Young Kazakh Singer Takes First Prize at Int’l Competition in Los Angeles

FarkhadASTANA – Farkhad Madenov, a second-year student at the College of the Kazakh National University of Arts (KazNUA), won the sixth Colibri Multicultural Competition of young performers in Los Angeles in November 2013.

The competition has become a prestigious international event for young performers, and performers from 30 countries participated in the 2013 event. Last year was Kazakhstan’s first time joining the competition. At the qualifying round in Los Angeles, Madenov’s work was recognised as the best.

“I received an invitation at once, but I did not have the funds for the trip. I informed the organisers about this. The organisers wanted to see our country among the participants and sent a letter to the Akim (Mayor) of Astana asking for assistance. The akimat (city administration) paid for my trip and accommodation, for which I am very grateful,” Madenov said.

Performers in Astana heard about Colibri through Guldana Zholymbetova, a former teacher at KazNUA. Zholymbetova now lives in America and wants the world to know about Kazakhstan’s singers. In Los Angeles, she met Kazakhstan’s participants in the competition, gave them advice and spent free time with them.

“Guldana Zholymbetova was with us at Disneyland. She’s an amazing person; she treats everyone equally, supported us, inspired us. Before the concert, I was so worried that my legs were shaking, and then she said, ‘Farkhad you’ve been singing since birth, you’ve won contests in Moscow, Bulgaria, Turkey. You’re an experienced performer—go and sing!’” Madenov said.

Madenov performed the romance of Gaziza Zhubanova Zhyr Zhazamyn; a composition by Mario Lanza, “Be My Love;” and the Italian song “La Spagnola.” When he performed, he didn’t think about victory, he said, and when he heard that he took first place in the academic vocal category, he couldn’t believe it. He had to be pushed on stage for his award.

Kazakh participants were also successful in other categories: Orynbassar Abuov received a special prize in the jazz vocal category and Aidana Ayneshova took second place among instrumentalists. Both are also KazNUA students. Young Aktobe pianists Zhanis Shaukembayeva and Zaru Zhazykbayeva took second and first place in their age categories.

In Kazakhstan, the participants’ family and friends as well as teacher Tamashagul Gunther and the whole department of vocal art were cheering for Madenov. Bolashak students who had studied in the U.S. and representatives of the Kazakh diaspora came to the competition in West Hollywood to cheer for him. They attended concerts and listened with flags in their hands.

“It was so solemn, so touching; we felt that we were representing our country and we could not let down fans like that! A lot of young Americans in the crowd also showed great interest in the Kazakh performers,” the singer said.

“We didn’t miss a single concert or one master class … Participants from Korea, Japan and China surprised us with their piano technique. For the first time, I heard how Indians sing. Strong vocalists came from Armenia and Russia. I was lucky enough to sing at a gala concert and perform on the same stage with virtuoso violinist Daniel Shindarev! At that moment I didn’t worry; joy beat out excitement. I went on stage after him and the maestro stayed behind the scenes to listen to me. Then we talked and the famous musician instructed me. I’ll remember these moments forever.”

That concert was dedicated to the memory of opera singer Anatoly Berkovich. Madenov sang “Shine, Shine, My Star” and said that while performing he thought about recently deceased singer Yermek Serkebayev.

“He was my favourite singer. Serkebayev was not my teacher, but I consider him my teacher. I listened to him a lot, tried to imitate him … Mentally, I devoted my performance to him,” Madenov said.

Members of the competition jury suggested that Madenov study at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). It costs tens of thousands of dollars per year, but the singer would be provided with a grant to cover his studies.

UCLA professor Julia Ronskaya is ready to teach Madenov and is going to visit Kazakhstan in May to learn more about the country and the vocalist. Madenov will soon have to decide whether to study at the University of Arts in Astana or go to Los Angeles.

Recently, Madenov was invited to the 19th Crystal Magnolia International Festival of Young Performers, which will be held from Jan. 18-24 in Las Vegas. The festival is included in the competition programme of the Cultural Olympics that are connected with the 22nd Winter Olympics and 11th Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. Cultural Olympics participants will come from all over the world. Madenov is now looking for sponsors. “If I get assistance, it would be a great honour for me to represent Kazakhstan and I will do my best to win,” he said.


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