ALEXANDRA – Young Turkish conductor uses video campaign to finance her studies

Young Turkish conductor uses video campaign to finance her studiesNisan Akand#39s most fervent wish is to be the next Turkish female conductor to lead an international orchestra The 23-year-old Istanbul native isnand#39t just pipe dreaming, sheand#39s making that wish come true without missing a beat.Thanks to the wonders of social media, Akand#39s indiegogo site came to me via a friendand#39s Facebook post.

Her crowd-funding campaign on that site was opened on Jan. 16 to raise funds for her tuition at the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York City, where sheand#39s a graduate student.

But itand#39s not an ordinary request for tuition, which is common among college students. Its title is andldquoA Turkish Woman Orchestra Conductorandrdquo which, at the very least, is worth an investigative click.

There, she posted a video where she explains in Turkish and English what itand#39s all about. The video contains compelling testimonials from prominent musicians who are happy to speak words of support for Ak.

One of the testimonials is from her teacher at Queens College, maestro Maurice Peress. He states on the video: andldquoI think sheand#39s going to become an important conductorandrdquo These words have not been lost on the viewing public, which has, as of Sunday, contributed over $14,000 to meet her goal of $15,000.

That $15,000 will cover her second semester tuition and living expenses. Using the indiegogo template of rewarding her funders with prizes based on the size of the donation, Ak promises her supporters things like music lessons, collaborative gigs for musician colleagues, and postcards from New York in exchange for their financial contributions.

Ak explains on the site that, thanks to a scholarship she received from the Nejat F EczacIbaII Music Foundation in Istanbul, she was able to enter as a student in the schooland#39s masterand#39s program — but only for the first semesterItand#39s the second semester budget at this American school sheand#39s trying to balance. She adds: andldquoIn order to complete my education I have to find different sources.

Like indiegogo!andrdquoAk talked to Todayand#39s Zaman over a cup of tea in a Greenwich Village cafandeacute on a snowy Sunday afternoon.So would you be Turkeyand#39s first female conductor in history?No, I would technically be the third.

The first two are Ince zdil and Sera Tokay. I believe zdil conducted the Bursa Symphony in the early 1960s and Tokay conducted a youth symphony in Carnegie Hall in 2012, in addition to an orchestral project in IiIli.

Do you come from a musical family?Iand#39m the only one in the family. But they have supported me in every way.

I know so many parents who say, andldquoYou should do music as a side job.andrdquoWhere did you get your first musical education?I started playing the guitar when I was nine, then I attended the Istanbul Avni Akyol Anadolu Fine Arts High School, where I started learning piano.

Then I got a full scholarship to study composition at Bilgi University, where I studied composition with Tolga Tuzun and Turgut Pgun. I graduated from Bilgi with honors.

How did you happen to pick the AC School of Music at Queens College, or did it pick you?The Copland School is famous for its theory and ear training. I went to a summer conducting workshop there two years ago, and thatand#39s where I met maestro Peress.

He invited me to study there. In the first semester I was his only student, but another one has been added for the second semester Iand#39m also now working as his assistant.

Besides conducting, what other courses are you taking?Aanced score reading, ear training, two and three-part dictation, music history, how to write creative program notes, and of course, conducting labs. Soon, Iand#39ll be conducting an operaIn addition to maestro Peress, Jehan Barbur, Elif aIlar, BaIak Yavuz, and Iirin Soysal speak on your behalf on the indiegogo video.

Yes, and composerjazz pianist Selen Gulun helped me prepare the video. After sending out more than 100 letters requesting help from potential sponsors, there were no responses.

So my friends came up with the ideaCan you track what countries the donations are coming from?So far, theyand#39re coming from Turkey, the US, Saudi Arabia, Finland, Azerbaijan, England and Germany.What do you see for yourself in the future?Well, I know that the first step is to get an assistant conductor position before a conductor position.

I love conducting contemporary music and ballet. In fact, I have a strong love of ballet — perhaps because of studying it earlier myself.

I took it to fix my standing position, otherwise itand#39s impossible to stand for two hours. Conducting is not just beating time, thereand#39s a lot of movement! But on a regular basis, I have to stop and say, andldquoHey! Iand#39m in New York.

This is my dream!andrdquoDo you want to conduct the New York Philharmonic some day?Why not?Nisan Akand#39s indiegogo campaign closes on March 17, at 11:59 PT (Pacific Time in the US).Maurice Peressand#39You can always smell a conductorand#39andldquoLeonard Bernstein always said, andlsquoYou can always smell a conductor,and#39andrdquo Queens Collegeand#39s conducting professor Maurice Peress told Todayand#39s Zaman over the phone.

Peress, a former assistant to Leonard Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic who has been teaching at the Aaron Copland School of Music since 1984, said that Nisan Ak has made a big impression there: andldquoSheand#39s very enthusiastic and a quick learner Her personality comes through and the musicians respond.andrdquoAbout Akand#39s future career, Peress said: andldquoandhellip Iand#39ve got a good batting average for my students, for over 30 years.

Iand#39m getting her ready for professional orchestras. Sheand#39ll be 10 times better when Iand#39m finished with herandrdquo.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman