Artistic Director Svetlana Nikonova, who joined the WBS in 2003, has brought new depth of artistry and performance to the Washington Balalaika Society Orchestra. A graduate of one of Russia's preeminent postgraduate conservatories with a degree in conducting as well as a former professional orchestra musican herself, she understands the individual needs of the orchestra's members and has a keen appreciation for the preparation and presentation of our repertoire to the Washington area's discerning audiences.
Svetlana is also an experienced and gifted orchestral arranger, able to adapt musical selections from folk to classical to the specific strengths of our musicians and sections. As one of our players commented, "Svetlana makes great music easy for us to play." That she can do this without sacrificing in any respect the quality of the music in performance is indeed a tribute to her craftsmanship and dedication. Most of the arrangements played in concert by the WBS today are Svetlana's, and our audiences are consistent in their praise both for the quality of the repertoire and its presentation.
Rehearsals under Svetlana's leadership are both enjoyable and demanding. A serious musician with an easy manner and a keen sense of humor, she asks our best and gives hers in return. Working patiently with players whose experience in this music ranges from professional to beginner is not an easy task, but Svetlana is able to make it fun while urging us to commit ourselves to learning and playing each piece as it is meant to sound, not simply as notes on a page.
Many members of the domra section take private and group lessons from Svetlana, who taught instrumental technique at both the high school and college level in St. Petersburg.
Ms. Nikonova is also a professional domra soloist, performing with her husband, bayanist Vladimir Zakharevich, and contrabass balalaikist Andrei Saveliev as The St. Petersburg Trio. She also performs with The Washington Balalaikas, a sextet for which she prepares original arrangements, featuring Andrei Saveliev as prima balalaka soloist. Both groups are available for bookings from full concerts to evening parties, festivals, receptions, dances, weddings and public events.