Greensboro, NC

This Classical Music Maestro Shares Why Challenges Help Us Thrive

Jeryl Brunner

Dmitry Sitkovetsky viewed challenges as a way to help him transform. Considered a rising star violinist, when he was 22 he left a comfortable and predictable career as a classical musician in the Soviet Union and emigrated to the United States to begin again. “No one was waiting for me. Nobody knew me or my parents. I wanted to start a whole new life and see what I could accomplish on my own,” he shares. “In some way, I feel my life really began at that moment.”

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Dmitry SitkovetskyCourtesy Greensboro Symphony

Both Sitkovetsky’s parents were great classical music performers. He is the fourth generation of professional musicians in his family. Their dynasty goes back to 1889. “I can't imagine a day in my life without music in one form or the other,” he says. “I was practically born on stage. It must be both in my genes as well as in the air that I am breathing.”

In fact, even before he was five-years-old, he was inspired by the French singer Yves Montand who came to perform in his native Moscow. “I memorized all of his famous songs and was doing my own house shows in pseudo-French to the amusement of my mother's dinner party guests.”

The move to the United States was instrumental in Sitkovetsky’s success as a performer, creator and facilitator. His career as a violin soloist is documented in several dozen recordings of all major concertos and a wide selection of chamber repertoire.

For more than 15 years Sitkovetsky has been the music director of the Greensboro Symphony Orchestra. “I am very proud of the way it has grown, developed and become the crown jewel of the living arts within the Greensboro community,” he says of the symphony which in 2019 had a sparkly new venue at The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts. The upcoming move also inspired Sitkovetsky to expand their future audiences.

“For me, music is the greatest manifestation of the human spirit,” says Sitkovetsky. “Without speaking a word, we are all lifted up into a sphere where individually none of us is capable of getting. And we take the audience with us.”

Sitkovetsky offered his best tips on how to embrace challenges.

Be open and listen to your inner voice and instincts. Fear of failure is of one of the worst enemies of creativity. One of the lessons I learned growing up in Russia was stick to your guns or principals and face the consequences later. It is always easier to say “sorry” once you have succeeded, than to ask for permission before you even begin trying. Nothing ventured. Nothing gained!

Don’t be afraid of challenges. We learn and grow a lot more from our defeats than from our victories. When I was 29 years old, I got totally obsessed with J. S. Bach's greatest keyboard work, the Goldberg Variations, and decided to transcribe it for the string trio (violin, viola, cello). At the time, transcriptions were completely out of fashion. Everybody thought it was a crazy and stupid idea. Even my agents and musician friends, who I invited to play this transcription with me, laughed in my face.

However, I did it in spite of all the resistance. And now it is played, recorded and even staged all over the world. Moreover, it has opened up a completely new dimension in my life. Now I get commissions to make transcriptions. I have done over 50 so far. And I receive royalties when they are performed by others.

Always think outside the box and question the obvious. Be open to the unexpected. It defines your creativity. In order to take a step up, leave behind the step you are on. Let go of it, otherwise you will not get to the next step.

Seek the company of great masters. You will learn a lot just by observing them.

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New York based journalist who has written for Forbes, Parade, InStyle, National Geographic Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and The Wall Street Journal. Author of the book "My City, My New York, Famous New Yorkers Share Their Favorite Places" and podcaster, ("When Lightning Strikes"). I cover the arts, theater, entertainment, food, travel and people who are motivated by their joy and passion.

New York City, NY
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