Ieva Dubova is a classical pianist currently studying at Trinity Laban Conservatoire. She tells her story…
The first time I played piano was around the age of 4 or 5. I don’t remember exactly – but I remember how …
I was on my way home from Sunday school just before Easter. I was holding in my hands a Christian journal for children, like it was gold. It was so, so important, because when I would get home, I had to show it to my grandmother. You are probably wondering – why?
Well, that Sunday, I had decided that I want to play the piano, and that the first song I want to learn is the Easter song in this journal. I don’t think I have ever been so excited and determined!
I got home, and I went straight to my grandmother. She is a pianist and piano teacher, so it was a safe bet that she would show me how to play. To my surprise, she didn’t share this idea of me learning the piano. My mom was her only daughter who had refused playing the piano, so teaching me didn’t seem at that point like a great idea.
But I begged, I stamped my feet, I screamed, I cried – all the things a child knows how to do.
Then my grandmother sat down at the piano and said – “Ok, Ieva, I will show you how to read music. I will do this once. If you will not pay attention or understand, I will not show you again, deal?” Oh yes, deal!
In my mind, there was a celebration! We agreed on two bars that I would be showed, and have to understand how to play. And as God is my witness, I have never concentrated so much on anything …
And so my journey with the piano began …
Now, 26 years later from that day, I am playing. And there is no doubt in my mind that I could not be doing anything else. But let’s take a breath here … as a lot happened before today…
How I actually got here today.
My journey started well, and I gained a lot of success with my playing, including second place in the Country as a teenager, but there was a point where it all stopped. Life happened.
Growing up there were many tragedies in my family, and I couldn’t continue with my piano studies. By the age of 16 I was caring for myself, and when I was 18, completely alone, I boarded a plane destined for the UK to become an au pair
Since coming here I have been very ill, homeless and have suffered with depression. Fighting for survival in life, I went through abuse in relationships, starving, eating disorders and more. One thing I am proud of is that, even when not having a place to live, I have never lost my morals or integrity.
But let’s be honest – something so ‘silly’ as playing piano was no longer a possibility.
I had learned that adult life is a fight, that sometimes you do all you can and destiny strikes you, and something inevitably bad happens over and over again. And you have to survive.
By 26, I was so tired, and so unhappy. I remember lying down in a bath and hoping I would just drown, and close my eyes, and the pain, the tiredness, the fighting – it will all go away.
I was thinking about life a lot, and the meaning of it, and what makes us happy. I imagined having a lot of money, but it didn’t make me feel anything. The thought of existing to feed myself, while spending 98% of my time doing things that would make me unhappy didn’t appeal to me.
And in that vulnerable state I decided – life wasn’t worth it.
A New Beginning
During this time, I broke my foot as well. That resulted in me losing my job, my home and any thread of hope left in me.
And in a sad moment, I once mentioned to my best friend that if I had the choice I would play the piano. I would have gone to Music Academy at 18, and that that’s the life I always wanted. But it would be impossible to ever dream of playing again as i had not touched the piano in nearly 10years.
A couple of months later, on 3rd October at my 27th birthday, the same friend got me an old upright as a birthday present, hoping it would cheer me up, and maybe help with my depression.
What can I say! By next September I entered a University on a B.Mus performance course. And a year later, I transferred to Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.
Back to today … and it is now 4 years and a month since I received that present. I have applied to study for a Masters. I am at my final year in a leading Conservatoire, I play concerts, I teach … I am a pianist.
But don’t be fooled – the past 3 years have been tough. I have gone through great emotional struggles. With so much weight and importance in my studies, every exam has felt like an opportunity for something bad to happen, and to take it all away from me again.
I cannot describe the feeling of a major exam. I’ve felt like one wrong move, and my life will end – literally – and because of my experience in life, this had been so difficult. There is a lot of talk about performance anxiety, but it’s not that it’s this particular exam, but because I know how close to losing my life I was before coming back to Piano. This has been a major challenge to overcome.
I started my last year telling myself it will be great. I changed my attitude – I decided to be stronger than my insecurities, because I accepted that I am so blessed in life, having this chance to do what I love; I have to celebrate it. And I owe it to myself to make the best of it. And to not hold myself back.
While it has been emotionally difficult to live this dream come true, I have also gained a lot of strength at the same time. I have never given up and achieved a fair deal.
What I have learnt
I have learned many skills and have explored a diverse repertoire. I have learned how to be self-critical with a positive outcome. I have become better able to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and how best to work on both.
During the recent summers, I have taken part in an academy in Germany, enabling me to play concerts in Germany, Luxembourg and France. I am looking forward to returning next summer.
I have played many concerts in London for both solo piano and chamber music. As a soloist, I play both classical and contemporary works. I have performed live on radio Resonance FM on the Hello and Goodbye Show as part of the Borough New Music series. My most recent achievements include first place playing Michael Worboys’ winning piece at the John Halford Competition for piano and composition, and second place in the Courtney Kenny Awards with soprano Hope Lavelle..
I have also been invited to represent Latvia in playing on the 21st of October for the deputies of the Baltic States, in a concert featuring young artists from the Baltics. I will perform Peteris Vasks ‘Little night music’.
In my final year, I have taken the option of a personal project. This includes recording and premiering piano works by Latvian composer Georgs Pelecis. This is a very exciting and personal opportunity for me.
A bright future
So over all I am fairly proud of myself and maybe now you can see how I keep myself going, never mind my demons inside! Piano is worth fighting over and over.
I can say with complete certainty nothing so good has ever happened to me and I don’t think I ever believed it would.
Because, for the second time in my life, after that day when I was a child coming home from Sunday School, I feel like my life has a meaning and a purpose.