Q&A with Boris Abramov, violin

We’ve spent the past few weeks exploring the lives and inspirations of various musicians from all corners of the globe. But what happens when the student becomes the instructor? This week we sat down with a former student and now instructor, violinist Boris Abramov, to analyze that very question.

Abramov was born in Azerbaijan in 1989 and began studying the violin at age 7. He studied in Israel with Stella Zlatkovsky and is currently in the Master’s Degree program at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University. Abramov is the graduate teaching assistant to Prof. Sergiu Schwartz, Chair of Violin Studies.

BIMF: What are some of your earliest musical memories?

Boris: When I think about my earliest musical memories I immediately think of singing and my grandmother. We moved to Israel when I was only one and I don’t remember much. I do remember being very drawn to the stereo and always asking to turn it on and listening to it for hours. It didn’t take long for me to start signing a lot and repeating what I heard. After a while, my grandmother, who is a pianist and to whom I have to give the credit for making me a musician, started to play songs with me. I even have a recording of my grandmother playing the piano and me singing along. I worked with my grandmother until I turned 17 and came to the US. 

BIMF: You’ve gone from being a student to becoming the instructor, what lessons did you take away from the Festival to help make you a better instructor?

Boris: Through the years at BIMF I had the privilege to work every summer with my teacher, Prof. Sergiu Schwartz, who influenced me the most as a performer and teacher, and with the other top of the line BIMF faculty. The coaching, masterclasses, and endless amount of hours spent working with these amazing musicians, shaped me without me even knowing or paying attention to it. I often catch myself coaching a student or a quartet and suddenly remember how I worked on this piece with my teacher or chamber music coaches at BIMF. I’m very inspired by these moments because I am able to use the knowledge and advice they gave me and pass it forward to the people I am working with now. These musicians and experiences made me the musician, and instructor, I am today.

BIMF: What is the best advice you’ve ever received from an instructor?

Boris: Never take anything for granted. It is very easy, especially in this profession, to lose track of what really matters and what is possible and not possible. It is very important to be realistic and never take any opportunity, may it be a coaching, lesson, or concert for granted. It is important to be positive, realistic, and not expect anything from anyone. The most important thing is to expect the most from yourself.  

BIMF: What is the one greatest musical experience of your life?

Boris: Working with my teacher, Prof. Sergiu Schwartz was and still is a wonderful musical experience. I remember being coached by Guy Braunstein, former concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, on how to be a concertmaster during the summer festival of the Israel Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. Sitting concertmaster when you are 15 next to the concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic was a special experience. I also remember listening to Leonid Kogan and Sviatoslav Richter when I was very young and to this day they remain a huge influence on me.

BIMF: What inspires you to work hard?

Boris: I am lucky to be working in this field and making music with incredible people. I had a great mentor and wonderful influences. What inspires me to work is the passion for improving and finding new music to perform and teach. I set certain goals, both as a player, and now a teacher, to keep improving. For me, that’s the ultimate dream; getting better and better, and discovering more and more.

BIMF: Why do you feel passionately about playing chamber music?

Boris: Since I was very young chamber music has been a big part of my life. Back in Israel, the chamber music program through the Jerusalem Music Center and the America-Israel Cultural Foundation provided young musicians, including me, the opportunity to play chamber music on a weekly basis and to work with outstanding musicians and composers.

I think chamber music means so much to me because it taught me so much; what it means to actually listen and not just hear, how to communicate with fellow musicians, how to act as a leader, and how to follow. On top of all that, a great portion of the best music written is for chamber music, and ultimately, all music is chamber music.

BIMF: At BIMF there’s an extremely strong connection between our community and our artists, our musicians and our patrons. How have those relationships affected your time with the Festival?

Boris: I was amazed to find out how much the community supports the Festival. I will never forget how I would return year after year, and find audience members calling my name and reminding me about a performance that happened four or five years ago. I don’t think there is a better thing to hear for a musician, which shows that the audiences play a huge role in our life as performers. I am still in touch with patrons and members of the Festival community, which is just wonderful. I think that those relationships not only affected my time during the Festival, but also helped me to understand the importance of audiences and patrons, to whom I am so grateful.

BIMF: If you were forced to give up classical music, what would you do instead?

Boris: I always wanted to become a basketball player, but because I’m so short that’s not possible. If I couldn’t be a musician I would probably want to work with animals in any way possible.

BIMF: If a movie were made about your career so far what would the title be?

Boris: I can’t really even imagine a movie made about me, but the first thing that comes to my mind is the word “Journey.” My entire life is a fantastic journey, and because of music and the violin I have my friends, my career, my successes and all the other wonderful things in my life.

BIMF: What advice would you offer to an aspiring violinist?

Boris: I would say that it is very important to be open-minded. It is important to draw inspiration from other sources besides the violin, practice room, or even your teacher. It is important to understand that if you truly love music you will always remain a “student.” For this reason, I would recommend constantly experimenting and trying new approaches. The only way to truly know something is to experience it. In order to do that, one must keep looking even when it seems like there is nothing new to find.

Check back soon for more student interviews…