By Alex Domine
If a student were to walk into Mary Baker Russell Music Center 114, they can expect to find two polished pianos partnered side by side, and a bright eyed thoughtfully smiling professor ready to enrich her students.
Dr. Oksana Ejokina joins the PLU faculty as the Chair of Piano Studies. She comes from an intense performing career as the artistic director and active trio member for the Icicle Creek Music Center.
“The place where I am coming form [Icicle Creek], it had somewhat of a different flavor to it,” explains Ejokina. “I’m really delighted to be here at PLU. There’s some kind of wonderful spirit that brings all the students together.”
Ejokina came from Russia at the age of nineteen with one goal in mind. Studying music was her passion.
“It was kind of like an exciting shock [on coming to The U.S.]. I ended up in College Place Washington—that was my first long term stop in the U.S. after traveling to New York.”
Ejokina received her undergraduate degree from Walla Walla University and went on to a masters program at Northern Illinois Unviversity. She received her D.M.A. at Stony Brook University in New York.
“Everything was fantastic and wonderful. The people were smiling the colors were bright. It was a really cheery picture. The spirit of the people is very different [from Russia]”
Ejokina consistently studied piano throughout her collegiate experiences and went on to what she describes as an intense performing career. After nine years, she joins the PLU family.
“I was looking for something different” expresses Ejokina when talking about her journey from a professional career into teaching at a university.
“I feel like it’s an incredibly open environment. There is a genuine degree of care that comes from the administration, something that is unfortunately quite rare in this day and age.”
Ejokina’s love for teaching is rooted in her own mentors. Donald Walker taught Ejokina at Northern Illinois University and she is excited to inspire Lutes in the same way Walker inspired her.
“I went in lacking in confidence, and from the first lesson somehow the paradigm shifted,” reflects Ejokina on Walker, “Suddenly the strengths I had were enough for me to make it as a pianist. That is what teaching does to you, sometimes it’s the smallest most innocuous, seemingly mundane things that stay with people. Not a single day goes by where I don’t think about him,” explains Ejokina.
Ejokina’s experience at PLU has a powerful impact on her. Her favorite moment takes place in class.
“Walking into your first class and being greeted by a wave of smiles,” reminisces Ejokina, “and thinking that I really want to make excellent listeners out of these people.”
Ejokina has already made some noticeable changes in the piano program.
“I really like how she is creating camaraderie within the piano department by having piano lab, which is masterclass time, performance practice or time for a guest speaker,” says Ejokina’s student Luke Stromberg, “Oksana is really inspiring because she is clearly a professional yet approachable and relaxed.”
Ejokina has been incredibly received by the musicians at PLU and is poised for success in the department.
“I am really terribly excited to be able to make some kind of a difference and to be able to maintain people’s love for music,” says Ejokina, “I really feel like we need it in the world. I refuse to believe classical music is ailing.”