Yana Besyadynskaya: Art Giving Birth to the World
Yana Besyadynskaya or, as many call her, Yasna is a person of culture. She is not only a talented opera singer whose performances take place at the best venues in Russia, the USA, Great Britain, Italy, Germany, Japan, and other countries but also the Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Association of Russia, a cultural diplomat, and an author and co-producer of many cultural projects. In her interview with the Global Women Media news agency, Ms. Besyadynskaya shared her deep and interesting reflections on the role of art in establishing international communications and that in the life of an individual and all humanity.
opera singer, conductor, certified coach, author of educational methods, Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations Association of Russia, ambassador of the UchimZnaem federal project at the Dmitry Rogachev National Research Centre of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Immunology, honorary professor at the Moscow State Pedagogical University
Yana Besyadynskaya was born in Volgograd. She received her education in Moscow and lived in New York for a long time. The singer collaborated with Evgeny Svetlanov, Gennady Rozhdestvensky, Vladimir Fedoseev, Mikhail Pletnyov, Georgy Sviridov, Aleksey Rybnikov, and many other distinguished conductors and composers. Ms. Besyadynskaya is a laureate of 10 international contests. She has an extensive opera repertoire and more than 200 active chamber works.
Today, the singer divides her time between New York and Moscow. She successfully combines her concert activities with producing, coaching, and the development of educational programmes and business training programmes.
– Yana, you are a very versatile person. What is the main field of your education?
– According to my first education, I am a conductor. However, during my studies, I performed as a soloist with many prominent composers and their orchestras. Later I graduated from the Faculty of Vocal Performance. I mastered both specialities at the Tchaikovsky Moscow Conservatory.
My parents are pianists, so I can say for sure that music is part of me. It is in every cell of my body. Everything was easy for me during my studies. At the very beginning of my professional path, I realized that I was in my proper place.
Being a student at the conservatory, I won the grand prize in an international competition in Italy and had the opportunity to perform at Carnegie Hall, which is one of the most prestigious concert venues in the world. That was my first encounter with America and it turned my life upside down.
Moreover, community work has always occupied important place in my life. Of course, it is the influence of my family roots (my ancestors included Tsar’s Cossack generals and directors of Soviet factories). We never did anything for personal gain or profit. I was brought up thinking that “they need it more than we do...”. My mother also influenced me greatly. She was not only a music educator but also a bright woman who cared about what was going on around her. We exchanged our thoughts, ideas, and dreams and worked together on high-level social projects. Those include ‘Crossroads of Civilization’, ‘For a Century Without Wars’ and ‘Harmony of the Future’.
I would say, that was an integral part of my education. Thanks to such work, I managed to formulate for myself many life principles and guidelines. I realised the value of cultural diplomacy and became who I am today.
Today, I no longer see myself only as a classical singer. My most important tasks and artistic talents in general lie in the constant rethinking of reality and continuous development.
I feel deeply that today, in a post-COVID world, the key to human civilization’s survival lies in art and educational world. I have a great desire and responsibility to pass on the wisdom of the great masters who have shared their secrets with me. It is as much a part of me as singing and breathing. Of course, concerts are still very important in my life. For me, singing and interaction with the audience has a very special and even sacral spiritual meaning.
– What meanings and values are put in the core of your multifaceted activities?
– As a cultural activist and cultural diplomat, I interact closely with politicians and top leaders of different countries. I present reports at the leading arenas including the UN, Metropolitan Club, Harvard Club, international forums, and discussion clubs. At the same time, as an ambassador and the author of unique training and methods, I work with business and students. In general, I’m in contact with everyone following the most progressive, strong, and creative goals.
We are going through a colossal path of upgrading, systems breaking, deep insights, heavy stresses, and even losses. The civilizational challenges have affected absolutely everyone. As highly sensitive conductors, artists feel all processes like no one else. In my case, we even anticipate the changes long before they happen.
All that becomes part of my mission to rethink the role of culture and art and to communicate their value to people today and in the future. Artists, musicians, sculptors, and people of other creative professions see and discover something that others can’t cognise. Art is another way of knowing and describing the world. Art does not reflect life but generates and creates it. As I say on all platforms, people’s consumerist attitude toward art as entertainment is no longer relevant! Informational saturation, apathy, people’s reluctance to return from online spaces to the halls, loss of connections, and closed borders push us to go even deeper.
On the contrary, by attracting creators to the negotiation tables, by being inspired by their bright individualities and skills, and by interacting horizontally in different areas of life (science, diplomacy, business, and industry), we not only preserve the culture itself but also move to a qualitatively new level of thinking.
Life itself has pushed us to being ‘creative’, expanding our boundaries and vision, mastering new tools, skills, and abilities to solve urgent problems and to respond quickly to rapid processes.
Business leaders who have realized the limits of only ‘effective’ management adhere to the inspirational-conscious component, the energy filling, the ability to learn to harmonize themselves and the space. They pursue the art of rhetoric, positioning, non-verbal influence on their audience, reputational bonuses, etc.
The phenomenon and power of culture and art lies in the absence of any limitations in all of that!
In the USA with its distinguishing fierce competition, there is an expression that it is not enough to get invited to the stage but it is much more important to impress people so that they invite you over and over again.
In addition to the obvious characteristics, you have to be unique to become such a master. This is about the uniqueness of talent and spirit. That requires a tremendous amount of work...
I don’t like the often used word ‘charisma’ in its common sense. I love its true meaning: goodness, a gift from the gods, talent, and depth (if we translate it from the Greek language).
I do not like substitutions of meaning. I believe that, in the ‘new age’, clarity and etalon meanings will be needed no less than air. You can recognize ‘the living’ only in clarity and depth. This ‘skill of recognition’ is extremely useful in the age of artificial intelligence and biotechnology.
By the way, during the global lockdown, I was first approached by representatives of a pharmaceutical company and our doctors. I was asked to hold meetings for employees in stressful situations and for medical staff on the front lines in the struggle against COVID-19. They were experiencing an unbearably difficult time: they were falling down from fatigue and needed support. At first, I was surprised and did not immediately understand how I could help. It turned out that, in a stressful situation, they refused clinical psychologists but remained receptive to music... I was deeply moved by that. So I started to hold special online meetings for them, thus helping them to cope with emotional burnout.
The art of healing... Today, it has reached a new level and engaged a new approach including not only the habitual schemes of work but also special skills. Vision, energy, creativity, and comprehensive understanding are the strongest proof of value today.
I can’t help but share the absolutely unique news. The Volgograd State Medical University introduces my original programme called Creator’s Technologies into its curriculum. Thus, it becomes the first university in Russia that combines medicine and art. Doctors, the leaders of the new generation, desperately need inspiration and the expansion of creative-intellectual abilities for a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them! They must become the force of the public good that society is so eagerly awaiting today. I am extremely proud of this region of Russia and grateful to all who believe in this initiative and support it! Our graduates, the future medical professionals, will become symphonic thinkers!
– Why is it important for you to be involved in education?
– Firsly, everyone in my large family appreciated high art. Moreover, my parents were not only musicians but also pedagogues and university professors. From my very childhood, I was brought up with a sense of responsibility not only for myself but also for what I was bringing to the world.
Then there were the English School and the College of Arts with their wonderful teachers whom I remember to this day.
The Moscow Conservatory is a separate chapter of my life... It provided magical atmosphere, treasurous amount of knowledge and skill, and the air that Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky breathed. I feel obliged to share my knowledge mastered at that place. In addition, let’s not forget that I am a conductor. These people simply must be smarter than everyone else, educate other people, and be able to lead them.
At the same time, the New York stage also featured some unusually strong people. My interaction with them was very rich: I got new knowledge, observations, and insights. I learned about their methods of management. I wrote them down and analyzed to pass many of them on in my country.
Russia’s strength lies in our depth and inextricable connection to our origins. I have a dream that people develop a creative vision of rapidly changing world processes. I want them to have a high level of culture, awareness, and erudition through the integration of science and the latest skills, to establish a deep connection with themselves and the world around them, to broaden their worldview, and to improve their understanding of language or the magic of music.
You might be surprised but people often ask me what to listen to. They ask me about my favourite music, my alarm clock ringtone, music that is good for a particular condition, and music for children. They ask me about the use of not listening to Mahler at night and listening to Bach when waking up in the morning. In other words, today’s people need cultural guides, curators of collective creativity, and ‘cultural sommeliers’. That will be useful especially if we take into account that we already have an inconceivable number of tools to help leaders in any field from breathing techniques to business etiquette, self-coaching, and communication secrets.
– Culture and art are quite profound concepts that have a special and personal meaning for each person. What do they mean to you?
– A reverent attitude towards culture and art is formed in childhood, in the family, and when you come into close contact with it. I am still extremely excited when remembering that we were studying in those very classes at the conservatory where great composers and professors used to work. That’s where the spirit of art is...
In general, it is obvious that the future lies not in narrow-mindedness but in breakthrough intercultural cooperation in all areas. Society as a whole needs culture including that in such aspects as science, sport, business, education, and wisdom.
Undoubtedly, before you begin to construct the world around you, you must learn to manage yourself consciously. The ability to immerse oneself in different states easily and to become an observer make it possible. This is art, which leads us to understanding ourselves.
For me, culture is something without which human civilization simply cannot survive. Without art, there will be either a dead cultural environment or a surrogate. This is confirmed by the research of many scientists from different fields including neurolinguistics, sociology, and quantum physics.
Today, the consumerist attitude towards art is no longer relevant. Many people want to go to concerts not just for entertainment and a break from routine. For them, it is important to immerse themselves in music and heal themselves with its help. In this respect, a concert can be compared with meditation.
In my opinion, today’s musicians, artists, painters, and creators must necessarily be educators and guides in the broadest sense of the word. It is not enough just to share one’s talent with others, to perform beautiful programmes, and to entertain the audience. One must touch the hearts of people through culture, harmonize them, heal them, elevate them or, on the opposite, get them back on their feet.
Classical music is a very profound concept indeed. It can have a powerful effect on a person, it’s a kind of life-giving potion. The great masters of the stage are a bright example. Despite their old age, they remained full of strength, passion, and energy.
– What is your vision of the power of cultural diplomacy?
– I think that the strongest ties can be established through culture. It is important to understand that you cannot ‘sing and leave’, that you have to have a dialogue. The key role here is played not by formal negotiations and agreements, but by horizontal communication.
I can tell an interesting story on this subject. The twinning movement now unites thousands of cities. However, it first began in 1943 when, during the war, our city of Stalingrad, present-day Volgograd, and the English city of Coventry put out their hands to each other. For the 75th anniversary of the twinning movement, a special big project was created. I was engaged in it as a co-producer and singer. I reported on it a year later at the International Cultural Forum in Saint Petersburg. At that time, we could have just held a decent concert in Coventry. However, we all managed to turn the project into a cycle of warm, friendly important meetings, actions, and concerts involving various bands, the public, children, the governments of both countries, mayors, members of the royal family, etc.
A month later, inspired residents of Coventry opened the Volgograd square in the very center of their city. That demonstrated the greatness of the power of cultural and public diplomacy. In fact, that happened in the midst of political collisions and sanctions!
Later, the people of Coventry entrusted me to read a joint appeal to the UN by the people of the two twinned cities. Such connections are very valuable because they are based not only on signatures but also on the best human feelings.
Admit creators to the negotiating tables. Believe me, people will listen to them. True miracles happen with our friendly influence.
– The voice is the tool you use to influence the world and people. How does it affect people?
– A sound is a vibration. A human in general is a biological organism, energy, and vibration. Words can resonate high or low, have different gradations and Hertz indicators. The effect they have on a person depends on that. Science confirms that high vibrations affect people favourably and low influence them negatively. For example, a warm beautiful woman’s voice, a mother’s lullaby, can soothe and calm down a person.
Physicists claim that singing helps to produce endorphins and make people happier. However, I have always known that without physicists.
Interestingly, words resonate with us not only in their sonic manifestation. I have a habit of writing down my thoughts, poems, and quotes that I like. For me, it is important to ‘feel’ the information. Each person is free to make a choice independently on how and with what he or she wants to resonate. We have to ask ourselves what we breathe, what we fill ourselves with, where the focus of our attention is, where our energy flows, and in what reality we turn up as a result.
Today, it’s very important to be able to control your voice.
I try to be always in tune with the audience and feel its state. I understand when I need to calm them down or, on the contrary, awaken their energy. I understand when I need to make a pause to involve them in the process of listening.
The voice is magic.
The Clubhouse, which is so popular today, showed us that, during the 30 seconds given to you for pitching your brand or asking a question, the voice broadcasts the right state, confidence, energy, ability to present yourself, and state your thoughts.
– Does your education of a conductor help you on stage during concerts?
– Indeed, it does! Conductors are the coolest professionals.
I'm not conducting now although I’ve been doing it even in my own concerts: I used to sing first and then get behind the conductor’s stand with the other soloists. Anyway, it’s a tremendous experience. My education allows me to quickly learn the most unthinkable modern cacophony or feel confident in the company of the most severe conductor. Singers who are also conductors have problems neither with the musical material nor with the feeling part of any ensemble.
Now, when standing on stage, I sometimes get involved in the performance with my whole body, I can use my hands. It is already ‘installed’ in my body.
I don't know about today’s order but, previously, all the vocalists went to choir together with the conductors. Such interaction is very important. It allows you to develop the ability to associate yourself with the group, to establish harmony, and to subordinate your voice to the overall sound performance.
By the way, in Germany, there is a great demand for choral training in business. Such classes for employees of large companies solve a lot of problems. Let’s not forget about happiness hormones as well.
– What kind of music would you advise to listen to?
– It is difficult because it is very individual. Before recommending specific artists or composers, it is important to see the person, his or her condition at a particular moment, and a global demand in general.
A cultural sommelier is a wonderful profession of the future (and already the present). Its role is precisely to help people see the beauty and value of certain works of art, to select artworks and make a list of them, to inform people about events, etc.
The music that we choose affects our mood in many ways. If one wants to hear about passionate love, I would recommend Daphnis et Chloé by Maurice Ravel or Spartacus by Aram Khachaturian. If you want something with a large scale, then the finales of Beethoven’s Symphony № 9 and Gustav Mahler’s Symphony № 8 will be the best choice. Works by Tchaikovsky and some works by Mozart are good for children.
The music of Johann Bach has a special meaning for me. I wake up with it, turn it on for my children to listen to it, enjoy it in the car, and love to sing it. It is filled with a truly cosmic depth giving the feeling that the frames around us are sliding apart and disappearing and everything is becoming possible.
Johann Bach’s music instantly switches our mood and takes us from chaos to clarity. This idea of crystal purity and clarity is very close to me. The frequency of the vibrations, the purity of the sounds, the harmony... This is partly reflected in my name: everyone calls me differently but increasingly often not Yana but Yasna or Yasa.
– As an ambassador of peace, what message would you like to transmit to the readers of our portal?
– Women of the whole world have an incredible power, which lies not in fighting but in universal love, warmth, beauty, and creation. To release this power to the outside world, it is sometimes enough for us to turn to our nature, to connect to our roots, and to feel ourselves.
It is important for us to continue to be filled with energy, to breathe, and to feel constantly. It is important to remember our ancestors and their fairy tales, to dream and smile, to see ourselves as an inseparable part of the universe, and to give people that very universal love.
We can have a great ‘soft’ influence on men. They watch us come into contact with the world on a more sensual level thanks to us. It is wonderful that we help them see the many subtle shades in colours.
I would like not so much to wish as to simply declare my love for all the women of the world. Love is that warm feeling that fills the whole body and soul. We are the only ones who can feel it this way. That means that we have to carry our love into the world, cheering people up and breathing life into everyone and everything around us.
Marina Volynkina, Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov