“I noticed that among the music that was inside me, in my head, was some kind of music that did not exist in the outer world yet,” Grigory Smirnov explained, “so I decided to write it down and share it with others, or no one else would hear it but me." This was the thought that led Grigory to begin composing at a young age, even if it was only fragments of melodies. Today he is an award-winning pianist and composer.
Born in Novosibirsk, Russia, Grigory grew up listening to recordings of classical music. By age five, he was playing the piano. Living in Siberia meant he was not as connected to the cultural community of mainstream European music as other budding musicians, but Grigory thrived in Novosibrisk’s own musical community. He studied as a pianist at the Novosibirsk Music College and later at the Glinka Novosibirsk State Conservatory as a composer under Yuri Yukechev.
However, the political turbulence of the time brought their own challenges. Growing up in Russia during the 1990s, Grigory lived through the economic uncertainty following the fall of the Soviet Union. “There were days when I had no food to eat. Choosing music as a career didn’t seem practical. It looked impossible,” the composer confessed, “but music is a calling. It’s in my nature to do what I do.” He built a successful career in Russia. His composition “Pastorale” premiered at the Novosibirsk Philharmonic Orchestra, marking his debut as an orchestral composer. He also won a prize for composition at the IV Prokofiev International Competition.
Grigory came to the United States on an invitation to attend the Julliard School, where he studied with Grammy-winning composer Christopher Rouse and received his Masters of Music in composition in 2011. He hopes to continue the great classical music tradition by expressing it through his own contemporary vision. The classically trained musician believes this great tradition is currently in decline. “The contemporary interpretations of classical music, while trying to follow the language classical music speaks, very often express it superficially,” Grigory commented, “and I don't want this musical language to die so that it sounds beautiful but no one understands what it's trying to say.”
In recent years, several of his new compositions have been released, including “Mirrors of Emptiness" and “Dowson Songs.” The latter is inspired by the poems of Ernest Dowson, a Romantic poet who influenced poets like Oscar Wilde and W.B. Yeats. Last year, Grigory’s orchestral work “Why the Aspen Tree is White” premiered at 30th Anniversary concert of Downtown Music at Grace. The work is a musical story he wrote in collaboration with Robert Sherman, the renown radio personality for WQXR (NYC public radio). Currently, Grigory still lives in the United States and works on new compositions.
Looking toward the future, the pianist and composer wishes to share his work with even more people in pursuit of creating meaningful connections through music. Through social media, he connected with the Multicultural Arts Exchange, who shares his vision. He looks forward to collaborating with the organization on new projects. “I want to create something new and personal,” Grigory said of his music, “but describing my own music is always a hard task. It’s like describing myself, and I can never be truly objective about myself.” He does admit that he must always find something inside of himself that relates to the project. “I believe that we have our own hidden nature that we can manifest. This specific nature draws certain events to us, like inspiration,” Grigory explained. “Listen to my music land it will tell you more than I can explain."