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Stepanova transcends barriers with music

Katie Cowart

Liza Stepanova, associate professor of piano in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, believes music transcends barriers and teaches her students the importance of collaboration and community outreach.

Stepanova came to UGA in 2015 primarily to teach applied piano to a studio of undergraduate and graduate piano majors. Since joining the faculty, she has created new courses and promoted initiatives that go beyond this role. One of them has been the production of the new Chamber Music Athens festival designed to increase interest in chamber and collaboration between students, faculty and visiting performers.

“Chamber music is about collaboration, it is about give-and-take, conversation, listening, openness and humility—all skills that are so important to us as musicians but also as people. Growing up, I had a chance to work with a number of world-class chamber musicians in school and at festivals, and this experience has forever stayed with me,” said Stepanova. “I wanted to bring that to my UGA students. I was inspired by the idea of multiple generations of faculty, world-class guest artists and students playing and learning together, and this is what Chamber Music Athens is about.”

The next Chamber Music Athens Festival will take place May 15-22.

In addition to her responsibilities teaching her piano students, Stepanova also teaches the importance of using music to reach out to the community.

“Pre-COVID, my students were regularly out in the community, visiting retirement homes and playing music,” said Stepanova. “It reminds us of the power of what it is all about. It is easy to get bogged down in the class and when the jury is, but there is a reason why music is important. It is a language everyone can share.”

In the fall semester of 2020, Stepanova introduced a new course titled “Community Engagement for Performers.” This course was all about students leaving campus to get out into the community and make connections. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stepanova had to make a few changes to how the course would operate. The students had to get creative with their outreach and focused on projects ranging from virtual concerts for isolated patients to curated videos introducing classical music to toddlers.

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Image: Liza Stepanova (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)

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