Edition #35 – Nadia Shpachenko answers 7 questions

by | Nov 11, 2022

1. Why are you a musician?

Music has always given my life joy and purpose. I feel very fortunate to be a musician – to be able to do what I love every day and to make a living doing it. Especially now, during such difficult times, music lets me express my emotions by channeling my grief from what’s happening in my home country of Ukraine.

It also helps me stay hopeful and to keep going. I think everyone needs to have music and other forms of art in their life, it’s what makes us human!

2. Who are your musical inspirations?

I am most inspired by classical music and jazz. I love to discover newly-written and beautifully performed music of all genres. My early inspirations, as a girl growing up in Soviet Ukraine, were pianists Vladimir Horowitz, Emil Gilels and Sviatoslav Richter.

I also discovered jazz very early and used to improvise and listen to Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and also to The Beatles. These days I am inspired by contemporary classical composers, especially hundreds of composers I have worked with over the years.

3. What is your practice routine?

Between the ages of 14-25 or so I used to practice 8 hours every day. These days I practice whenever I can, but not nearly as much. I am a full time professor of music and an active performer and recording artist. I often have to learn a new program every week or two. During those periods I practice as much as possible, but rarely more than 3-4 hours per day.

4. Why did you make this album?

Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine
By Nadia Shpachenko (piano), Lewis Spratlan (composer)

Invasion: Music and Art for Ukraine is a very personal album, it was made in response to the horrific war in Ukraine. I was already planning to collaborate with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan on an album, and when the war started we decided to dedicate this album to Ukraine. He wrote the solo piano pieces 6 Rags, 3 Sonatas and Piano Suite No. 1 for me during and before the pandemic, and on February 24 (my birthday and the first day of full scale Russian invasion) he immediately started writing the title piece “Invasion,” a sextet for piano, saxophone, horn, trombone, percussion, and mandolin.

I commissioned numerous Ukrainian artists to make paintings about each musical piece. 100% of proceeds from this album go to Ukraine humanitarian aid. We are now raising funds for generators and power banks, as Russia is currently destroying Ukrainian power grids and millions of people are in danger of having no power or heat this winter.

5. What were the biggest obstacles in making this music?

This album had to be made in record time because of the urgency of this war and my desire to start helping as soon as possible. I had to learn all the solo pieces within a period of a few months, find collaborators for “Invasion” piece, line up a great recording venue (Silent Zoo Studios in Glendale), and juggle everyone’s very busy schedules to make the recording happen. There was literally only one day in May when everyone was available to record the “Invasion” piece and if anyone got sick or anything else went wrong, we would not have made the July deadline for a September release.

Also, finding and connecting with great visual artists who currently live in Ukraine and experience this war first-hand took time, but I am so proud to have the opportunity to promote their beautiful and powerful work! To make this happen I had to go on 2-3 hours of sleep for many months, I overcame these challenges because I felt I had to complete this project to show my support and solidarity with Ukraine.

6. Who is featured on the album?

All the music on this album was composed by Pulitzer prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan.

My collaborators for “Invasion” piece are the great conductor Anthony Parnther, and superb musicians Pat Posey on saxophone, Aija Mattson-Jovel on horn, Phil Keen on trombone, Yuri Inoo, on timpani and snare drum, and Joti Rockwell on mandolin.

The Ukrainian artists who made art for this project include Yurii Nagulko, Lesia Babliak, Kati Prusenko, Olena Papka, and children studying with Mykola Kolomiyets at the Aza Nizi Maza Art Studio in Kharkiv, Ukraine (who made art while hiding from the bombs by living in the subway).

7. Where may we find you online?