Northeast Times

Students of note

Vikt­or­ia Kogan plays the pi­ano in her Somer­ton home. She or­gan­ized a mu­sic com­pet­i­tion and con­cert that drew 70 tal­en­ted young artists. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHOTO

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Dreams can come true, but they just don’t hap­pen. They take ef­fort and time.

Vikt­or­ia Kogan’s dream came true this past week­end when 70 young artists par­ti­cip­ated in a three-day con­cert and com­pet­i­tion she had or­gan­ized.

You Got Rhythm was a cel­eb­ra­tion of the works of George Ger­sh­win, she said. The event was something she had wanted to do since she came to the United States from the Ukraine in 2002.

The Somer­ton res­id­ent had worked as a com­poser, pi­an­ist, edu­cat­or and pro­du­cer of mu­sic­als for chil­dren in Kharkov, Ukraine, and con­tin­ued teach­ing mu­sic to chil­dren when she emig­rated.

Her idea to cre­ate a “pro­fes­sion­al-grade mu­sic com­pet­i­tion for youth” began to take form in the last two years, Kogan said dur­ing an in­ter­view at her Philmont Av­en­ue home.

Ger­sh­win’s work was chosen for a few reas­ons. The com­poser is a son of Rus­si­an par­ents, yet “he is an icon of Amer­ic­an mu­sic,” Kogan said. “He is a good ex­ample of the Amer­ic­an dream.”

His mu­sic, Kogan said, “is a blend­ing of clas­sic­al style and jazz im­pro­visa­tion­al style.”

Ger­sh­win’s mu­sic is at­tract­ive to stu­dents, she said, and keeps them  in­ter­ested. And, the 75th an­niversary of his death is com­ing up in Ju­ly.

“He had a short life,” Kogan said, “but le­gendary fame.”

Some of the most en­dur­ing mu­sic of the 20th cen­tury, Rhaps­ody in Blue, Porgy and Bess, They Can’t Take That Away from Me, Someone to Watch Over Me and even Swanee were writ­ten in the 1920s and 1930s. Ger­sh­win, who had teamed up with his broth­er, Ira, was just 39 when he died.

Kogan’s own Amer­ic­an ex­per­i­ence began 10 years ago when she came to the United States. Her son, Al­ex­an­der, was study­ing at the Curtis In­sti­tute of Mu­sic here in Phil­adelphia.

She said she also has oth­er fam­ily and friends in the city.

She teaches pi­ano, which she did in the Ukraine, too, but here she sees dif­fer­ences in at­ti­tude. Back home, Kogan taught in a spe­cial mu­sic school for gif­ted chil­dren.

“I got used to a com­munity of col­leagues and stu­dents,” she said. “We were very close. Our re­la­tion­ship was easy and close … and very stable.”

She taught in Ukraine and Rus­sia, and em­phas­is was put on pro­du­cing shows for the chil­dren that had pro­fes­sion­al looks to them. She said she put to­geth­er four mu­sic­als for the kids. In her Somer­ton home, she has framed posters of one of the shows’ in­ter­na­tion­al per­form­ances.

There was a ser­i­ous­ness in the ap­proaches of both stu­dents and in­struct­ors, she said. Here, she said, chil­dren are in­volved in many activ­it­ies, and do­ing something “just for fun” is very pop­u­lar.

In 2011, with the help of sev­er­al col­leagues, Kogan foun­ded the non-profit Mu­sic for Youth Com­pany. Last week­end’s three-day You Got Rhythm fest­iv­al and com­pet­i­tion was the or­gan­iz­a­tion’s first ma­jor event.

Dur­ing the open­ing gala on Fri­day, Rus­si­an jazz pi­an­ist Daniel Kramer made his Amer­ic­an de­but at the Phil­adelphia Eth­ic­al So­ci­ety on Ritten­house Square. Francesca Ger­sh­win, the com­poser’s grand­niece, also made an ap­pear­ance.

The first round of com­pet­i­tion for voice, pi­ano and vi­ol­in for all age cat­egor­ies was con­duc­ted on Sat­urday at the Bald­win School in Bryn Mawr and was not open to the pub­lic. Round II was held at the Academy of Vo­cal Arts, 1920 Spruce St. That round was a jur­ied com­pet­i­tion for pi­ano, vi­ol­in and voice with jury awards. Mem­bers of the pub­lic were in­vited to vote for their fa­vor­ites.

Con­test­ants came from six states. Those from sev­er­al coun­tries entered via DVD sub­mis­sions.

Judges in­cluded pi­an­ist Susan Starr; Phil­adelphia Or­ches­tra vi­ol­in­ist Amy Oshiro Mor­ales; Sergei Polus­miak, pi­an­ist and artist-in-res­id­ence and pro­fess­or of mu­sic at North­ern Ken­tucky Uni­versity; and Kar­en Sail­lant, artist­ic dir­ect­or of the In­ter­na­tion­al Op­era Theat­er. The event was hos­ted by broad­caster and mu­sic colum­nist Robert Sher­man.

Kogan said the gen­er­os­ity of the re­gion’s Rus­si­an com­munity helped make the event pos­sible. That com­munity was well-rep­res­en­ted dur­ing the gala open­ing, said Inna Lob­an­ova-Heas­ley, Kogan’s spokes­wo­man.

Lob­an­ova-Heas­ley said that Kramer’s per­form­ance was in­spir­ing. The pi­an­ist and Francesca Ger­sh­win were in­vited to per­form on WRTI-FM after Fri­day’s con­cert, she said, adding that WRTI was a big sup­port­er of You Got Rhythm. ••

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The win­ners are …

 

Seni­or Di­vi­sion: First place, Kev­in Jang, pi­ano; second place, Mary Loftus, vi­ol­in; third place, Mi­chael Mei, pi­ano; hon­or­able men­tion, Kira Math­i­as-Prabu.

 

In­ter­me­di­ate Di­vi­sion: No win­ner was chosen. Hon­or­able men­tion: Eric Hu and Selena Hue, both pi­ano.

 

Ju­ni­or Di­vi­sion: First place, Jen­nifer Liu, pi­ano; second place, Sam­antha Lee, vi­ol­in; third place, John May, pi­ano.

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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