Chances are you’ve been hearing the name Grisha Krivchenia fairly often of late. The Ohio-born musician and composer (whose name hails from his father being Belarusian) has been practically everywhere, as a trained classical pianist with a degree in composition from Oberlin College and Conservatory, as a dedicated member of collaborative elder-jams organization LifeSongs, a constant collaborator with the likes of local music heroes Tara Khozein and Will Dyar, and, I’m super-pumped to report, a brilliant human being.
Krivchenia's story is an inspirational one, as he proves on a daily basis that one can make a living musically. Now, this may seem more doable for those from the classical world, but Krivchenia brings a more rock/punk/DIY ethos to the table in terms of how he operates.
"My mom was an opera singer and my dad was a rock audiophile, so growing up, one would take me to operas and classical performances, and the other would take me to rock shows," Krivchenia says. "So right after college, I was maybe a little disillusioned because there just wasn't a clear career path for me; it was about entering contests to make a name for yourself or the other path where you write arcane compositions that are only heard in very specific places like the schools, and it just seemed like the antithesis of what's wonderful about music, so I took some time off."
Krivchenia and his wife moved to the San Juan Islands near Seattle, where he would found and run the music program at the Spring Street International School in Friday Harbor, Wash. He taught there for seven years and cites the isolated locale of the archipelago as free of distraction, but ultimately too secluded to move forward with a viable music career. His wife eventually applied to schools in Santa Fe to finish her degree in counseling, and a little over a year ago, they moved to town.
"I was actually looking around on Craigslist for work and thinking, 'There is no way anyone is looking for a composer,' when I came across LifeSongs," he recalls. "We came here with no jobs and no places to live, and finding these people was amazing; it feels like the job I was made for."
LifeSongs matches musicians with people who are nearing the end of their lives in a bid to compose original music based on their experiences. And though his position with the project is paid, volunteering with the elderly has long been a pursuit of Krivchenia's .
"The majority of my volunteer life has been playing concerts for people in nursing homes, and I've always felt very connected to people who are my elders," he says. "LifeSongs takes that one step further because, as musicians, we have these things inside ourselves we want to communicate, which is powerful, but going further is to meet with people who don't have those skills and working out how and what they would like to communicate."
Whereas it may seem depressing to work with people so close to the end, Krivchenia says that it has actually inspired him in his own life.
"It's that kind of thing where you think you're doing something positive for somebody else, and it turns out they're actually doing something positive for you," he says with a laugh. "Yes, there is sadness there, but there is goodness as well, like, sometimes people at the end of their lives become incredibly clear and lucid and realize that they don't have time to waste on anything but to cherish those they love."
Chills, right? Right.
If this sounds like the kind of guy you'd like to see in action, head down to the newly minted No-Name Studio on the Southside on Sunday, Jan. 10, for a performance by Krivchenia, along with local singer-songwriter Flamingo Pink! and indie experimentalist act, Mega Bog. Krivchenia will play original compositions from his new album, Darkness and Light, which should be available this week and can be streamed at grishakrivchenia.com, as well as works from Beethoven and Chopin.
"I like the idea of inserting classical music into places where it usually isn't performed, because I can remember, as a kid, going to these shows that were in churches and concert halls and were very stuffy," he says. "It seems like so much classical music isn't about connecting with an audience as much as it is, frankly, about snobbery, but I like to banter and talk and connect with the audience, so I take my lead from rock musicians on this one."
with Flamingo Pink!
and Mega Bog
7:30 pm Sunday, Jan. 10. $5-$10
1520 Center Drive, Ste. 2