomery here in Conroe, Texas. I’m still on the faculty, and I have started many projects related to piano performance. One of them was the Piano Super Saturday (an “all about piano” event typically featuring a workshop, recital, masterclass, and discussion) in Houston.
Later, I started a piano festival in other locations. One of them was a really exciting project: the Costa Rica Piano Festival. I was on the faculty and also was the artist-in-residence for a few years. Unfortunately, during the pandemic, this project had to go on hold until things get back to normal.
I had another project that I established in San Diego, California: The Glissando Piano Festival. That was very successful and drew participants from around the world. This year, I will be organizing the festival at the Kawai Piano Gallery here in Houston on May 28.
Other festivals that I’ve been working on include the Triumph Music Festival in Philadelphia, RUTA MAGICA in Mexico City, and projects in Turkey and Guatemala. It’s been a very exciting decade with a lot of projects, where I play a role as an organizer, as an educator, and as a performing artist.
My philosophy in this environment is to diversify, to hold different roles. At University of Southern California, I learned that the best way is to stay active in this industry is to create opportunities for others and create opportunities for myself. So that’s my main goal. These days, I look into the future very optimistically.
What would you say have been some of the more memorable or meaningful moments of your music career, and why were they important to you?
I really must say that Young Texas Artists has played a huge role in my career. First of all, it’s one of the most recognizable Texas competitions. Everybody who plays piano in Texas knows about Young Texas Artists, and it was a great honor for me to receive an award from the competition.
In California, when I considered opportunities with Lone Star College Montgomery, it immediately clicked with me that I’m very familiar with that place. I know everybody in Conroe; I know everybody in Houston because of Young Texas Artists. It gave me a lot of opportunities to meet people, to establish connections with institutions, organizations, and communities. So I was not new here. When I arrived back in Texas, I was welcomed. All of the people from Young Texas Artists were very warm to me when I came back, and I was very happy to see them again.
This was one of the highlights of my education and career. And also, I’m very happy and proud of the projects that I have started and established. And they’re still doing great, and there’s still a lot of room to grow.
What are some of your goals from here?
Within our lives, everything has been divided into the pre-pandemic era and the after-pandemic era. Everyone probably will agree with me. So we all have to react, to re-balance and re-think our strategies towards the future. How are we going to plan to come back? And this is what I’m thinking right now. What can I do to improve the performing art business? To improve piano education and music education in general? What can I contribute? What does the community expect from me as an educator?
I ask myself these questions; I talk to people, and I receive a lot of great feedback. What I’m sure about is I’m not going to stop. I’m going to stay active and generate new ideas. I’m going to create more performances, more piano competitions, more piano masterclasses, so everybody can jump on the board. New people are always welcome: new students and new audiences.
Can you tell us a little bit about what you enjoy doing for fun or to relax?
One of my biggest passions is anthropology. I study a lot of artifacts. I love studying ancient civilizations. It gives me ideas about how humanity has developed to the point where we are right now, and it gives me perspective on what to expect in the future.
I also travel. I’ve been to Egypt, Turkey, Israel, Latin America. I’m going to Guatemala. It is something that captivates me. And it really becomes a part of the puzzle of my life, how I connect the dots together: education, anthropology, history, culture, experiences, I think it brings a lot of wealth into your life, a wealth of experience.
Another hobby is the market: finances and investment. I love modern technologies and innovations. I love how far we’ve come in the last 10-20 years, how quickly we adopt technologies, how quickly our lives change for the. Studying these technologies is a passion of mine, and I love investing in them.
Please tell us about your musical tastes? Would you say they changed over the years? How so?
Of course, tastes do change. I deal with a lot of different musical backgrounds, different cultures, different musical tastes, and I made the decision that I have to be open to all types of music. I have to be able to consider musical styles wherever and whenever they come from: modern music, 20th-century music, and old music.
When I say old music, I mean music from before the renaissance and before medieval music, the so-called ethnomusicology. This comes together with my passion for anthropology. I Iove studying all musical traditions, and I love seeing the transformation of music over the centuries. I love seeing how music goes together with history, with politics, with economics, and how all these things are intermingled together as well.
Music is something that has accompanied humanity throughout history. This is what identifies us as humans: the ability to perceive music, to create music, and to appreciate music. And I hope it will always stay with us.
What advice would you offer young musicians who are just getting started in their careers?
I interact with a lot of students, their parents, and other teachers. Some of them are not sure a musical career is the best choice. I always advise them that it really depends on the person, the person, and the context.
Without passion, without motivation, without effort, nothing is going to happen in any kind of career, and a musical career is not an exception. If you really love what you do, just keep on doing it. Don’t stop. Always try to think beyond the horizon. Always try to create the better version of yourself.
If you feel like something doesn’t work out, it is very easy just to drop it, but my answer is, do not drop it. Keep on improving. Keep on trying to get to another level, another step. And one day, something good will happen. One day, the revelation will happen or the moment of luck will happen. This is how everything in the world is. It’s a cycle. That’s what I learned from history, economics, and politics. Everything goes in cycles. So don’t stop. Don’t get demotivated. Don’t get upset over small things.