PHILADELPHIA (WLVT) — This week, PBS39 is featuring violinist Zhanara Makhmutova, in our Culture Shock arts segment.
Makhmutova says her love for the violin began at a young age.
"I think I was like six years old. I was watching a Kazakh violinist on TV. I loved it so much that I went into the kitchen, picked up a cutting board and a rolling pin and started to imitate the violin player. That’s when it all started for me," Makhmutova told PBS39.
The Kazakhstan native says her dream of becoming a violinist didn’t happen overnight.
"I was actually told that my pinky fingers were too short and curved! They said I wouldn’t be able to play the violin. But I didn’t stop, I couldn’t, I was so into it. I think the more you play and explore, the more love you receive back from your work," she said.
It wasn't long before a college scout offered Makhmutova scholarship money to attend Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University.
"Luckily, my parents are not the type of parents who would tell me to just stay home," said Makhmutova. "They didn’t say that I needed to go to university in Kazakhstan or tell me that the United States is too far away. They support me and I’m very fortunate in that way."
She now lives 6,000 miles away from her hometown of Astana, Kazakhstan and is based in Philadelphia. On top of her coursework, she practices multiple times a day.
"I practice 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon," she explained. "Then, I practice for a few hours at night. I’ve found that I remember more from those 15 minutes than when I practice for hours and hours on end."
It wasn’t long before she went from playing recitals at school to performing in front of crowds at The Centre Theater in Norristown.
"Just a few minutes before going on stage, I start to stretch. It helps to release the tension in your body. I think the best thing that you can do is breath in and breath out as slowly as you can," she said.
For Makhmutova, music is a part of her spirit.
"Music is everywhere, it’s in everything we do, it’s a part of nature," said Makhmutova. "Music for me is an expression of the world, it’s how I feel in the world. Whenever you have an emotion that you want to express, it helps so much."
She shared this advice for aspiring musicians: "You can have your own opinion and it can be unusual and unprecedented. You can go your own way."
Watch our interview with Makhmutova at 6:30 p.m. on PBS39 on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020 or in the video player below. The interview concludes with a video she shared with us from a performance at Temple University’s Rock Hall Auditorium. In the video, she plays “Tzigane” by French composer Maurice Ravel.