At age 15, Canadian pianist Leonid Nediak already has over a dozen orchestra concerts under his belt; he has been the recipient of numerous awards from music competitions and festivals, and has been invited to perform with such prestigious ensembles as the Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal. We were delighted that Leonid set aside time to speak with us in the interview below:
NC: When you start playing the piano, and how did your musical life begin?
LN: I was four years old when I began to learn the piano, because my kindergarten teacher remarked to my parents that I had perfect pitch. They sent me to the Music for Young Children program for 2 years, and it really helped me to get started.
NC: Who or what is your biggest inspiration as a young musician?
LN: I am really inspired by my wonderful teacher, Marina Mdivani. She studied with Emil Gilels, who is a great inspiration among the many pianists of that era such as Sviatoslav Richter and Sergei Rachmaninoff.
NC: Where have your musical travels taken you so far?
LN: I have performed in various places including Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City, Edmonton, Cleveland, New York, Princeton, Miami, and Moscow.
NC: Can you describe your most exciting or memorable performance experience?
LN: I was very excited to play Prokofiev Concerto No. 3 with the Kindred Spirits Orchestra last year. I really liked the piece, and I was very intrigued by it. I feel that this piece describes someone who is trying to escape his inner struggles, but fails to do so. Each time he enters an escape, his conflict worsens, since his conflict is simply about his desire to escape. However, he manages to be inclined towards the right way in the last minute of the piece, and so the piece ends gloriously. I am grateful to Prokofiev for writing his Concerto No. 3, which inspired me to write 2 compositions: a piano solo and a piano trio.
NC: Which performing artist or music composer (past or present) would you love to meet, and why?
LN: I would really want to meet Sergei Prokofiev. I would beseech him to perform more. Prokofiev is one of my favorite composers and performers. For instance, his performance of Prokofiev Concerto No. 3 really grasps the conflict element of the music.
NC: What music is currently on your playlist?
LN: I am listening to Bach Prelude and Fugues.
NC: If you could only perform one piece of music for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
LN: Given I had to make this restriction, I would choose to sing in church.
NC: What hobbies can you be found enjoying when you are not playing music?
LN: I have been doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the past year. However, I realized that there are risks of injury associated with it, and since it is not exactly the best martial art for a pianist, I had to stop. If not for piano, I would certainly be doing a lot of Jiu Jitsu. Now I am doing fencing, since it is much safer.
NC: Is it difficult to balance your high school academics successfully with a serious dedication to your musical endeavors?
LN: I take my high school courses online, and this gives me the flexibility for music activities.
NC: You have a strong interest in the field of Mathematics and also Computer Science, and have a desire to connect these fields with your musical
endeavors. How do you plan to accomplish this?
LN: I enjoy programming in my spare time. Among the programs I have written there is a high-dimensional maze game that can run any number of dimensions and shows several slices of the space.
With the advent of machine learning, specifically of neural networks, computers are capable of so many more things, which I believe includes generating music. There have already been efforts to do this, and for instance, harmonizations in the style of Bach chorales were generated by deep learning. However, the biggest issues with the generated music is that, as observed by many musicians, it lacks structure. My intention is to perform research on the topic, and hopefully contribute to the field.
NC: What music goals do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years?
My goal of playing piano is to bring love, peace, and happiness to people. First, I will need to build up a lot of repertoire. Second, I will polish and refine my skills. This requires time, concentration, and patience. However, 10 years is a good time frame for this big project.
NC: Where do you hope to perform one day?
LN: I have not considered the question of where I hope to play, but as a performing artist, in order to express the music, exposure is needed. Thus I would like to bring happiness to as many people as possible.
Watch Leonid's performance of Liszt Transcendental Etude No. 11 "Harmonies Du Soir":