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Spencer Klymyshyn - Piano

Interview

1- In 2019, you were the national winner at the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals (FCMF) National Music Competition. You were also, in both 2017 and 2018, a national first place award winner at the Canadian Music Competition. How do you recall these important milestones in your development and do you learn and take something away from these competitions?

These competitions motivated me in a new way and pushed me to perfect works to a level that I had not yet achieved. I think the value of competitions is not in the outcome, but in the work that is required to perform your best in that setting; winning is only a bonus! As well, competition success is important for a young pianist such as myself to begin to build a reputation for himself, and these competitions were instrumental in allowing me the opportunity to perform with ensembles such as the Symphony New Brunswick and be noticed by the CBC for their annual list of top Canadian classical musicians.

2- Is your family musical?

In fact yes they are! My mother was a successful pianist in her young adulthood, and my grandmother has been a life-long piano and music theory teacher. She taught me music theory and history at a distance over Skype for ten years since we didn’t live in the same province in Canada. She taught me the music theory that I required to achieve my ARCT, a performance certificate offered by the Royal Conservatory of Music in Canada.

3- You are currently continuing your studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, UK, working with Ronan O’Hora and Martin Roscoe in pursuit of his Artist Masters in Performance. How is this progressing?

I am very much enjoying the work that I have been doing at Guildhall in the many areas of musical performance, but particularly with my principal study teachers. Last year I split my time between professors O’Hora and Roscoe, and this year I will be adding Charles Owen to my teachers. I am very much looking forward to working with him in addition to Ronan and Martin. The course had been fantastic and I am progressing faster than I would have imagined. I am consistently impressed by the skill and musicianship of my peers and I am constantly inspired by them.

4- You are a graduate of the Schulich School of Music, McGill University, where you completed your Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance with Distinction, studying with Dr. Ilya Poletaev. How did this master influence and guide you?

Professor Poletaev has been one of the most important musical influences in my life. He is not only an incredibly inspiring pianist, but he had also helped shape the way I look at music, and how I approach a variety of genres, particularly early music as Ilya has a particular affinity for this time period. We continue to keep in contact, and I often recall invaluable guidance he provided at McGill over the years while I study at the Guildhall School.

5- You have won an impressive number of competitions and have held Young Musician titles. Does any one of these particularly stand out for you?

I was recently named by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC) as one of the 30 top Canadian classical musicians under 30, and this has been a particular honour. Over the years I have followed the list as it is released annually, and I have always seen the names of young musicians who inspire me included on the list. To be included in 2020 was an absolute honour.

6- You recently completed a tour with the Symphony New Brunswick. How was this received by the audience in these smaller cities that are perhaps less blessed with classical music exposure and how enrichening an experience was it for you?

This experience was one that I will remember for the rest of my life. Not only was I able to perform a work that I love on three occasions, in three cities, but I was also able to perform for much of my family and friends who travelled to the performances. My grandparents came to watch, along with my parents and a friend who was attending university in one of the cities. As well, it was my grandmother’s birthday on the first performance, and my mother’s on the last performance. It was a very ‘full circle’ moment for me; returning to Canada to perform a concerto with orchestra for my friends and family. As well, the audiences were particularly appreciative as they don’t often get to attend that type of concert in their smaller towns. The feedback and collaboration was particularly motivating for me.

7- What are your fondest musical memories, privately or performing?

One of my fondest musical memories was being able to perform in Saskatchewan at the Federation of Canadian Music Festivals National Final. My grandmother is heavily involved in the music scene there and in particular at that festival, and I am so happy that I was able to succeed at this competition surrounded by her friends and colleagues. I wanted to do well for her, and it was incredibly rewarding for me to perform well at this competition.

8- How often do your practice?

I practice every day! However, when I can afford to, I take Saturday off as I think it’s important to give your mind and body a break from the never-ending task of practise!

9- Would you consider teaching in the future?

Yes! I would love to teach at an institution such as Guildhall to be able to be a figure in the lives of young musicians and help shape them for the future. I would love to follow in the footsteps of the many inspirational teachers I have had the privilege of working with over the years.

10- Do you have a musician in mind that truly inspires you?

Professor Poletaev continues to motivate me in his ability to be a masterful musician in all genres, and push each of his students to be the most capable, but also individual musician that they can be. Ilya has a way of bringing out what is unique to each of his students, and I admire him greatly for this.

11- What advice would you give to young musicians at the start of their journey?

While I still consider myself to be in some ways at the start of my professional journey, I would tell young musicians struggling with he seemingly insurmountable obstacle of practice to throw perfection out of the window. Although some can perform cleanly and perfectly in every performance, I do not count myself in this group of musicians. I would tell young musicians to try to communicate with their audience in a genuine way, and to love the music that they produce. At the end of the day communication and community is the goal of being a musician, not perfection.

submission October 2022

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