Now that we’ve had a chance to get to know a bit about the conducting style of our new assistant director Yuly Kopkin, we thought it might be fun to learn more about the musical journey that brought him to the Magnolia Chorale.
That journey has been a rather long one although he’s not that old. At age seven—about the same time Yuly started regular school in Ekaterinburg, Russia—his parents signed him up for instruction at a local children’s music school. Each student had to have a major, and since Yuly had already shown interest in piano, he chose that as his major. He was looking forward to spending most of his time at the school learning to perfect his skills on that instrument.
The school had bigger plans. Its goal was to educate students in all aspects of music, including theory, history, choir, as well as classes in their majors. Typically after eight years students came out of the school with a formal certificate of music training. This credential qualified them to study music at the university level in Russia.
So at the beginning, while Yuly was eagerly looking forward to studying piano, he soon learned that he would also have to study a broader range of courses. Music theory class presented the biggest initial challenge, particularly ear training dictation. The teacher would play a melody and students were to write it down in solfège. “At first I was definitely more focused on my progress in the piano class and less on the music theory/ear training course, which seemed to lack any fun,” he explains. “As my struggles with the latter continued, it was made clear to me that I needed to take care of it. After a while my ear training dictation improved significantly until I started getting A’s. As much as I did not initially appreciate some of the challenges presented by the classes outside of piano instruction, I realize how wonderful it is to have such a strong foundation that aims to produce a well-rounded music professional from the very early stage of music learning.”
That rigorous training definitely prepared Yuly well. After receiving his certificate in Applied Piano from the children’s school, he went on to earn general vocational and Bachelor of Music degrees—with honors—in choral conducting in Russia. And in 2003, while still working on his bachelor’s degree, he started a choir—Vita in Canto—at the nearby Urals State University of Economics, which didn’t have a music program. Some members of that choir stayed with the group for many years after graduation. Vita in Canto toured throughout Europe and the U.S. and earned numerous awards at national and international competitions. Yuly led the group until 2016, except for 2009 to 2012 while he was earning a Master of Music in Choral Conducting at the University of Washington on a Fulbright scholarship.
In 2016 Yuly moved back to Seattle and the Magnolia Chorale is one of many local groups to which he has had the pleasure of offering his talents and skills as conductor, pianist, and singer in all kinds of music genres.
One of the things that he especially enjoys about working with the Chorale this season is the interaction with choir members. “I like how curious people are and how they are responsive to my artistic direction,” he explains. “It is very important, especially for an assistant conductor, to have that sort of connection and to feel that what you’re trying to do is validated and appreciated. I would also like single out Jean-Marie and how excited I am to be working alongside her. I hugely admire her personality and very much enjoy what she does as a conductor and her ways of building and maintaining a connection with her singers.”
A community of singers who enjoy spending time together making great music.