Denis Savelyev is a soloist, chamber and orchestral player. First-prize winner of the 2017 NYFC Competition, “Rising Star'' at the 2021 Galway Flute Festival, and Young Artist of 2019 NFA. From Lviv, Ukraine, he earned BM at Gnesin Academy of Music in Moscow, MM at Mannes College and MM at The Orchestra Now, Bard College, New York. Now he is pursuing DMA at Peabody, JHU, under the mentorship of Marina Piccinini. He performs and gives lessons
How has the Pandemic affected your career?
The Pandemic has affected my career in various ways. At first, it was something I did not anticipate to last long, and being an optimist, I was waiting patiently for the Covid Pandemic to be over within a few weeks. And only after noticing how my performances, travels, classes, graduation, festivals, and all the in-person activities were getting canceled one by one did I realize the Pandemic would last this long. On the other hand, I focused my thinking on my goals, looked for new creative ways of online performance, and "met" new colleagues. One year later, during the Pandemic, I decided to apply for a DMA degree to study with Marina Piccinini at Peabody Conservatory. Today, I completed my first year of studies and am looking forward to the following two years.
What creative ways have you focused on to combat the challenges brought forward by the Pandemic?
After a few weeks into the Pandemic, I realized how much I missed performances, and solo performances at home were not enough. I then turned myself to making recordings and collaborating with others. Having friends doing it was beneficial, as I could learn from them. I leveled up my skills in recording engineering and video audio mixing.
video put together by Christopher Lee
Outdoor performances — the other way I was able to fulfill my needs of performing for the audience. Together with some friends or alone I was able to do performances.
At first difficult, teaching online was another challenge. Having the right setting, distance from the camera, volume, etc., helped to have a quality lesson. It is normal to have online classes, and more people have it as a preference; however, I still prefer to see my students in person at least once a month.
What does your schedule look like for the next six months?
It finally is busy and exciting again—performances in Europe, North and South Americas. Most but not all in-person. This summer, I will be presenting a performance as "Rising Star 2021" at the Galway Academy; guest artist at the Oyster Bay Music Festival; recording an album with pianist Radoslawa Jasik; NFA performances; and the start of the second year of DMA at Peabody Conservatory.
What are your goals personally? Professionally?
I have many goals, more extensive and smaller. I often use smaller goals to get closer to the bigger ones. This summer, my goal is to come to Europe and create a unique music album for flute and piano. Making a tour of performance and premiering the album would be something I have as my goal. My personal goal is to see my parents, who are currently in Ukraine.
What inspires you the most in life?
Hard work and accomplishment of other people. Not necessarily by only artists. It is essential to have numerous references of inspiration, and the more is better. It could be an event in history, a performance that made you fall in love with music, or a quote that stuck in your mind and made you look at your life completely differently. At this moment, my biggest inspiration is the bravery of the Ukrainian people who fight for their sovereignty regardless of how horrifying it is in Ukraine. This historical event inspires me to be brave and accept challenges in my life.
What has been your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge was transforming my life entirely by relocating to the USA. Complications in adapting to a new environment, a new language, new acquaintances, new work, and housing. However, some components and features can be learned from your own experience. But not everyone who wants to move to a new country has enough time and resources. It wasn't simple to be a full-time student, adapt to a new culture, learn a new language, and make friends. With time it was more accessible; however, there was one aspect I was not able to get to — my family. They are too far away in Ukraine, and the time difference was not easy to get around. Moving through difficulties, we need someone who can support us emotionally, and the only people who knew me well were my family in Ukraine. It wasn't easy to express myself entirely to someone I knew briefly. As time went by, I had a better, stronger relationship with several people who helped me in many ways by sharing their families with me, so I didn't feel like being far from my own family. Today, I feel more comfortable being far from my family in Ukraine partly because I have two younger sisters studying here in the States and have a family of friends.
What is the most exciting thing in your life right now?
It is a fascinating moment in life as I am a student again. At the start of the Pandemic, I was graduating and didn't anticipate the impending crisis, which brutally affected the arts. Going back to grad school seems like the right decision as I can polish my skills under the guidance of world-famous flutist Marina Piccinini. While working on my doctoral degree, I also resume building my career by constantly performing, developing unique programs, and collaborating with musicians.
What is keeping you busy these days?
Planing, planing, planing... keeps quite busy. It takes a long time to organize a performance—emails, finding funds, venue, etc. I hope one day we will have schools teach how to do self how to be a self-managed musician. It also takes time to plan a program, as I'm not particularly eager to put random pieces together.
One habit you wish you could break?
Waking up earlier would be one habit I wish to break. I believe we can make more improvements throughout the day if we get out of bed earlier in the morning. Also, a day is longer if you start it earlier. I do wake early but wish to wake up earlier, and one day, I will break the habit.
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
This one is easy. I wish I could travel in time. Imagine going back in time for a lesson with Marcel Moyse; how wonderful would that be?
Seeing history as it was, without propaganda. Convincing Beethoven to add more music to the flute repertoire. My imagination is endless.
What is one thing you wish you knew at 19?
I could not imagine how different my life would be when I was 19. At that time, I was maturing as a musician in Moscow. That is when I met Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway. I would tell myself: "keep working hard; exciting changes are coming!"