Young Ukrainian violinist wins attention of Eastman School of Music professor, helps pay for tuition

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Kostia Lukyniuk grew up in Ukraine, in a musical family. “My mom was always aspiring to be a musician .. she wanted me and my younger brother to become a musician.”

Kostia’s mother took him to a private teacher when he was around the age of 5. It was during that time, that he heard some discouraging words.

“He said a phrase that I will never forget, he called my mom and he said, ‘this boy will never be a violinist in his life,’ it was one of the most respected private teachers in my area,” he said.

Kostia’s and his mother wanted to prove that teacher wrong, and found another one that did believe in him. “She took me to an amazing teacher, and that’s where my actual musical career started,” he said.

Around the age of 15 Kostia’s teacher heard a renowned professor from the Eastman School of Music would be in town for concert tours. She decided to get Kostia a chance to be noticed by him. With his teacher’s violin, Kostia met up with the professor in the basement of a hotel to play for him.

“I mean I didn’t know what opportunities were waiting for me. I knew I had to present myself in the best way,” he said.

That professor from Eastman was Professor Oleh Krysa – who instantly saw potential in Kostia.

“I got a message that one talented boy wants to play for me, from his teacher. He came, in basement, and he started to warm up, and already I felt that he has something,” said Krysa. He immediately invited Kostia to study at Eastman.

Krysa even helped pay for Kostia’s tuition the first year with a foundation he started – specifically to help first-year students. “Right after my performance, he gifted me with a set of strings, and one of his CD’s, and five days after returning to my city he sent me a violin, because I didn’t have my own instrument,” said Kostia.

Krysa’s foundation was inspired by his wife, who passed away in car accident and was also a music teacher.

“After her death we started with my family with the foundation, many people sent a donation, of course myself, so that helps the talented students for tuition and studies at the school … I love my students,” said Krysa. “It’s good for when Kostia goes out to continue his career, and then other students can get that help,” he said.

“I talked to the school, got a little more scholarship, and Professor Krysa helped me out in the first year, he paid off the remainder of tuition, but this where the story gets interesting,” said Kostia. “After the first year he had problems with his mom, his mom in Ukraine was having health problems and he talked to me and said didn’t think I am able to pay for the whole tuition every year.”

It was at that point that Kostia turned to one of his biggest passions in life – busking. “I took my belongings, violin, and took my friends to New York City. I would go out and play on the street, go to various sites, and I would go and make myself known and make some money for the school,” he said.

“The people who are on the street are not like the people in an audience in a concert. They are people who have not expected to hear music, minding their own music as a musician you have to grab their attention but also hold their attention,” he said.

While getting to study at Eastman has been quite a feat for Kostia, he still has even bigger dreams, like any other 21 year old.

“I want to get my own band, it would be a project where I play all the different kinds of music,” he said.

In the meantime, Kostia is thankful to share his musical gift in a time where stress levels are high amid a pandemic. “Music should be celebrated and played any time, especially at a time of crisis,” he said.

Click here for Kostia’s YouTube.

Click here for his Instagram and here for his Facebook.

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