Grammy-Winning Music Professor Performs Concert At Cal Poly Pomona, Her First Time Back In 3 Years

By Cole Allen, Apr. 12, 2022

On March 22, the Cal Poly Pomona’s Music Recital Hall saw its first faculty concert back in person since the pandemic, the first in over two years. Grammy-winning pianist Nadia Shpachenko, professor in the Department of Music, showcased her newest concert, “GOAT.”

The concert consisted of a collection of pieces each inspired and related to soccer, combining two of her favorite art forms piano and soccer.

Shpachenko took a year off from performing at Cal Poly Pomona, the year before the world shut down in March of 2020. For two years, the recital hall was empty, but once the campus opened, it came back with Shpachenko’s new concert. Shpachenko is the first professional musician to perform inside the Cal Poly Pomona Music Recital Hall since the pandemic.

During those years away, Shpachenko commissioned various composers, some of whom she greatly admires, to write pieces about soccer, which will be recorded and distributed as her next album. This collaborative process, issuing different composers for each piece, allowed for separate and unique ideas centered around the game to be shown and heard, creating a diverse yet complete thematic concert.

“Having a program of classical pieces written about soccer has never been done,” said Shpachenko. “I am a very big fan of soccer, my son is a very serious soccer player, and I just wanted to connect those two artforms together, my two biggest passions.”

Cole Allen | The Poly Post

Wanting to create something unique within the genre and world of classical music, Shpachenko connected two widely different entities within entertainment, sports and music. The goal for Shpachenko is to create lasting music that can live and thrive within the “classical music repertoire,” something every artist hopes to create, something that will speak to the masses.

“If I perform them really well, after I release my CD, other pianists might become interested in them,” said Shpachenko. “Which is my goal, to bring new pieces into the classical music repertoire and become staples in the classical music repertoire, eventually. Something like this is so unusual, its theme, I think it’s just a great contribution to the piano literature.”

Like soccer, a game that is constantly moving, the pieces are composed of many different movements, creating a large variety of sounds. Some have the forceful yet precise piano key smashing, whereas others contain a slower, more serene and tranquil sound. The game’s true dynamic is on display for listeners to relish in, feeling what soccer would be like if played in your ears.

“I’ve never been to something like this, so I didn’t know what to expect,” said accounting student Emily Acosta. “I definitely enjoyed it. I never would have thought of doing a classical piano concert with electronic sounds and voices throughout.”

“Balón” by Pamela Z, showcased Shpachenko’s piano with Pamela Z’s voice, who Shpachenko describes as having one of the most interesting voices in the world.

The piece also contained a voice repeating the phrase “tiki taka,” a playing style popularized by Barcelona’s football team, adding another layer on top of the vibrating strings, enveloping the audience in this piano driven world of soccer.

Shpachenko used the piece “Honeyball” by Dana Kaufman, to address the inequality of women in the field of soccer. The piece is named after Nettie Honeyball, who founded the first known women’s soccer team, the British Ladies’ Football Club, in 1895. Shpachenko writes in the program notes that 130 years later still “remarkably little” has changed toward the treatment of women in professional soccer.

“I liked it a lot; it was really unique,” said Alexis Leothacue, civil engineering major. “Sometimes she would lure you into the slow dreamland, and then creep into the large loud notes. Each piece was different yet still cohesive at the same.”

To learn more about Shpachenko’s work, the campus community can visit her website.

Feature image by Cole Allen

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