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American Magazine: November 2013

mastery

Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success offers a formula for success—being born at the right place and time and investing at least 10,000 hours in pursuit of your goal. It’s about being focused and impassioned and pursing a dream. Meet one of AU’s outliers: musician in residence Yuliya Gorenman. 1975 Father gave her a score of Beethoven piano sonatas to commemorate her first recital. 1968 Born in Odessa, Ukraine, to an economics professor father and a musician mother. Grew up in Kazakhstan. 1971 Slept on top of the piano while her sister and mother played. “I felt the vibrations through my entire body.” 1980 Gave first 90-minute recital. “I was scared to death. I tell my students, the first thousand times it’s hard, but it gets easier.” 1975 Began studying piano with mother Svetlana. Played “a sad song about a wounded Cuban communist” by ear—the first hint of her perfect pitch. 1986–1989 After attending St. Petersburg Conservatory, the Berlin Wall fell and “Soviet rule as I knew it disintegrated.” 1990 Won $400 in a competition and earned $100 playing show tunes for a sorority fashion show at UC–Berkley. “I was supposed to be a pedicurist or a nurse— then I discovered I could make a living off music.” 1975 Accepted to the Special Music School for Gifted Children in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and began taking six lessons per week. 1989 Family fled Kazakhstan, traveling through Slovakia, Austria, and Italy en route to the U.S. After hearing her play Bach on the organ, an Austrian priest gave her the key to the church to practice. “That saved me. We had no country, but that piece of my identity remained.” 1995 Placed fourth, earning her laureate, at the monthlong Queen Elisabeth Competition, broadcast live across Europe. Competed as “a person without a country.” Weeks later, became a U.S. citizen. 1990 Arrived in San Francisco the night of Super Bowl XXIV with $314 in hand. Began English classes; recited “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” alongside Buddhist monks and Afghan refugees. 1990–1992 Took lessons—two times more than she paid for—with Nathan Schwartz at the San Francisco Conservatory. 1997 Began teaching at AU and giving private lessons at her Silver Spring home. 1993 Enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory and worked with Leon Fleisher. 2009 Founded MiClaire Records and joined the Recording Academy. 2001–2003 Recorded all of Beethoven’s piano concerti and his triple concerto live with the Bavarian Chamber Orchestra. “I can count on one hand the number of times that’s been done.” 2011–2013 Launched the Gorenman Piano Project, exploring works by Bach, Chopin, and others. Performed first concert days after mother’s death. “I still hear her in every note.” 2007–2011 Performed all 32 sonatas at AU’s Katzen Arts Center. “The last note ended very quietly—I didn’t want to share that moment with anyone.” 2007 Adopted Michael and Claire—born one week apart—from Guatemala. “Everyone told me my career was over.” Decided to perform the complete cycle of Beethoven piano sonatas: “It’s like climbing Everest backwards in high heels.” 8 AMERICAN MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 2013

DOESN’T HAVE A SECOND TO SPARE. As a master’s student in SOC’s public communication program, the full-time operations and program coordinator for the Center for Community Engagement and Service, staff advisor for the Black Student Association and other campus clubs, and father of twomonth-old Isaiah with fiancee, Lisa Coleman, WCL ’11, his calendar is perpetually double booked. Yet Curtis, 32, always has time for one of his kings. The founder of the Alexandria Kings Basketball Association, a youth organization that uses hoops as a tool to enhance the athletic, academic, and social awareness of the 8- to 17-year-olds it serves, Curtis coaches his kids on the nuances of b-ball and life. Driving hard Raised in a single-parent home in Landover, Maryland, Curtis struggled in high school before basketball motivated him to raise his attendance and grades. After college, he saw what the sport did for his brother, for whom the support of coaches and teammates provided a path to higher education. He wants to provide that same direction for the hundreds of Northern Virginia youth whom his nonprofit serves. More than 95 percent of participants enroll in college, he says. “Somebody invested a lot of time and belief in me, and I’ve seen it work for me and other people,” he says. “When parents call me and say, ‘I can’t get through to my son— can you help me?’ I feel like, wow, this is where I was meant to be.” LET’S TALK #AMERICANMAG 9

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