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Arts & Culture

Russian invasion of Ukraine reverberates in Plano

International Conducting Workshop in the Lviv Philharmonic Hall, Ukraine
Benjamin Loeb
/
KERA News
Feliz Estrada conducting the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra during the International Conducting Workshop and Festival.

Plano pianist fears he may have to cancel his 20-year-old classical music workshop and festival in Ukraine - because of the Russian attack.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine may seem distant but ripples are already reaching North Texas. One Plano pianist has been leading a classical music workshop and festival for years -- in Lviv, Ukraine. Now that's in doubt.

The next International Conducting Workshop and Festival is in late March. Its founder-director Benjamin Loeb doesn't know — yet — if he'll cancel. Lviv is 335 miles east of Kyv, the Ukranian capital, where much of the Russian attack seems to be headed.

"I'm worried for my friends," Loeb said. "I'm worried for Ukraine. And now, for the arts community, it's having an impact right here, for the business community and the students, it's having a direct impact."

Loeb created the workshop 20 years ago in the Czech Republic and has led it in cities around the world. It gives beginning, even mid-career, conductors the chance to study with master teachers and lead full-sized orchestras in huge classical works they might never perform otherwise — this year, compositions by Prokofiev, Bartok and Sibelius.

"It's a rare opportunity," Loeb said.

Violist Ustym Zhuk, pianist Benjamin Loeb and mezzo-soprano Liliya Nikitchuk performing in the Lviv Philharmonic Hall.
Benjamin Loeb
/
KERA News
Violist Ustym Zhuk, pianist Benjamin Loeb and mezzo-soprano Liliya Nikitchuk performing in the Lviv Philharmonic Hall.

Since 2018, the workshop and festival has been held in Lviv with the 75-member Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra. Loeb even works with the Ukranian musicians in concert and recording sessions year-round. Full-sized, full-time professional orchestras are cheaper to hire in Ukraine than in America.

Graduates of the workshop include two assistant conductors with the Dallas Symphony and others who hold positions with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Berkeley Symphony.

Loeb said Ukranian friends have not told him to cancel -- yet. But he may have to — or he may downsize and relocate the workshop — if student attendance drops over fears of the Russian attack.

Loeb hopes to have a plan, he said, by mid-March.

Got a tip? Email Jerome Weeks at jweeks@kera.org. You can follow him on Twitter @dazeandweex.

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