By Kevin Zimmerman
After arriving in New York from Minsk, Belarus, by way of Cologne, Germany, classically trained pianist Nina Siniakova toiled as a human jukebox on a grand piano.
Granted she wasn’t working for tips in a bar. Instead Siniakova spent her days as a class musician for the New York City Ballet.
Depending on what the dancers were working on, Siniakova adjusted the musical accompaniment to suit the performers’ needs.
“The pianist is the last thing they think of, unless you’re not there or are bad,” said Siniakova. “It was really about the movement first. But it was just a job.”
Her new career — although she continues to perform — involves running the Metis Concert Series of classical, jazz and early music. The monthly shows bring musicians from the New York City Philharmonic and City Ballet Orchestra to the Community Church of Little Neck.
It wasn’t until 2013 when she met the first Russian-speaking person here that this northeast Queens resident discovered her calling as a concert promoter.
Arkadiy Figlin was a famous pianist from Soviet-era Russia, who was having trouble getting his music heard in New York. Siniakova listened to his work and decided this man not only deserved an American audience but should headline a Manhattan concert.
“He gave me his CD and when I heard it, I literally stopped doing what I was doing,” she said. “And I thought, this guy must perform in Carnegie Hall. And that’s when I turned to management.”
Siniakova hit the streets and starting knocking on doors.
She secured Carnegie Hall, lined up sponsors and presented “Have a Very Jazzy Christmas” with Figlin and Valeri Grokhovski to about 250 audience members in December 2013.
With this first success behind her, Siniakova decided to start a concert series of early and classical music at Saint Peter’s Church on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan.
As she prepped for this second show, Siniakova did the same sort of pre-performance mailings, outreach and publicity that led to the first one’s success.
This time, however, the concert was a bust, and she had no idea why.
“I went to someone who does art consulting and spoke to him and gave him a list of the deeds I had done,” she said. “He said, you did everything right.”
The problem, he told her, was she faced too much competition in Manhattan, where nearly every church or social hall has developed its own concert series.
But rather than give up, Siniakova opted to think locally — very locally.
“In Queens, there is not really a lot of classical or early music,” she said.
Those choices are even more limited in her Little Neck-Douglaston neighborhood.
People who seek those types of performances have to fight the traffic or hop the LIRR into the city. And that’s after working an eight-hour day and being lucky enough to land a babysitter, she said.
“How do I get to Manhattan with work and kids?” said Siniakova. “How do you do that? The answer is you don’t.”
So Siniakova brings the city’s musical scene to them.
Cellist Jia Kim and Pianist Taisiya Pushkar present the second show of the series, “On Love and Other Troubles!” Sunday, Feb. 15, with a program of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Piazzolla.
Reach News Editor Kevin Zimmerman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 260–4541.
If you go
“One Love and Other Troubles!”
When: Sunday, Feb. 15, at 3 pm
Where: Community Church Little Neck, 46-16 Little Neck Parkway, Little Neck