Pianist Victoria Vassilenko, the first winner of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Prize in support of young talent in contemporary arts and science, headed a piano competition jury in the Dominican Republic.
The young lady, enjoying a remarkable international career, also became involved in the organisation of the ProPiano Music Competition. A couple of local music lovers and patrons, Michael Haentjes and Simone-Marie Ricard, came up with the idea. They were joined by Margarita-Miranda de Mitrov, the wife of Bulgarian trumpeter Viktor Mitrov, with whom they had worked for years in the National Symphony Orchestra in Santo Domingo.
The jury, composed of Victoria Vassilenko, Edith Hernández, and Michael Haentjes, was surprised by the tremendous interest the contest aroused in the Dominican Republic and Haiti: seventy recordings were received by them.
‘We admitted to the competition 38 children up to the age of 12, 8 adolescents up to 17, and 8 people up to 21 years of age, ,’ said the Bulgarian pianist. ‘Curiously, most of them had never touched a “real” instrument—they had played their keyboards or synthesisers at home. And the Haentjes family had acquired a fine concert grand piano that had been standing unused and made it their mission to help young talents who dream of playing the piano.’
Many of the participants had the opportunity to perform in front of an audience for the first time, some wearing Bermuda shorts and T-shirts, but showing undeniable talent and an overwhelming desire to develop.
‘Michael provided the prize money, but it was not enough to encourage all the gifted youngsters. One contestant confided that his greatest dream was to have his own piano, so the organisers managed to find him a second-hand one. So, the third prize became the first, because it made an otherwise unrealisable dream come true. I played a recital for the contestants, and they held a gala concert performance. I tried to advise them on how to improve their performing technique. Imagine how someone with talent plays Beethoven without knowing how, at all,’ added Viktoria Vassilenko, who had no problem in communicating because she speaks perfect Spanish.
For her, it was important that the participants of the ProPiano competition felt the rush of adrenaline on stage, for that might be their only appearance before an audience.
The first winner of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Prize in support of young talent in contemporary arts and science is teaching at the Academy of Music in Sofia after having completed her post-doctorate specialisation at the Music Chapel in Waterloo, whose patron is Paola, the former Queen of Belgium. The Queen signed the diploma awarded to Vicky, who has frequently given concerts at Her Majesty’s villa.