University of Minnesota

5,618 miles for music

Osip Nikiforov journeyed from his home in Eastern Siberia to the University of Minnesota—to pursue the art of piano.

March 19, 2014

"Piano playing has been my primary engagement in life," says Osip Nikiforov ('17). He journeyed 5,618 miles from his home in Eastern Siberia to the University of Minnesota, in pursuit of a career as a pianist. Both of his parents are professional pianists, respected throughout Russia. Osip began formal lessons at age seven and at nine began winning piano competitions—first at home, later internationally.

A conversation with Osip Nikiforov (hometown: Abakan, Russia)

Why do you pursue a career as a pianist? To make a difference in this world is a very challenging task to undertake. But my contribution is to convey the beauty of music to the audience. That makes me very happy.

How important is emotion in your playing? People sometimes perceive emotion as a visual representation. But sometimes that's not the case. Sometimes you simply feel the energy from the performer—the power of the piece, not the visual effect of the pianist sitting at the keyboard. There are different types of pianists. I'm not as visually emotional. I try to concentrate on the meaning and the music, first of all.

Does it take courage to be a great pianist? Oh, definitely. Without courage, without risk, there's no such thing as achieving something really top quality. For competitions, of course, it's very important because sometimes it's one chance—you have to make that impression.

Why are piano competitions important? Competitions, for me, are centered on improving myself in terms of pianistic skills and knowledge. You purely focus on the pieces and try to perfect them. For concerts, later on, after all the competitions are done, you integrate that. You move on. But before that, competitions are good training. It takes great concentration.

Who was your first piano teacher? My father, Alexander Nikiforov, back home. Because of his knowledge and devotion to me, I got the chance to come here.

Did you receive other help in making your big move to Minnesota? Actually, the head of the Republic of Khassia, Viktor Zimin, awarded me a federal grant that greatly helped me to enter and study at the U.

Who is your piano teacher at the U? Alexander Braginsky

What's it like working with him? We have a very close connection, rather friendly, I would say.

Not tyrannical? No, not at all! (Laughs.) It's on the opposite side of that. It's very close and friendly, which I appreciate, especially with my personality. I like being with people who understand, who don't just push you.

There's laughter? Oh yes, very much. Mostly we speak Russian in our lessons. Different tangents come up, comparisons to music, maybe history from his student years, stories—very entertaining and educational.

What do you do outside of music? I like playing and watching sports. I think sport is essential in the life of a musician, to be in shape. Specifically, soccer is my favorite.

Finally, can you sum up your creative credo in one sentence? (Pause.) Talent is given to you, but work is what people actually see.
Following the conversation above, Osip Nikiforov shared a few moments of music's beauty. Here's just a taste of his playing.

Twin Cities Campus: