Advertisement

A virtuoso orchestrates a miracle

December 07, 2012|By Kirk Silsbee
  • From left, some members of the Glendale Philharmonic include Meastro conductor Mikael Avetisyan, First Baptist Church of Glendale senior pastor Charles Updike, violinist Shushan Akopyan, GP founder and cellist Ruslan Biryukov, church Rev. Matt Andrews, soprano soloist Marina Abrahamyan-Abdasho and violinist and orchestra director Edgar Sandoval at the church in Glendale. The Glendale Philharmonic will perform a holiday concert on Sunday at the church.
From left, some members of the Glendale Philharmonic… (Raul Roa/Staff…)

One of the more quixotic ventures in the current economic climate would be to start an orchestra in Southern California. It's a sure recipe for financial suicide. Yet that's just what cello soloist Ruslan Biryukov did when he founded the Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra three years ago. Is it a surprise, then, that the idea came out of a vodka party? The biggest surprise is that the GPO has thrived and begins its third season Sunday with “Holiday Gala.”

“I throw a vodka tasting party every year,” explains the 34-year-old virtuoso. “I had played a private recital for 50 or 60 friends, many of them musicians, and afterward we had this party. The purpose was to teach my friends the proper way to drink vodka. They got me drunk and I wound up agreeing to start the Glendale Philharmonic.”

[FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version this article contained some factual errors. Glendale Philharmonic Orchestra's founder, Ruslan Biryukov, is 34, not 25. Edgar Sandoval is 28, not 22, and is the orchestral director, not the artistic director. The GPO's nonprofit organization is called Positive Motions Foundation, not Forward Motions Foundation.]

Advertisement

Improbabilities abound in the GPO's life — what Biryukov calls “little miracles.” Sunday's “Holiday Gala” is at First Baptist Church of Glendale, the GPO's home base. When Biryukov first saw it, the once-grand structure was in disrepair and its congregation numbered around 25. “It looked like a storage building,” Biryukov recalls, “because nothing happened there. But I played there and the acoustics were extraordinary. I spoke to the pastor and he offered me carte blanche use of the church.”

One of the people who urged Biryukov to get the ball rolling was conductor Mikael Avetisyan. “He called me a few days after my hangover had cleared up,” the cellist recalls, “and said, ‘Are you coming to the meeting?' The word went out and musicians simply jumped at the chance to join this proposed orchestra.”

Under the banner of Positive Motions Foundation, the GPO incorporated into an official 501C3 nonprofit. But with no donors, sponsors and no publicity, the inaugural concert looked like a losing proposition. “We told the musicians,” Biryukov says, “not to expect to be paid. If we sold 30 tickets we'd be doing well. It was sold out! A miracle that we didn't expect.”

Glendale News-Press Articles Glendale News-Press Articles
|
|
|