Indiana State University Newsroom

Music professor experiences Russian culture while performing and teaching

July 10, 2013

An Indiana State University music professor who grew up during the height of the Cold War recently performed in Russia for the very first time.

Brian Kilp, associate professor or music who plays French horn, has performed abroad before in such countries as Austria, Australia, China and Thailand. But he was intrigued when he was asked to join two music faculty members from Miami University of Ohio on a two- week trip to Vladivostok, located near Russia's borders with North Korea and China and home to the largest Russian port on the Pacific Ocean.

Andrea Ridilla, professor of oboe at Miami, visited the area in October and had plans to bring over a conductor and a horn player as part of a two-week residency. The horn player was unable to make the trip.

"So she called me and asked me to cover," Kilp said. "It was a great opportunity so I said yes."

The trip, supported by the State Department, gave him the opportunity to perform three concerts with the Pacific Symphonic Orchestra at Philharmonic Hall. Together with his American colleagues, he lectured and conducted masterclasses at the Performing Arts Magnet School and the Ussuriysk College of Arts.

While music is an international language, Kilp noticed a difference in how students were trained.

"Their system is based on the European system, where students are put on the music track early in life," he said. "As a result of receiving more instruction for a longer duration they're much more well-trained than Western music students."

The Russian students were interested in learning about how U.S. students were educated. During both school visits, Kilp and his American counterparts participated in question and answer discussions.

"They were asking about what private lessons were like, how we fashion reeds and other technical questions related to our instruments," he said.

But Kilp did notice similarities between those students and the students he teaches at Indiana State.

"They have the same interest in music," he explained. "They all are exposed to classical music."

Regardless of whether they were a student, faculty member, member of the orchestra or just a resident of the city, Kilp was impressed with the welcome.

"The people were warm and friendly. Within two days they were our family," Kilp said. "When I came to rehearsal, the brass players shook my hand."

When he wasn't rehearsing, performing or conducting masterclasses, Kilp explored an unfamiliar land.

"I walked all around the city," he said. "Philharmonic Hall offers concerts every night. Pop and Jazz music are huge draws."

Kilp and his colleagues ventured beyond Vladivostok, which is the eastern terminus of Trans-Siberian Railroad and home to the Russian Pacific Fleet.

"They took us to a Siberian Tiger refuge, where we viewed beautiful animals that can grow up to 11 feet long and weigh 660 pounds."

On the way back to the city, the visiting musicians and hosts stopped at a series of roadside stands and a grocery store to pick up items for a traditional Russian feast.

"The meal was amazing," Kilp said. "It was like being at a family dinner. We connected with a new culture."

"Growing up, Russia was our enemy. I had the same experience when I visited China," Kilp said. "We're all people. They love their kids as much as we do. They have families. And they enjoy music. There were people of all ages at our performances."

According to Kilp, performing internationally makes him a better teacher.

"It continues to broaden my musical flexibility," he said. "Their tuning pitch is considerably higher than ours. It's great to go to places and sit down with strangers, have Tchaikovsky on the stand and just play."

Kilp is also a strong advocate for his students to have international experiences.

"It gives them the opportunity to interpret and adjust to everyday life in an unfamiliar setting," he said, adding "You should try new things and learn new cultures."


Writer: Paula Meyer, ISU Communications and Marketing, 812-237-3783 or