Violinist teaches, shares musical spirit

Nate Cairney
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The violin speaks, you see. It speaks of post-World War II Kiev, where the gray days found color in a mother’s dream for her newborn daughter.
And now, decades later, the daughter has achieved her own dreams, and the violin tells new stories, this time at Ramstein.

“I was born to a musical family in Kiev,” said Alexandra Panchina, who volunteers as the instructor of the American Violin Ensemble at the Ramstein Community Center. “My mother’s dream was music.”

For Ms. Panchina, part of this dream included an early start to a long musical career. At age six, she studied under Yampolski at a special musical school in Kiev, before moving to a St. Petersburg conservatory at age 14. Her tutelage was overseen by some impressive figures, including Boris Gutnikov, a virtuoso who had achieved world renown as a violinist by the time he was 30. Her teachers had also studied at the knee of Leopold Auer, a famous violin professor who left Russia for New York one year before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918.

“I was very lucky to study in the same classroom as Ayer and his students,” said Ms. Panchina.

After finishing her formal education, Ms. Panchina found work with a small chamber ensemble that traveled around Russia. “We played a big repertoire – from Bach to modern music, and we played without notes and music,” she said. “It was very good practice for me.”

Two years later, she moved on to bigger challenges. Following the birth of her daughter, she joined the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and began traveling the world. As her career progressed, she played places like Carnegie Hall, and made friends with people like Mstislav
Rostropovich, who conducts the Washington Symphony and is arguably the best cellist in the world. She also began taking on students of her own.
Now, Ms. Panchina lives in Kaiserslautern, teaches at a German music school, practices two to three hours a day, and plays with the Mannheim Symphony Orchestra. As part of her passion for teaching music, she instructs the American Violin Ensemble at Ramstein.

“I’m very enthusiastic about ensembles,” said Ms. Panchina. “My goal is to show children how to present music, to play together and to be responsible for their own instrument.”

Her ensemble has attracted plenty of attention at the Ramstein Community Center, where violin players of all skill levels meet to play Sunday afternoons. Under Ms. Panchina’s watchful eye, the group – which consists primarily of children ages 5 to 15 – learns to play the different pieces inherent in ensemble music.

The American Violin Ensemble is open to students of all ages, and is offered free of charge.

Ms. Panchina, who speaks fluent English, says the most international language of all is music. And she is grateful for the opportunity to inspire others’ musical dreams at Ramstein.  “I want to say thanks to everyone who has invited me and who have given me a stable place to practice,” she said. “I feel at home here.”