Inspiring People

Katya Grineva, Russian born, Award Winning Classical Pianist

Katya Grineva
When the teenage Russian pianist, Katya Grineva, came to New York in 1989, she had two goals: to study in America and one day, to play in Carnegie Hall. Katya Grineva made her American debut in 1993 performing the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-Flat, k. 595 with the Baltimore Symphony. Katya made her Carnegie Hall debut on May 13, 1998 and completed her 7th season at the world famous hall on May 12, 2005.

Since April 1998 Steinway and Sons has awarded Katya the honorable title of Steinway Artist. Her other awards include: a special award from the New York State Shields in 2003 and, most recently, an award for special achievements from the government of Guam.

Living most of her adult life in NY, she acquired a reputation as a pianist of exceptional romantic/poetic expression. Commentators agree that Katya achieves her impact at the piano more through subtlety rather than by force. Above all, she values the beauty of tone. She stresses a suppleness and a natural approach to the keyboard. Her interpretation and mastery of the piano can be summed up by the following: ' with Katya you sink into the sweet abyss of the music...'

Ms. Grineva has made a specialty of the romantic piano music and recorded three CD's: From Katya with Love, Katya From the Heart and Katya . . . Inspiration Bleu.

It was a rainy Tuesday morning when we met for breakfast. I love rainy weather because it is mood evoking rhythms and colors allow you to think deeper thoughts. This was the perfect weather for a conversation with a beautifully sensitive pianist.

Katya Grineva speaks about her music with the kind of reverence that might begin to explain her genius. Everything about Katya seems to suggest that mountains move and stars align just so she can share her music.

It is clear that she was born to do what she does and her clarity about that is empowering.

DR: Tell me about your work and about your life.

KG: I think that I am really blessed in a way because I absolutely love what I do. I can not live my life without my music and it has been that way since I was a little girl.

My happiness comes from playing the piano.

When I was little I used to practice so many hours a day. I remember always looking forward to being out of school like on the weekends because I could get up at 7:00 in the morning and go to the piano and play all day. God gives us gifts I guess, and everybody has their own.

What gives me inspiration is learning new keys or discovering something new or finding new challenges within myself. Definitely playing concerts at Carnegie Hall gets me excited. I have always gone from one project to another and I never know what is going to come next but something always unfolds.

The mystery of life, I think is so wonderful. If you really connect to your art, you live life through that life because you see deeper qualities of life, how life unfolds or how you have to challenge yourself.

Be creative everyday. Enjoy yourself everyday. Try to make the best of life.

DR: What were the challenges for you in trying to get to New York from Moscow?

KG: Well I came to New York by chance. I came as a tourist for a one month vacation. My father was a cancer research scientist and he had worked in America, in Buffalo, New York with some scientists there. He was coming back to work and they actually invited me to come to Buffalo with my father for a one month vacation.

I came to New York City to stay for just a couple of nights with this family, a friend of a friend. They said to me:

"What are you going to do in Buffalo? Stay in New York City with us!"

And that is exactly what happened. I ended up living with them for five years. They adopted me. If it were not for them I wouldn't have been able to stay because I needed a home. It all happened so spontaneously. It was not planned. Nothing was planned. I didn't know that I would never go back but I knew that it was the right choice - to stay here. I couldn't go back. This I knew for sure - that I couldn't go back.

DR: Why not?

KG: Because at that time Russia was not a very good…


"It is my privilege to give this concert in honor of Adi Da Samraj. I was very fortunate to perform for him four times during his life. Every time it was a very deep and profound experience and led to an incredible artistic inspiration and spiritual awareness. I love him with all my heart..."
– Katya

The Inspiriation

"The Life and Work of Adi Da Samraj"
by Jonathan Condit, Ph.D.

(Senior editorial assistant to Adi Da Samraj)

Adi Da Samraj was a unique being who bequeathed to humankind a legacy of inexhaustible profundity. His entire life was devoted to the demonstration and communication of truth—the truth of right human life, the truth of the real spiritual way, and the truth of the ultimate nature of reality.

From the time of his birth (on Long Island), Adi Da existed in a unique state of spiritual illumination and boundless joy. As a very young child, he saw that others did not exist in that same state. So he resolved to discover why other human beings did not live in the state that he knew, and what they would have to do in order to realize that illumined state.

Thus, at the extraordinarily early age of two, Adi Da intentionally identified with the limitations and sufferings of human existence—in order to experience, firsthand, what the human “problem” is, or why people suffer so much unhappiness. Despite having been born in a condition of unqualified radiance, Adi Da spontaneously chose to “become” a human ego, to “become” the human child that His parents had named “Franklin Jones.” Growing up in the town of Franklin Square on Long Island, Adi Da eventually attended Columbia University, graduating with a degree in philosophy in 1961. In his later life he frequently referred to his years at Columbia as a crucial period, during which he became thoroughly versed in the ruling paradigms of western civilization, and also became deeply aware of modernist literature and art as means of expressing a radically non-traditional view of existence. In this period he actively began his lifelong work of creating literature and art that would communicate the truth of human life and of existence altogether.

Adi Da went on to complete a Master’s degree in English literature at Stanford University. Then, in 1964, He began a period of intensive practice under a succession of spiritual masters in New York City and India. During those years, Adi Da experienced every form of mystical or transcendental attainment that has ever been sought by human beings.

I finished my schooling at Moscow High School of Music under the aegis of the Moscow Conservatory, and I had one year off before going to the Moscow Conservatory. I had one professor who I absolutely loved but he left the school because there were many problems. So, I couldn't study with him anymore. He was really the best musician there at the Moscow Conservatory.

When I came here I was so sad about that and I thought I don't want to go back anymore. I learned everything I could learn in Moscow and there will be nobody who can teach me more than he did in that place. I knew I would only be sad without somebody there to inspire me. I was very sensitive. Other people were not thinking like this. I loved him very much. This professor was incredible. Everybody should have a teacher like that. It was a dream. I think until now I have a sensitivity and musicianship inside me. He is the one who helped me to develop it. He was the best. I am so grateful for that.

Here, in New York, there was an opportunity. My dream was to be a concert pianist. I could not have done that in Russia. There was no way. In Russia it is done one of two ways -- either you are born into a family of musicians and they naturally propel you forward or you have a lot of money and you pay your way under the table.

But here!

If you want, you can achieve! There are many ways. Not just one way. If you focus the opportunity will come. I think that is what makes this country amazing, New York particularly.

That is why I don't understand people here who do not go after their dreams.

Maybe it is because they don't know any other system. If they were stuck in a system, which is really like being stuck in a box…

Russia has changed but when I was growing up it was like living in a box and there was no way out of it. It was so depressing. People were sad and angry. I didn't like the country. I didn't like the system. I hated it in fact, with all of my heart.

When I was thirteen years old my parents took me on a vacation to Italy for one month. It was the first time that I left the country and the first time that I saw the West. We took a train. It was a three day ride from Moscow to Venice. I remember walking in Venice. I couldn't believe it! It was a different reality which did not exist in my reality. It didn't exist. The shops! The food! All we had were two shops where we would have to wait in line to get a little food.

So you can imagine -


The colors! The people! The happiness!

We grew up with this concept that you have to be afraid of Capitalism; that it is horrible and they exploit people. Now when I look back I think:

"Was that me sitting in that school listening to that crap as a little girl? How awful!"

When I came back from Italy I realized things. I was really very young about twelve or thirteen years old but I had deep depression. My mother told me that I was not to talk about any of this at school because we would get into trouble. I remember that I had made up my mind "If I ever have a chance to leave this country I will not come back."

When I came to America I came with nothing - a couple of shirts and a couple of skirts…no music - nothing. Then my mother sent me a box of my music.

Actually it was incredible! People started to give me stuff from everywhere. It was incredible. Winter came and my friend Tanya, the lady who "adopted" me with her husband, she was in a yoga class and she went to the ladies - they are quite rich there you know -- she said "I have a girl...It is winter and if any of you have anything that you don't need bring them to me."


I was wearing the best stuff! From the best makers! It was incredible! I was sending my mother stuff. They had the best clothes.

Then I met a guy who had a piano in his house. He had a very good Steinway. He loved music very much. One day he calls to tell me that a friend of his has died and he left all of this music. So I got to take boxes of everything that I need - Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven…

I must say it was very difficult. I do not wish for anybody to go through it. It was difficult not to be able to see my family anymore. We couldn't even talk. Now there is email but at that time a phone call was so expensive. I would talk once a month to my mother. I used to write her long letters. Maybe she saved them so maybe one day I will write a book because everything is in those letters.

I didn't have my own piano so I always had to go outside to someone's house to play. I remember that it was difficult but I learned how to appreciate everything. In Moscow I had everything - my home, my piano. It was like you were a princess. Everybody is around you. When I came to New York I said "Now I have to learn how to be on the other side of it and be humble and be appreciative of what people give me." I think I learned a deeper happiness because of the hardship. I think that it is good sometimes when you have hard times.

DR: What are you most happy about right now?

KG: I am happy that I am starting to be recognized. I have worked so long. I don't feel like I have to be famous; so, so famous but I know that I have something special when I play. This I know. I have started owning the gift I have. It is through me that it goes and I know how to go in that space in my heart and in my mind for it to -


I have started to feel how people get affected by my music. This makes me so happy.

At Carnegie Hall I am doing this new work by composer Marcel Tyberg and I think "Why was I chosen to do this work". This Austrian composer, I am sure that he is going to become well known. The music which was discovered…he died in a concentration camp and now I am playing his music.…This beautiful music…

Yesterday I had an interview at a radio station in Princeton and they played it and the guys at the radio station said "Wow! Can we have a CD? Can we play it again?" I think his music is going to be a new discovery but I think that it is also me because I put my whole heart into it. I feel like I am with {Tyberg}. This is exciting because this was an unpredictable project.

I wonder what is going to be next.

This year I also did a few concerts in Ecuador. I love to play in countries like this for people who are more poor, maybe, and don't have access to the kind of culture that we have here. It is different to perform for them. It makes me happy to go to that kind of country and play in a cathedral for free and to have 2000 people standing there and enjoying it. That is such a joy! I almost love that more than just some stiff concert.

DR: You talk about how the music comes from somewhere deep inside your heart. What is the inspiration that drives your art and that drives you?

KG: Love.

I always want to be in love. Sometimes it is a person. The more you have the experience of love inside you, the more your art will expand.

I want to be in touch with that thing which is behind everything. My inspiration comes, not just from music but I always want to know how something unfolds. What is behind everything? When you get really quiet you feel so much energy and love and I think it comes from that place. My attitude, because of that, also changed because now I look at the concert and I don't experience the fear of having to deliver something incredible for the people who are sitting out there. I feel only that I have to go and touch them. I just relax and it goes through me. People's energy contributes to me. I am not alone in that concert hall. They want the same thing that I want. That switch happened to me suddenly. Before I would be nervous before going on stage but now I look out at the concert hall from backstage and I think "I want to go and touch those people and be with them and let the music unfold". That is magical. I let it happen to me.

I did a concert in New Jersey last week. Suddenly it was a full house when they had only expected 30 people. I thought "I want to just go and contribute to the people" and then the music just opened! It was incredible! It was like I was above everything.

DR: So, are you saying that music has the possibility to transform people, but the person who is the channel, the musician, has to be available for that?

KG: Yes.

I also choose my programs with so much heart. It's not just putting together some Bach, some Chopin…I really feel each piece and I ask myself why I am playing it. What is special about each piece?

DR: Do you ever get disappointed with yourself?

KG: Of course.

There are times when I am down like everybody else; usually after a big project like this.

In November I did a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center and I was the guest artist with this Ecuadorian orchestra. We did concerts in Ecuador first and then we came to New York. It was the Ecuadorian audience in New York. It was hard to get a ticket. It was sold out. I had such a let down after that concert. It was horrible. I felt real depression because it was something new for me to play at Avery Fisher Hall. It was something new and something special. I was not alone. I had a conductor. And I really felt empty when it was over.

DR: Why?

KG: I felt alone.

I want to do that more; I mean not to be alone on stage. I want to play with someone; someone who understands me that is close to me. I want that. That is my next thing in life. I want to continue what I do solo but, do more with a person who understands me. I want true partnership.

DR: What do you look forward to most in your life right now?

KG: I look forward to the performances and to the projects but I really look forward to -

the quiet time.

I love the days when I am quiet and I wake up and I play for a few hours and I take coffee. I live near the East river and I go there for an hour and just look at the river and I let my mind just wander for awhile and I go back and I play for a few hours and then I go to sleep.

It is incredible what happens when you just separate yourself. Just don't talk for awhile. Then when you go back to whatever you were doing you are different because you are refreshed. You look at everything different. You have a new strength inside.

I love that!

DR: A hundred years from now what do you want to be remembered for?

KG: I want to be remembered for being able to touch people's lives -

with a full heart.

Thanks Katya!

Katya Grineva's Performance At Carnegie Hall

Friday Evening June 12, 2009
8:00 PM
Carnegie Hall
In Honor of the Life and Work
of Adi Da Samraj

Click here for tickets.

Program for the evening:

SCHUBERT Impromptu in A-flat Major, Op. 90, No. 4
LISZT Les jeux d’eau à la Villa d’Este (Fountain)
SATIE First Gymnopédie
BLOCH Poems of the Sea: Waves–Chanty–At Sea


CHOPIN Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2
CHOPIN Ballade No.1 in G minor, Op. 23
DEBUSSY Clair de Lune
GRANADOS Playera (Spanish Dance)
Adios Nonino
Balada Para Un Loco
RAVEL Bolero

(Piano transcription by Roger Branga)

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