We’ve met with Tetiana to talk about her music, work, inspiration and future plans of New Era Orchestra.
Tetiana, please tell us about the background for creation of the non-state New Era Orchestra in 2007?
I would say that it started when I was 18. That time I organized a kind of a theater, namely a mobile troupe. After school I worked as a teacher for one year in a secondary school. I hardly saw myself as a music teacher and decided to look at it from a different angle. I had several artistic associations, and the theater was one of them. We gave musical performances with the participation of the orchestra that consisted of students and teachers and went on tours around the schools. For the performances I came up with a script, costumes and musical accompaniment. So it all started a long time ago, and I think that at that time it was subconscious. At the age of 19 it became clear that it was necessary to manage some creative group. And it turned out by itself very organically. That passion for creating interesting programs was very clearly manifested when in 10 years I started working as a conductor in the Presidential Orchestra.
Then I met with Andriy Rizol, the General Director of Babylon company. He saw me and drew attention to the fact that it would be difficult to realize my ambitions in any state-managed collective. And it was him who suggested that we create our own orchestra, taking into account that I was too active trying to do everything in my own way. And it was possible to be done only in a private structure. And Andriy Rizol realized that and said: "Let's try." Since that it all began here in Podil on Voloshska Street. We made several starting concerts with musicians in a new line-up. At the time of these first concerts I could hardly imagine what it would lead to. Such a complex structure as an orchestra requires systematic rehearsals; you need to play all the time, work all the time. The situation from the concert to the concert with searching for financing was screaming out loud that nothing good could ever come of it. But, nevertheless, we went into the world. We had to come up with our distinctive features and decide what it would be for the orchestra. Later some journalist wrote about us: "Kalinichenko and NEO have their own style." It was the compliment that I paid attention to. This is something that you can’t buy, it is either there or not. And that's how time showed, the sense of style is apparently there and there is even a special "Kalinichenko style".
Having the experience of giving concerts in different countries of the world and cooperation with well-known guest-soloists, do you feel the difference in approach to work of foreign musicians and Ukrainian ones? Is there a difference between the audience here and there?
All over the world the musicians are divided into only three categories: good musicians, very good musicians and not very good musicians. I work with the first two categories. We strive to become very good. The difference between good and bad musicians is that good musicians, when they start working they turn on 100% immediately, even 120%. In sports, it is usually necessary to warm up the body first, because it is very difficult to jump 100 times up when you are not warmed up. This is the specificity of the sport. And in music, all these preparations are accumulated over many years of hard work. And the reaction of the musician is absolutely the same in any country, as soon as the moment of rehearsal or concert begins, then this maximum instantaneous turn-on should occur. This is how the whole world works, and this is what I strive for and I would like it to be so always and everywhere. If I see that a person cannot turn on 100% from the first note, or he/she feels sorry for himself, or he/she does not want to get involved, I do not work with such musicians. In music, energy is important. Any gadgets can’t transfer the human energy, that is the result of years of hard work and that makes the soul vibrate at a live concert.
Regarding the audience, I would like to make a great compliment to the Ukrainian public. Here we have an audience much younger than abroad, while we have classical music still affordable. Abroad classical concerts, especially very good ones, are a luxury thing. The cost of tickets there is several times higher, and they are sold out for a year before the concert. There are inexpensive tickets as well, but very few of them and you need to try very hard to catch them. And abroad, when people retire, they can afford to travel and attend such concerts, to enjoy life. They think that, finally, they can buy this expensive ticket and come to a classical concert. In our country the majority of people still can afford to buy the ticket to a classical concert. Therefore, our audience is much younger than the western audience. It seems to me that in Kyiv there is the most demanding, the most rigid, but also the most grateful and the warmest public. Even if something is not right at the concert, you have such support from listeners that it costs millions.
What is the reason for such a dissonance: at your concerts in Ukraine the Philharmonic Hall is always crowded, you are seen off with a loud ovation, you are applauded in concert halls in other countries, but there is neither interest nor support of NEO from the state side? What can change the situation? Is there any solution? Do you see it?
I do not see any way out yet. But I would say that it would be great to find a dialogue. The whole world searches for it. One must seek for a dialogue, one must be flexible. For example, we do not even know what the president of Switzerland or Denmark looks like, they are in the shadow, their task is to fulfill their duties well, and they do this. That's why they go to work on bicycles or in economy classes, because they understand what a big responsibility they have, and they should just do it well and modestly. And our politics and show business are mixed. When our officials understand that their task is to serve, go to work and honestly fulfill their duties, and not to be engaged in show business, there will be progress. Otherwise I see no way out.
But here is an example that inspires me and gives a reason for optimism. Elon Musk has overtaken NASA, an agency that suspended research on Mars for 18 years. And he did it in extremely short terms. Such an example proves that even in such country like the USA, where such a breakthrough in space exploration happened, one man with his crazy energy and great ideas has overtaken this state machine for several years and still has huge ambitions. Apparently the world is changing. For me, this is an example of such a unique private initiative that not only outruns the state, but changes the world for better.
The high professionalism of the orchestra allows you to attract such world stars of classical music as Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Avi Avital, Kit Armstrong and others. With whom are you currently negotiating about future performances and what concerts can we expect in future?
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you the names. I have a rule: I always voice the names of performers, when we clearly understand that the concert is confirmed. Of course, I'm now scratching my tongue to tell you who it is, a few people, musicians of the highest echelon, world-class performers. But I will not voice the names yet. But let's turn the question a bit the other way. If I can play with world-class musicians, it's because I want us to play better. There is a quote: "While playing with the best, you start to play better." This is from “Match Point” by Woody Allen. This is simple mathematics, the only question is, what price I pay for it. But only in this way it is possible to grow up professionally. In two weeks of such rehearsals with the best musicians you make a jump for 5-10 years ahead, it's worth many years of training.
If we had a modern concert hall in Kyiv that allowing professional exchanges, bringing the best conductors and musicians here, it would expand the perception of classical music in general, stimulate young musicians and would change the course of history of Ukraine. I dream about this. There must be a hall, which is able to receive orchestras and performers of the world level.
Answering your initial question, I think the fact that for the first time in 73 years the Ukrainian orchestra is represented at the Septembre Musical Festival is a signal that something is changing for the better. In this case we represent our country, and this is a huge responsibility. And we will still have a concert in Bern, where Tamar Beraia (Georgia - Switzerland, piano) will join us, there will be a slightly different program and we will have the opportunity to play together.
To continue the topic of the New Era Orchestra's performance in September 2018 in Switzerland at the Septembre Musical Festival de musique classique Montreux-Vevey, I want to note that you are presented to the listener as Une merveilleuse découverte venue d'Ukraine - A wonderful discovery from Ukraine. As you already noticed, NEO will perform in Bern with the great pianist Tamar Beraia, who has lived in Ukraine for the past several years, being a Swiss citizen, but originally from Georgia. How do you think, does such an interweaving of stories, nationalities, countries and cultures affect the music itself, its performance and its perception by the listener?
Music is influenced by everything around; the more stories and impressions the better for concert, the more mixed nationalities in the group the more unexpected results will be. Great discoveries are made at the junction, and there are no straight ways. It is important not to move faster, but to catch the moment you live now. Therefore, I am for mixing, since due to it the more interesting and richer the result will be.
What do you think about modern classical music in Ukraine and what would you advise the musicians-beginners to achieve success?
I'm not a music critic, I'm too involved in the process, so it's hard for me to answer the question about Ukrainian classical music now and in future. When I see that there are good initiatives, and not musical fast food, I am sincerely happy. When it happens that not a very high-quality product is wrapped in a glossy packaging and sold as a high-end, it's frustrating.
Once I was given the advice: "Tetiana, you have to work very hard." I said: "Is that all?" I work for many years without days off. Therefore, without explanation, this advice is useless. After all, you can work for a long time and do not get any pleasure and die in obscurity having chip on your shoulder about it. I do not like to give advice. But I can share my vision. Yes, of course, without diligence there is no way, and I always work a lot, but it's not because I love hard work - I love pleasures. I appreciate when work brings joy; you should like what you are doing! And then all your sleepless nights and difficulties are secondary ones, the main thing is that you are happy with your work, then success will definitely come.
This is the question I cannot help asking: what is it like to be a modern female conductor? What are the qualities worth having to be the leader of the collective, to bear responsibility for it and at the same time to remain such a charming woman?
This is a question that is often asked; and I often get lost; and I do not know where to start. I cannot name just a list of qualities, and I cannot sort out main things. This is a complex of qualities, where everything is important, including the drawbacks that you need to be able to transform in something good. You have to have a strong personality first of all, it does not matter whether you are a man or a woman. For example, a lot of male conductors in different countries do not have any qualities to be conductors. But they are men and no one asks them questions. This happens in any other profession as well. In any sphere there are always a few people who are in their right place. First you need to have a personality and then everything else will be attracted. According to one of the ratings, the conductor's profession was recognized as the most difficult profession in the world. And I agree with this.
And how do you relax?
I'm very happy when I have the opportunity to attend training sessions regularly, especially dance classes, I'm a fan of a Zumba, and I'm great at it. During the workout I am able not to think about work for an hour and a half. This is an excellent reboot. And of course this is a live communication with people, and not through gadgets. This is the exchange of energy. If I'm somewhere abroad, I'm looking for a concert hall and going to a concert, it's in the blood, and there's nothing to be done about it. And if there is an opportunity to go somewhere, to travel then it's wonderful. In the trips new ideas come with new impressions and this can be transformed into a profession later.
What do your colleagues say about you?
"- Have you survived after Kalinichenko?! (laughing)
- Yes! We more than just survived, but we are still friends and work together! "
If not the conductor, whom Tetiana Kalinichenko would be?
I do not know, I really love music, so it's hard to imagine something different. Most likely, I would manage some kind of production with the final product. At first I would be a workshop master, and then a factory director. If it is about milk production – it would be the best milk in Ukraine, if some other things – as well - the best in Ukraine.
Tetiana, would you like to become a president in this case? With such a quality approach everyone would be fine with such a president.
Presidents should create all conditions for people like me, so that we can create miracles and do the impossible things.
Photos by Yury Zaluzhniy and NEO