Practice Makes Peace

Piano professor helps alleviate war stress for Ukrainian boy

Baylor senior lecturer in piano Bradley Bolen, D.M.A., has done his best to help ease the stress of war, offering online piano lessons to Myron Maletskyi, an 11-year-old Ukranian boy, during Russia’s invasion. Bolen met Maletskyi and his mother Irina in the fall of 2019 while doing master classes in Vienna.

Visiting his piano teacher was no longer practical for Myron when the war started due to military operations in Odesa. The Maletskyis decided to stay in their home during the first few weeks of the invasion due to crowded borders and their love of music.

“What is really interesting is that his initial lessons at his home in Odesa were on a piano previously owned by famous Russian composer Alexander Scriabin,” Bolen said. “I suspect that one of the reasons the family was reluctant to leave was partly due to that piano and the musical life they created around it for Myron. It has historical significance.”

Bradley Bolen, D.M.A., coaches Myron Maletskyi during an online piano lesson.
Bradley Bolen, D.M.A., coaches Myron Maletskyi during an online piano lesson.

Odesa, a Black Sea port city in southern Ukraine, is the nation’s third most-populous city and a major transportation hub. It has not been immune from Russian attacks. A runway at the city’s main airport was destroyed by a Russian missile strike in late April. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy immediately vowed to rebuild.

“It is because Ukraine will likely fight hard for Odesa that I was quite concerned for the family,” Bolen said. “Online, you can find photos of the beautiful Odesa opera house from 1941 juxtaposed with the opera house of today. In both cases, fortified with sandbags and anti-tank hedgehogs … and less than a kilometer from Myron’s home. At least I had peace of mind knowing Myron’s family is well-connected and would move out when the time came — difficult as I know that decision might be for them.”

The Maletskyi family was safely escorted out of Ukraine to neighboring Moldova in mid-March. They subsequently relocated twice, eventually to northern Germany. Myron’s mother, father and two brothers were adapting well to German culture and their new surroundings.

“I spoke with Irina since they arrived to Germany, and she said they are all safe,” Bolen said. “She also had great news to share and said Myron has already been accepted into an exclusive music institute in Germany that provides a platform for early support for the musically gifted. That makes me very happy for him and his family.”

Myron still benefits from online lessons with Bolen and after each session receives detailed notes that Bolen provides to help improve his piano skills.

“Myron isn’t as fluent in English as his mom; so she sits with Myron during our lessons, and I send her my notes,” Bolen said. “She then goes over them with Myron to aid with his practice until our next lesson.”

Bolen plans to continue his online lessons with Myron until there is no longer a risk of Myron losing focus due to a war that is devastating Ukraine. Then, he can instead nurture his talent and future as a piano performer.