Honors: Maria Ioudenitch

Born in Russia and Raised in KC, the Award-Winning Violinist will the the Featured Soloist in the Kansas City Symphony’s January “Russian Romantics” Program

Violinist Maria Ioudenitch first played with the Kansas City Symphony when she was just 16 years old, as winner of the 2012 Young Artist Competition.

To this day, she remembers it as one of her fondest musical moments, performing Aram Khachaturian’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra: “It was exhilarating. I still remember the feeling of being center stage and feeling this note dissipate into theaudience,” she said. “It was extraordinary. It was a really great experience.”

Ioudenitch started playing the violin when she was three years old. “My parents just handed me a tiny violin. I think they were just sick of having so many piano sounds in the family. They thought it might be time for something different,” she laughed.

Ioudenitch’s parents, Tatiana Ioudenitch and Stanislav Ioudenitch, are both pianists. Stanislav Ioudenitch won a gold medal at the 2001 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and is artistic director at Park University’s International Center for Music (ICM). Additionally, her grandmother, uncles, cousin, great-uncle and great-grandmother all play piano.

But violin was not unprecedented. Her grandfather, Vladimiar Yudenitch, was a star in Uzbekistan (where her parents are from) and performed with the National Symphony of Uzbekistan many times.

She was born in Russia, but her family moved to the United States when she was three years old. She grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, and attended the Barstow School. “A lot of my identity is American, and I am very proud of that, but my soul isRussian. I grew up in Russian culture and we speak Russian at home, so I am very, very connected to that part,” she said.

Ioudenitch studied first with Gregory Sandomirsky, concertmaster emeritus at the Kansas City Symphony, then with Ben Sayevich, at ICM, and as her proficiency on the violin grew her parents saw her potential. “When I was 16, my parents gave me this ultimatum, which sounds scary, but it was the best thing they could have done for me. They said, ‘You have to choose. You can either really focus on violin and music or you can go into academics and keep violin as a hobby.’

“Of course, I picked violin, because it’s the love of my life, you know. I can’t live without it,” said Ioudenitch. “But that doesn’t mean I did poorly in school, I should point out!”

It was after the ultimatum that she won the Young Artist Competition with the Kansas City Symphony and received second prize at the Johansen International Competition that same year.

“You could say there’s pressure, but I love it, so it’s entirely different,” she said.

Ioudenitch also enjoys writing and grew up cooking and baking, which she considers an art form.

January 11 through 13, she’ll perform Alexander Glazunov’s Violin Concerto with the Kansas City Symphony, conducted by Andrey Boreyko on an all-Russian program.

“It’s super Russian and I’m so connected to it. All the melodic lines seem to flow through me naturally and it’s so beautiful!” she said. “It’s super gorgeous and the last movement couldn’t be more Russian.”

Ioudenitch’s career is taking shape. She graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in May and is now pursuing a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory, where she performs with the chamber orchestra and is preparing for competitions.

Last April, she was featured on American Public Media’s “Performance Today” in an interview with Fred Child, where she said, “I’m trying to reach at least one person in the audience, with the music, whatever that might mean. Maybe they go away from the concert feeling like they’ve been in another place, somewhere away from their daily worries, or if they were just so enthralled by the beauty of the music or the brilliance of it.

“Every day I seem to find new inspiration for music, and the power that music has, whether it comes from my parents or my teachers, my colleagues, everyone around me. And not even anything actually musical, like outside, a few days ago, the trees were just stunning. They were full of red and orange and green and yellow hues and I thought, ‘How can this be so beautiful?’ and that inspired me to do such a good day of practicing,” she said.

“I think it really does come down to beauty, for me.”

The Kansas City Symphony presents “Russian Romantics” at 8 p.m. Jan. 11 and 12 and 2 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. For more information, visit www.kcsymphony.org.

photo by Jim Barcus

About The Author: Libby Hanssen

Libby Hanssen

Originally from Indiana, Libby Hanssen covers the performing arts in Kansas City. She’s written for KCUR, “KC Studio,” “The Kansas City Star,” “The Pitch” and “KCMetropolis.” Libby maintains the culture blog “Proust Eats A Sandwich” and writes poetry and children’s books. Along with degrees in trombone performance, she was a Fellow for the NEA Arts Journalism Institute at Columbia University.

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