Meet Oksana Ezhokina of the Volta Piano Trio


9/29/2016 – Our audiences have expressed a desire to learn more about the performers and guest artists at Resonance. During our 2016-17 season, we’re making a concerted effort to deliver on that request. There are plans to conduct video and audio interviews that we’ll share here on our blog throughout the coming months.

To report on the artists of our First Friday Salon series, we’ve asked the Resonance Program Director, Julia Tai, to conduct a series of interviews with artists and members of ensembles. The following is a transcript of an interview conducted by email with pianist, Oksana Ezhokina, of the Volta Piano Trio.

Julia Tai: How did you and Jennifer Caine start collaborating? How was the Volta trio formed? What is most exciting about making music with Jennifer?

Oksana Ezhokina: The very first opportunity I had to collaborate with Jen was for a Second City performance in Tacoma, about ten years ago. We played the Ravel trio and I remember being absolutely blown away by her artistic, thoughtful, and technically brilliant playing. Then, a year or so later, Sally Singer Tuttle and I were looking for a violinist to join the trio (known then as the Icicle Creek Piano Trio, now the Volta Piano Trio), which was a resident ensemble at the Icicle Creek Music Center. I immediately thought Jen must come play with us. Lucky for us, she was willing to go through the interview process and ultimately joined us – we were (and still are) beyond excited! She is a thorough and beautiful musician and an exciting performer. It is ultimately inspiring to share the stage with her, whether in a trio or duo context – she is able to be completely spontaneous and in control at the same time!

Julia: The repertoire for this concert ranges from the Baroque to late Romantic and 20th century periods (the Prokofiev was written in 1940s). How did you pick the pieces and what are the connections between them?

Oksana: I think a balanced program is what we were after – something for everyone. When I go to concerts, I always crave hearing Bach, which I rarely do. We wanted to play this beautiful sonata, which alternates between slow and pensive movements of astonishing beauty and fast and contrapuntal ‘fireworks’ type of movements.

Franck is an old standard, a piece in the violin/piano duo repertoire that never gets old. Written by a 63 year old Franck, as a wedding present for the young violin virtuoso Eugene Ysaye, it takes us to so many different places, both harmonically and emotionally. From the shimmering impressionism of the opening movement, to raw and unconfined passion of the Allegro, to the profound rhetoric of the slow movement, and finally, to the wedding bells of the Finale. This tremendous piece deserves a special place of honor in the repertoire.

Finally, Prokofiev! Conceived originally as a flute/piano sonata, it was reworked for violin and piano by the composer at the urging of his friend, the great Russian violinist, David Oistrakh. Laid out as a classical four movement sonata, the piece contains all the beloved traits of Prokofiev’s mature style: unbound lyricism, playfulness, elegance, and wit.

Julia: You both are very busy musicians and do chamber music concerts all over the place throughout the year. Can you tell us how you manage your busy schedule and how you prepare for each concert?

Oksana: It seems that being busy is just a way of life for a musician. We both feel very privileged to be able to perform, teach, and study music as part of our daily existence. I think it would be fair to say that in preparing for any concert, we try to do our best at preparing for rehearsal as thoroughly as possible so we are able to delve into the process deeply and fearlessly. It’s a lot more joyful to manage one’s busy schedule when one is working on such incredible music!

Julia: How did you start playing the piano? What inspires you as a musician?

Oksana: I was born in Russia and lived there until I came for school in the United States at age 19. I was just a normal kid with a ton of energy. So, when I was six my family decided it was time to channel that energy into something more productive. My grandparents bought me a piano and my parents enrolled me in an after-school music program – the rest is history.

I don’t remember being told to practice (not until I was 13 anyway), as playing the piano was “my thing.” The rest of my family is not really musical. I had incredible teaching along the way: Leonard Richter, Don Walker, Christina Dahl. Working with these wonderful pianists/teachers and hearing them in concerts has been a remarkable gift in my life – as has been the opportunity to collaborate with so many wonderful musicians. I relocated to the West coast in 2002, first to take the job at the Icicle Creek Music Center for the Arts in Leavenworth, and eventually moving to Tacoma, in 2011, to become Chair of Piano Studies at Pacific Lutheran University.

Oksana joins violinist, Jennifer Caine, in performance on Friday, October 7, 2016 at 8:00 pm; the first of our First Friday Salon series in 2016-17.