A taste of the Ukrainian spirit

A buyer of my book Alto Trombone Savvy wrote me a very sweet email and informed me that he cannot directly receive the book but is making arrangements for its delivery.

Not an uncommon email, but this particular one came from Ukraine.

This Ukrainian trombone player, Petro, will be teaching himself alto trombone. He wrote, “I dream of playing the alto trombone.” He has ordered an alto trombone from a Czech Republic factory. Apparently, they produce horn called the Amati ASL 601 Eb Alto Trombone.  Because delivery into Ukraine is impossible these days, the book he bought from me is being delivered to him in Ukraine via Slovakia.

Petro is a member of the United Nations and a former Ukrainian soldier who lives in Kyiv. I told him that I, like most people, honor their spirit and wish them victory against Russia. He replied, “I am very grateful to your country for helping us in the war against the Russian invaders. We will defeat them in the end. We have no choice.”

The next day, I received another email from Petro answering the question I asked him after his original email. I asked him what it is like to work on his playing under threat of Russian attack. This is what he wrote back:

“As for me, I am in much better conditions than those people who are closer to the contact line. But the whole country is in danger when missile attacks from Russia begin. A lot of energy infrastructure has been damaged by Russian missiles, and quite often we have to be in the dark. 

But the trombone is an instrument that does not require electricity. You can play the trombone in the dark. You can’t see the positions of the trombone, but you can feel them with your ear. Just as you write in your book that you have to rely on your ear and discover the music in yourself. So, playing in the dark helps with that.

 Music during war helps. Hundreds of military bands are used to raise the morale of soldiers in war. During the Second World War, Glenn Miller himself was sent to the war to raise the morale of the soldiers. 

Once a military pilot who was an amateur musician said: “Everything passes, but music is eternal.”

That’s the spirit of a country that is pushing back as well as they are on Russian forces.

It really takes dedication to be studying a new musical instrument under the constant threat of deadly attack during war, doesn’t it? I must admit that if missiles were flying close to me, practicing trombone would not really be on my agenda!

He shared with me a link to a video of him and a few friends playing music. Watch the video, give him a like, and maybe even leave them an encouraging comment.

Postscript

Coincidentally, very early this morning, I had a zoom call with a woman from Odessa in southern Ukraine who was helping me with a technical aspect of a website I am building. Beautiful, super smart, and generous with her time for me, working with her was a most enjoyable experience.

I mentioned to her that I was corresponding with a musician in Kyiv and she said, yes, electricity is challenging, especially when you are in the business of working on computers all day. Apparently, trombone is much easier to operated in the dark than a computer! 

My fondness and respect for the people of Ukraine is growing by the day!

8 Responses

  1. Thank you for posting this.

    I had a similar experience in 2005. I had just started facilitating a Berklee Online course for a friend who is the author of the course. I had a young Lebanese student named Shiras Fitala, living in Beirut at the start of the Cedar Revolution. He told me that he and his entire family lived on the streets during that entire time, as a matter of choice, to literally fight for their freedoms and lives.

    Every week, on the due date for the class to post the weekly assignment, Shiras’ work was, without fail, posted on time and was always perfect, and—without any complaining or requesting special considerations.

    When I tell that story to a new class at Berklee, and I tell them that I use his example, known as the Fitala Standard, to measure their work and attitude in the course, the simultaneous changes in facial muscle control among 15 students, is remarkable, to say the least. The story also results in a few people dropping the course that same day. A very telling outcome, on many levels, to say the least.

    Thanks again, Mike.

  2. Petro, what your friend said about music being eternal is great. It’s completely true. You got my total respect and support for being so brave and devoted to your country and your trombone that you fight Putin with your superior world view and just plain human courage. I am one quarter Ukrainian because my mom’s mom was born in Kiev. I can feel it in my blood and spirit. Putin is a rabid isolated person who will hopefully be brought down by his own people, but your unbreakable spirit shames him every minute and I raise a cold glass of RUSSIAN STANDARD PLATINUM VODKA TO YOU AND YOUR MUSIC AND FRIENDS

    BUDMO!!

  3. The human spirit is a wonderful thing. As is the power of music. Combining the two can only result in a Ukranian trombone player and a band changing the worlds of everyone who sees/hears their story, whether in or outside the Ukraine.

  4. I enjoyed the video of the trombone performance! Music is
    indeed cathartic and can hopefully help to heal the pain in this
    country that is undergoing unforgiveable oppression.

    Ronald Zeigler

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