Angel Valchinov, CHSO Concert Master
I was born in the town of Pazardjik, Bulgaria, and started playing the violin when I was 4 1/2 . My mother, Margarita Valchinova, is a violinist, and my father, Iliya Valchinov, is a bassoon player and a composer. I believe they realized I am musical when I began singing in tune even before I could talk. In fact, my cousin, who was babysitting me, thought this is normal behavior for little kids. When she got her own children, she was completely puzzled why they are not singing at all! Both of her kids are now great at what they are doing, and she is not worried anymore. My parents started me on the violin by taking me to my mother’s violin teacher – Tatiana Krasteva – for private lessons. They also started my sister, Deyana Valchinova, on the piano. She is now attending the Boston Conservatory on full scholarship. My parents chose this instrument for her in the hope that one day we will perform together. That vision has definitely come true. Both of my parents have played music their entire life, and the spiritual rewards from working with music made them choose this profession for us. Yes – they chose it for us. That is how musical families in Bulgaria create their children’s future. They knew we will be musicians and our entire life they have strived for this goal.
From an earliest age I started taking solfege and ear training classes, and from fourth grade I was admitted the Music School in my current hometown – Plovdiv. Being in a full-time music school from such an early age has undoubtedly had a great influence on my future. The lack of such school in the US is one of the major obstacles to having a much more widespread high-quality classical music education.
Since I was about twelve I became obsessed with everything violin. I collected every recording I could find, every piece of music and book that dealt with the violin and its performers. I went so far as to occasionally supply the city’s Radio station with some of my recordings because I had more than they did! Around that time I also became good at table tennis. I liked it so much that I was even thinking of doing it for a living. In 1996 however, came an acceptance and a full scholarship from the Idyllwild Arts Academy in California. I had to make a decision if it will be table tennis or the violin. I chose the violin, not only because I was fascinated by it, but because it also meant I would go to a far away land – the land of opportunity: United States of America. Incidentally, I ended up being on my University’s table tennis team, and we went to the state finals. That was definitely one dream fulfilled.
One interesting phenomenon that I witnessed in Idyllwild was that, even though I was not a top student in Bulgaria, I very quickly became one of the most outstanding students at the Academy. I won every award there was to win, including Most Outstanding Arts Student – an award given to only one senior every year from all the arts at the school. This fact, and many others, has made me realize that early music and arts education in the US is hugely inferior to Europe, and something must be done about that.
Since then, Bulgaria’s classical music scene has changed for the worse. All of my gifted musician friends have abandoned their country due to lack of work and professional opportunities. Orchestras are disappearing, youth do not chose to take music lessons because there is no future for them. Moreover, Mrs. Tatiana Krasteva, a top violin teacher in the entire country, has no students at all! Her pension barely covers basic expenses. It hurts me when this happens, especially since my parents – both gifted musicians – are struggling every day to make ends meet, even after 25 years of outstanding work record.
When I first came to the US I didn’t know what to expect. But I quickly realized that this is a land where dreams can come true, and where one is allowed to dream and be inspired to do their very best. These things should be available everywhere, but they are not. It is even more sad for me because like you said, “Bulgarians sing even when they are crying”. We are a soulful nation, expressive, and full with painful history (including 500 years of Turkish slavery). When all its people are suffering, unable to fulfill their purpose in life, it pains me. That is why I hope to one day be able to help.
Like I mentioned before, the US is a land of dreams. I am a dreamer. In fact, I dream for a better future every day. My hopes and dreams, unfortunately, have not come to reality, and I am still striving for some of them. I am no longer obsessed with the violin because that would make it my idol. My idol is God, and I seek his guidance in everything I do. Through my violin, I believe God touches people in fantastic ways, stirring their souls, and inspiring them to live life to the fullest. That, ultimately, is the life’s purpose of a musician.
I have a Doctorate in Musical Arts, which I am proud of. I also have extensive experience in everything violin. None of that, however, would be possible without support from my family. As I mature, I realize what is important – to find our meaning in this life, and to daily strive to fulfill that meaning. Without a strong family behind my back, my Doctorate, awards, and any success, would just be a dream.
The Tchaikovsky Concerto is an extremely difficult piece of music. I have worked many years on mastering it, and I thank Maestro Surapine for allowing me to perform it with his orchestra and for the people of Milford. I am looking forward to many more excellent years with the orchestra, and to performing in Milford and around the world.