Jeff Nelsen: Thank you, Vadim, for taking the time to share your experiences with us. First off, huge congratulations on your most recent award! Your Facebook post said, “Thrilled to receive the ‘Best Musician of the Year’ award from Guiyang Symphony Orchestra! Thanks everyone and Happy Chinese New Year!”
What does this award mean? Why did you get it? What might getting the award inspire in your thoughts about the future?
Vadim Shvedchikov: This award came from the orchestra itself. Orchestra members as well as staff voted for the person they think is the best musician in the orchestra. I was especially happy to receive this award as I only joined the orchestra a year before. I was lucky to play some of the “big” horn pieces during my trial as well as afterwards, including Bruckner 4, Alpine Symphony, Ein Heldenleben, Don Juan, Rosenkavalier, Brahms 1, Beethoven 6, a few Shostakovich symphonies, etc. The “dream playlist” of the horn player!
JN: Why are you a musician? …And why do you play horn?
VS: Well, that’s actually a funny story. For my primary school, I studied at “Gymnasium” (a general, all-subject institution –Ed.) and was taking piano and music theory lessons at the music school/lyceum. Later on when I was in Grade 5, I decided to go completely into music and quit the Gymnasium. My mom was a music history professor at the same music school/lyceum I went to, so that made her happy. I had played piano for almost 11 years when I told my mother that I didn’t want to play anymore – I wanted to try some wind instrument like…clarinet. She thought it was just a “teenage caprice” and assumed it was something I needed to try for a short period of time before being back at the piano. She went to the ensemble manager and got me a clarinet. When I was putting it together, I realized that the mouthpiece was missing (what luck!), so asked my mom to return it. She went back to the manager and asked for “any instrument you have that he can just get and play straight away.” The manager said, “What about the horn?”
JN: And so the rest is history. Nice. What was your first performance success that you can remember that made you want to keep practicing, and want to be a professional musician?
VS: My first success was when I got my first job. There was an opening at the National Symphony Orchestra of Uzbekistan, and I decided to take a chance. At that time, I still had some difficulties in my playing that needed to be fixed (as I started quite late), but I practiced a lot for that audition. In the end, it worked out. I played my best and was happy to get into the professional orchestra.
JN: You’ve been migrating around the planet quite a bit. Sounds exciting, to say the least. Give us a short trip through your pre-professional music life. School, lessons, competitions?
VS: I started playing piano at the age of 3. My mother was a pianist before switching to music history, so she wanted me to be a pianist too. I started horn when I was 15. In 2011, I won first prize at the International Internet Music Competition in Serbia. In 2010, I took the second prize at the International Competition “Shabyt Inspiration” (Kazakhstan, Astana). In 2009, I won first prize at the Uzbekistan National Youth Competition and was awarded a full scholarship to study at the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan, I graduated from Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore (on full scholarship), where I studied with Jamie Hersch and Han Chang Chue. I also had master classes with Radovan Vlatkovic, Michael Thompson, Frøydis Ree Wekre, Ben Jacks, Luca Benucci, Chris, Castellanos, Raimund Zell, Johannes Hinterholzer, Thomas Hauschild, Olivier Darbellay, Lin Jiang, and many more.
JN: Can you talk about how it has been to leave your home and work abroad? What are the potential negatives and positives? Do you have any suggestions for people thinking about traveling the world in order to work?
VS: I did my degree in Singapore, so that was already a good prep for living in Asia. When I came to China, of course, some things were different, but it’s all about how fast one can adapt. I’m the sort of person who can adapt to almost anything anywhere, so for me it wasn’t that hard. Of course here people are different, with different mentality and traditions, but everyone is still nice and respectful. I was lucky to meet some good and supportive people throughout my travels, and that made my life easier. Another thing that may be hard to adapt to (and here China strikes!) is…food! Chinese food is different from what I used to eat. Here everything is oily and spicy. I mean REALLY SPICY! You think you know what really spicy is? You don’t! Go to China and check it out. It’ll burn your thoughts! I solved that problem very easily – brought my wife with me J That works 100%, everywhere! Haha! I would suggest to those who are afraid to work in other countries to give it a try. You never know if you like it until you try it! I have had a fantastic adventure!
JN: What is a good professional success you remember? A favorite concert?
VS: One of the performances I enjoyed most was with the Boston Brass while I was studying in Singapore. They were on tour in Asia and came to our conservatory for a concert. The first half was their ensemble alone, and the second half included selected conservatory students. We were all very excited and looked forward to playing with them – it turned out to be the performance where I had the most fun. I absolutely loved the pieces we played, especially after playing and practicing classical music all the time.
JN: What do you do away from the horn, away from music? Any hobbies?
VS: I do sports. I used to practice martial arts, but I stopped a while ago. Sometimes I play football with colleagues, but mostly I go to the gym and work out with weights. That helps to release some tension and gives me more power (to play). J
JN: What do you fear in music or your professional life, and why?
VS: Fear in my professional life? Good question! I guess for me, it’s a fear of disappointment. People expect you to play your best all the time, but we are human beings. Everyone can make a mistake. Sometimes I have the feeling that nowadays people are obsessed with playing “without mistakes” while making music goes to second place. Of course we have to play the right notes, but I think we are all here to make music in the first place.
JN: How do you choose well, in spite of having this fear? How have you been able to succeed, regardless of sometimes being afraid?
VS: Well, sometimes you sit on stage before some big solo and think, “Here it comes. Can I actually do it now?” The answer I have is “You’ve got to do it anyway, so just do it!”
JN: Who is one of your favorite non-hornist musicians in the world, and why?
VS: I like Timofei Dokshizer. He was not only a phenomenal trumpet player, but also a phenomenal musician. He used his flawless technique to support his musicality, not the other way around. He was also progressing and getting better all his life. Some of his best recordings were from when he was already old.
JN: What is a quote or idea that inspires you to practice and/or perform consistently at your highest level? How do you stay focused, or re-focus on making compelling music and going beyond just getting the right notes?
VS: I like one quote I always keep in mind: “Fortune favors the bold.” I’m always taking risks, as it is the only way to go beyond the “good.” That little extra “ppp” to make a rounder ending of a phrase, or a powerful “fff” high C – that’s what wins you an audition at the end of the day.
JN: Fantastic…I love it. What is a quote or idea you use to keep motivated to keep practicing, especially when you’re too tired to want to get in the practice room some days?
VS: No pain, no gain!
JN: Any exciting projects we can watch out for in the near future?
VS: I will be playing the Glière Horn Concerto with my orchestra in the beginning of May. I’m looking forward to it, as it’s one of my favorite concertos!
JN: It sure sounds like you’re living the dream! Congratulations, Vadim. Thanks for sharing with us.
VS: Thank you very much, Jeff, for this wonderful opportunity to share with everyone. I wish all the best to all and everyone in our big horn society!