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In This Issue

       

Pursuing a dream: Maria Begacheva left her home in Russia to study with Russian cellist at WSU

The student musician’s education hinged on generous scholarship aid

Maria Begacheva, a senior who will graduate in 2016, in a practice room in Duerksen Hall.
Maria Begacheva, a senior who will graduate in 2016, in a practice room in Duerksen Hall.

Sheer serendipity put Maria Begacheva on a path to becoming a gifted cellist. As a child of 8, she and her mother stopped by a music school in their hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia, to inquire whether it had any openings. There was just one. For cello.

Her mother signed her up.

That decision launched Begacheva on a musical journey that took her from the Musical Academy of Rimsky-Korsakov in St. Petersburg, to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, and at the age of 22, to Wichita State University to study with acclaimed cellist Leonid Shukaev. She traveled thousands of miles, Begacheva says with a smile, to learn from a man who was born in St. Petersburg and co-founded the St. Petersburg String Quartet, whose members are resident artists at Wichita State.

It was worth it, Begacheva says.

“I am lucky enough to have the best teacher I could ever dream about,” says Begacheva, who spoke almost no English when she arrived in Wichita. “He’s a good person, good musician, good teacher.”

Begacheva’s development as a musician at Wichita State would not have been possible, she says, without the scholarship assistance and musical awards she has received here.

“I would not be here if I didn’t have such generous help,” she says. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. I sometimes still can’t believe I am here. It is an opportunity that I have appreciated so much, and has made me a better musician.”

Maria Begacheva with David Mitchell at a recent WSU Foundation reception for scholarship donors and their recipients.
Maria Begacheva with David Mitchell at a recent WSU Foundation reception for scholarship donors and their recipients.

Begacheva is a recipient of the Lena T. Mitchell Progressive Cello Scholarship, established by David and Rynthia Mitchell to honor David’s mother, who played the cello. She also receives aid through the Abercrombie Scholars Fund and a scholarship program set up by the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. As one of the winners of the Wolff-Bing Chamber Music competition in 2012 and 2014, she receives a generous award from the Wolff-Bing Fund.

“Masha is a most dedicated student,” says Shukaev, using the nickname common for Maria in Russia. “She pushes herself to try new ideas, new methods, new music. With hard work and dedication, she has good opportunities for performing ahead of her.”

After three years of study at Wichita State, Begacheva, now 26, is pondering her next steps, whether she will pursue graduate school now or later, and what her performance opportunities might be. A member of the WSU Symphony Orchestra, she would like someday to perform in a professional quartet.

“I want to be involved in something where I can touch people’s hearts with my music,” she says. “I believe that music has the ability to change people. I started to believe in God when I heard music of the Orthodox Church and the music of Bach. When you listen to this music, you are moved, you hear more than just notes. I hope that God will give me the chance to do what I’m supposed to do.”

Begacheva practices or performs three to seven hours a day, depending on her class schedule. She says she doesn’t have a favorite composer, but recently has enjoyed learning a piece suggested to her by David Mitchell, Kodaly’s Sonata for Solo Cello. It is considered a significant work for cellists to master, and thanks to her time at Wichita State, will reside in her repertoire no matter where she ventures next into the world.