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oblast e kurmangazy

Erikaex talked to a luminary of music in Kazakhstan, to tell us about the musical landscape of her hosting country.


In the 1950’s Atyrau, in Kazakhstan, was only a small village on the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Natalia’s parents met at a professional training course.

Her father was a soldier employed in the aea’s early oil facilities and her mother, after attending the Communist Party school, was assigned by the party as head of a human resources department in a chemical plant.

Natalia was 8 years old when she started attending the “Oblast and Kurmangazy” music school, the city’s oldest, founded about 73 years ago.

She studied piano and later attended the Music Academy of Atyrau where she graduated in 1975; she then continued her studies at the university faculty of Music Education.

She got married, had two sons who studied violin and piano and today is the grandmother of a 16-year-old boy.

She has always taught at this historic school and it is Natalia herself that tells me about her past and the approach to music in this part of the world. My friend Gulya comes with me and acts as an interpreter: it is thanks to her that I am able to have this interesting conversation with Teacher Natalia.

Music in Kazakhstan (and, as a matter of fact, throughout Russia) is a subject that is heartfelt and studied regularly and rigorously. Most families have a musical instrument at home and most children are encouraged to play from a very young age. There are many state institutes that offer courses after school hours. Typically, the state will cover 50% of the cost of the entire programme, which requires children to attend between the ages of 5 and 7, and exams in solfeggio, singing, history of music and history of musical instruments. At the end of the programme a certificate is awarded, valid for accessing university or for the workplace (it adds a number of additional points to the titles presented by the candidate).

During this time, exceptionally gifted children are signalled; there is a possibility for these children to be sent to one of the schools for talented students; in this case, the course of studies usually lasts 10 years, and foresees, besides a serious musical education, a well-rounded path into college-like structures.

In recent years the Kazakh Republic has also set up an annual competition to select the best students in the Nation. Every year institutes make a selection at school, city and province level by which emerge the best students in each subject (every year, in rotation, a different instrument is selected amongst the piano, the violin and finally the “people instruments”, namely the dombra, the accordion and the cobyz).

Despite the difficulties, Kazakhstan is a country that stands out and this is also reflected in the way it invests in its people: a scholastic preparation as versatile as possible is the guarantee of a future generation of well-prepared and competent adults.

I thank Natalia for sharing her story and bringing Oblast and Kurmangazy to life!

Atyrau, Kazakstan
January 2013
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