MF 072 : Vera Volchansky Shares a Huge Setback on the Road to Superstardom That Opened the Door
Updated: Jun 17, 2022
Moving Forward completes its three-part series on extraordinary individuals in the world of music with Vera Volchansky. Vera is a conductor, music professor and the Director of The Millersville University Orchestra. Vera shares how an early childhood passion for music took her on an incredible journey and reveals a huge setback that led to her amazing career. You will learn how a passion can start at an early age but why that only a first step. Vera’s story will teach you that translating your passion into a career may not fit with what you first intend but can open doors you never imagined.
Successes at a glance:
Director, The Millersville University Orchestra.
Music Department faculty, Millersville University.
Finalist in Orchestral Conducting, The American Prize 2013.
Music Director, Lancaster County Youth Symphony 2012-13.
Artistic Director – Conductor, L’Historie du Soldat (Lancaster, PA) 2013.
Boston Symphony Orchestra Masterclass with Thomas Wilkins 2013.
Guest Conductor, The Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass 2014.
Judge, Senior Instrumental Competition (Lancaster) 2010, 2014.
Jude, Susquehanna University Concerto and Aria Competition 2013.
Guest Conductor, Karaganda Symphony Orchestra (Kazakhstan) 2012.
Conductor, Wednesday’s Club Youth Chamber Orchestra (Harrisburg) 2010.
Assistant Conductor, Hot Springs Music Festival 2009.
Assistant Conductor, University of Kansas Symphony Orchestra 2006-07.
Conductor, Congress Chamber Orchestra, St. Petersburg 2005.
Conductor, Opera of Constanta Lucia di Lammermoor (Romania) 2004.
Fulbright Award (to study Russian Avant-Garde, St. Petersburg Conservatory) 2008.
Aspen Music Festival Conducting Fellowship 2007.
Neema Jarvi Conducting Academy Certificate 2006.
How Vera gets inspired to conquer the day:
Live enzymes! While Vera would love to list the cliches of early mornings, jogs, sun rises and bird songs, she deals with an autoimmune thyroid condition. To maintain her body’s nutritional needs, Vera takes Body Balance, a nutritional drink, followed by lots of green tea or hot chocolate.
Setback or failure that led to pivot and shift:
Since an early age, Vera has always trusted her heart and followed her dreams. When Vera was 14 she was accepted to the University of California as a violinist. Even in a classroom and environment with talented adults, Vera stood out for her incredible talent and musical acumen. One of Vera’s professors encouraged her to move to New York and study at Juilliard in their pre-college division. Although Vera’s family couldn’t afford to pay for this program, Vera’s professor was adamant that she could become the next Sarah Chang and even offered to help pay the tuition costs. However, Vera was overwhelmed, scared and did not want to be away from her family. This led to some very tense times and deep family arguments as her father, himself a very accomplished violinist, saw a future for Vera as a superstar. Vera’s response was “I don’t want to be famous, I want to be me.” On top of this, the strain of keeping up with a highly demanding practice and performance schedule, led to a severe case of carpal tunnel syndrome, effectively ending Vera’s journey as a violinist. This was a devastating setback that caused Vera to think about steering away from music altogether. After high school, Vera’s family moved to Pennsylvania and she started a pre-law program; thinking she would pursue a career in law and politics. However, while preparing for law school, Vera attended a concert and realized that her “soul was not at peace” with her and that she would never feel complete without music. At that moment, Vera knew she had to return to her true passion. She started physical therapy and transferred to another school to complete a Bachelors in violin performance. However, as so often happens, Vera felt the external pressures to resist the call to go back to her passion. Her mother had wanted Vera to stay the course with law and so Vera studied for the LSATs, took the exam and was accepted to several law schools. At the same time, Vera applied for several masters in conducting programs and was accepted to the prestigious Eastman School of Music at The University of Rochester. Finding herself at a crossroads, Vera once again decided to follow her heart and today, instead of briefcases and business suits, she dons a “tuxedo jacket as a conductor.” Moving Forward listeners, as you’ve heard from our other guests in this series on extraordinary individuals in music, following your passion isn’t easy. You will be tested, you will be challenged and you will face setbacks, failures and even pressure from family, friends and loved ones to take a different road. But if you feel that restless heart as Vera did, you have to follow the road that calls to you. As someone who was in the legal profession and worked in legal education, I can tell you I’ve met too many people choose law as a default and not as a passion or purpose. Vera almost made that choice and with her brilliance and talents, she would have been a very fine lawyer. However, the world would have been denied her true gifts as a conductor. Moving Forward listeners, if you are at a similar crossroad; maybe filling out a LSAT form or law school or grad school application, stop and ask yourself: why am I doing this? Is this what I really want to spend the next 40 or 50 years of my life doing? Or does my heart tug at me to do something else? Maybe something you tried once and failed at because you hit that seemingly insurmountable roadblock. Is it time to revisit that passion and find another door that can lead you towards the path you were meant to travel? Take a note from Vera’s story: make those pivots, see the possibilities and start moving forward.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Vera to move forward:
How Vera stays organized and manages her time:
Vera combines technology with the traditional; using her IPhone calendar and black and white to do lists. Spending quality alone time is also an important practice for Vera to stay grounded. Since Vera spends so much time with students and orchestral players, she finds it necessary to recharge and reset w/ alone time so she can give her best self when being with others.
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:
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Vera’s Advice for you to Move Forward:
“Find a door that is open in front of you and take it!” Vera’s own story reflects this sage advice. As she so eloquently and directly puts it, many times in life you will find yourself at crossroads and forks that split between what is “intended for you” and “not intended for you.” In other words, always have a passion but recognize which doors are open or opening for you. Moving Forward listeners ask yourself which passion or passions are tugging at your heart? Then ask yourself, which doors are open in front of you. Sometimes, a door may not be an obvious or intended one. For Vera, her passion was music and for the longest time the road was paved for her to become a superstar violinist. However, when that journey ended, she was faced with the decision to pursue law or follow her heart into another open door that led to a career in orchestral conducting. For music lovers everywhere, it’s fortunate that she chose the later. Take this lesson to heart as you’re facing crossroads in your own journey. Find those open doors and start moving forward today.