Gabriella Carney (Russian and Post-Soviet Studies, ’18) and the Russian Folk Tradition in Music

CarneyBefore I started my undergraduate career at the College of William & Mary, I figure skated competitively.  Taking lessons from a couple of Russian Olympians and skating to the popular Russian folk song “Kalinka” were perhaps the two main factors that launched my interest in studying Russian.  Little did I know that I would decide to major in Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at William & Mary or that the decision would introduce me to an entirely new world. Every class that I took was interesting, especially Russian Myths and Legends and a course on Western and Russian detective novels, as well as Russian language, cinema, history, and political courses.  There is not a single class in all of RPSS that I regret taking. Moreover, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to live in the Russian House as well as study abroad in St. Petersburg! St. Petersburg is a lovely city, filled with street musicians and the aromas of fresh markets, cafes, and restaurants.  I can almost hear the accordion players now just thinking about it!

During my college career, I was President of The Russian Music Ensemble, where I played the violin, prima domra, and alto balalaika.  Playing with the ensemble was one of my favorite hobbies, because I loved sharing beautiful traditional Russian folk music with others through concerts and gigs, such as our performances at W&M’s Global Film Festival and the Russian Language Olympics.  I am proud to say that the ensemble is now a one credit course and that all instruments and voice types are welcome. So far, the ensemble has a small talented choir and musicians who play both classical Western and Russian folk instruments. In fact, I enjoyed Russian music so much that I sought out other groups, with which I could continue playing the balalaika after graduation.  These groups include the Washington Balalaika Society and the Balalaika and Domra Association of America.

This summer, I will be teaching Russian through the STARTALK Russian immersion program at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  My intense RPSS curriculum certainly helped me to find job opportunities and I am very thankful to the W&M Russian faculty for being so supportive. I definitely plan on returning to Russia to do more research on Russian symphonic orchestras, folk music groups, and concert culture.

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