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Boy, 7, continues family's musical tradition

December 13, 2003 1:08 am

Youth to play violin solo at concert


RESTON--In Russia, the man who rings the town bells also is a musician who knows how to play the instruments melodically.

The Ouspensky family has had one bellsman, a composer and a cellist, as well as many pianists and violinists. The Russian family has made music and musical instruments a way of life for five generations.

That way of life was transplanted to Reston five years ago, where Anna Ouspenskaya now teaches piano lessons. Her husband, Igor Zubkovsky, plays cello for the Washington Opera at the Kennedy Center.

They've kept their original last names, which in Russian also differ slightly for males and females, because of their careers as musicians. It's hard to change a name once you've won a Bach International Music Competition for piano in Washington and Germany as Ouspenskaya has.

But now it's 7-year-old Fedor Ouspensky's turn. Fedor has lived most of his life in America.

On Dec. 21 he'll join a group of teenagers roughly twice his age to play the Accolay Violin Concerto solo at the McLean Youth Orchestra's Holiday Concert.

Most children in the 75-person orchestra are 13 to 18 years old. The group plays four concerts a year, not including concerts with its sister orchestra in Chiba, Japan. It's not tied to a school.

"I'm not nervous at all about performing," Fedor said.

Strewn about the carpet, plush couches and two pianos in the living room were various projects on which he's working. He's designed an alphabet speller for other children, complete with arrows telling them which way to draw cursive letters and stars indicating where to "be careful" with spelling. He's also designed three instructional books for piano--each containing several loose-leaf pages with short songs and cut-and-paste pictures on them.

"I just wanted to write it like this because it really sounds like a clock making a ticking sound," he said of one song as he played away.

It's hard to imagine Fedor getting nervous.

"He doesn't really play piano," his mother explained between his key strokes.

"He didn't decide to play violin; we did," Ouspenskaya said, laughing. "He will always only do things he wants or is convinced to do, so we didn't want to have to teach him."

Even so, Ouspenskaya has taught Fedor some piano, and he's learning some music composition during lessons at the Levine School of Music in Washington. He travels there after each school day at either the Russian Embassy School or Hunter Woods Elementary School--his parents switch him each year so he can remain bilingual.

"You have to teach a little kid how to compose. Otherwise they can't be on their own with music," Ouspenskaya said.

By all accounts, the students and instructors with the McLean Youth Orchestra are quite impressed with the family's teaching.

"The first time he played, the guys in the back playing percussion were watching and their eyes got real big," said the orchestra's music director for the past 20 years, Tina Anderson.

She also said the kids of the youth orchestra have "fallen in love" with him.

"He takes a bow after each rehearsal and the other kids cheer him," she said. "I think they recognize the gift he has and are just happy to have him. I don't know; he's just a little musician in a child's body."

Maia Zaitzera, Fedor's grandmother, who also plays the violin, called music the main part of life and the occupation for the entire family.

Although she speaks barely any English, Zaitzera loves to teach her grandson the instrument they share.

"This is the meaning of the later years of her life," her daughter Ouspenskaya translates for her.

Copyright 2014 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.