I was born and raised in New York City on February 6th, 1980. I started to play piano at the age of 3. I used to play most of the time until the age of 6, when one day I told my dad that I never wanted to play piano again. Instead of being angry with me, my father did the most incredible thing that a person could do. He told me not to play, if I did not want to. I was so happy that I will not have to play piano anymore. The next day came, and I became confused. I had all the time in the world to play soccer, run around, and those kinds of stuff. But I got bored rather quickly and so I started to play the piano again and never stopped since. My father and mother taught me how to play the piano, music harmony, theory, instrumentation, music composition.
At the age of six, I was accepted to the Lucy Moses School of Music, right next to the Juilliard School. It is a great school that prepares young students who want to get into a music college. I studied piano mostly with Boris Slutsky. He is a great pianist and was a great teacher to me. He was always very supportive and saw in me potential. Boris worked very hard to get me to focus and gave me compositions that would better my technical and emotional development. His piano lineage goes back to Sergei Rachmaninoff, and I am so lucky to be a part of such an incredible heritage. Because of him and the school, I performed in numerous school recitals during that period and was invited to appear in special concerts for seniors and other functions.
At the same time, I went to PS. 199 and was the only kid who was Russian out of a class of 30. At that time the movie Rocky 4 came out, and in it Ivan Drago is the “evil” Soviet boxer who kills another boxer and then fights with Rocky. It was a stereotypical propaganda movie. Because I was Russian, everyone in school used to beat me up. I remember when there were 10 kids who pushed me into a room and started to hit me because I was that “evil” person. They had so much anger in them. I had to go through that mostly the whole year. My parents were karate experts, both being brown belts at the time. And I started to take karate lessons to protect myself in a school devoted to karate. It took me about six months to fight back and win against everyone one of those horrible kids (it happened in second grade). In my third year of school, I was accepted into a Russian American private school in Manhattan.
There were more tribulations during that period as well. When I was six years old, a “group of criminals” tried to kidnap me in an elevator at my karate school, but my mom pulled me from their clutches just in time before the elevator closed. They wanted to kidnap me to make a deal with my father: exchange me for his philosophical work “Science on Morality.” They wanted to distort his ideas and use it against people. When that failed, social services started to bother our family. They called and asked me if I wanted to stay with my parents and I answered that I did want to stay with my parents and for them to leave us alone. Afterwards, they tried to take us to family court to take me away from my family. That failed partly because the Soviet Authorities stepped in and told them to leave us alone, and because my parents would have fought till death. For this particular case, the “group of criminals” stopped their harassment. But other persecutions towards our family continued.