Sharing the spotlight

Two Russian siblings, both talented musicians, are pursuing their dreams far from home.Coming to America to study had always been a dream of Anton and Vera Zholondz, a brother and sister from Voronezh, Russia, who have played violin since age four. About three years ago, scholarships from Alcorn’s Fine Arts Department made their dreams come true.“We received recordings from Vera and Anton,” shares Dr. Donzell Lee (then chairperson for the Fine Arts Department, now serving as dean, School of Graduate Studies). “The level of their performance was amazing, so we invited them to study at Alcorn.” Anton’s passion is jazz. He is majoring in music performance with a jazz emphasis. “I was thrilled to have an opportunity to come to Alcorn, not only because I’ve heard about it from other Russian students, but also because it is in the South, the birthplace of jazz!” reflects Anton. “The Mississippi Delta, New Orleans — several years ago I couldn’t even dream of going there to enjoy jazz and blues, but now, thanks to Alcorn, I not only had a chance to listen to several renowned musicians, but to learn from them and play side-by-side.”One of those life-changing experiences for Anton was taking part in the ASU Jazz Festival, where he had a rare chance to be a part of the famous McCoy Tyner’s workshop and receive the coveted Outstanding College/University Soloist award. “I am so proud of my brother,” exclaims Vera, who studies violin and piano and plans to become a music educator. “After I receive my bachelor’s degree, I would like to go to a graduate school. I have already received invitations from several universities.Alcorn opens doors. Its program is well-known in the state and beyond, leading students to prestigious competitions and performances all over the U.S.”Vera has had many memorable moments at Alcorn which include becoming Miss International and Multicultural Student Organization and participating in her first pageant and Homecoming parade; winning the National HBCU Piano Competition; participating in the National Symphony Orchestra Summer Music Institute; performing for master classes in Chicago, Houston, and Washington, D.C.; and giving numerous concerts as part of the ASU Jazz Ensemble and the ASU Concert Choir.“It takes a great deal of dedication, talent, and practice to become a successful musician,” says Dr. Larry Konecky, chairperson for the Fine Arts Department. Vera and Anton aren’t just successful muscians, they’re dedicated scholars who have received honors every semester — and they also give back to the University.“Together with other music majors, they have earned money for performances and given to the department and to the Annual Fund. Last summer they also helped finance the ASU National Piano Competition,” says Dr. Konecky.“The University gives so much to both of us, so we feel like giving back as much as we can,” shares Anton. His sister agrees, adding, “We would like other students to have the opportunities we enjoy at Alcorn.”