Elena Sharkova was born in St. Petersburg. She graduated in Conducting from the St. Petersburg State Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory.
She moved to the US in 1993 and has had a hectic career as a choir and orchestra conductor as well as a university professor and music editor. She is a Conductor of the Symphony Silicon Valley Orchestra and Artistic Director of Cantabile Youth Singers.
Elena enjoys working with people of all ages and loves singing taught from an informal perspective, via building communities through fun and the most profound meaning of making music. She always combines singing with movement and improvisation.
Could you imagine a chairless rehearsal room where singers can move freely, using improvisation as a means to learn and perform choral music? Elena Sharkova works this way. Here we go.
Elena presents rehearsal time as a time for community building. She is concerned about current behaviors, where ACTUAL social interactions are lower and lower in life. With academic activities requiring young people to spend too much time sitting, and people hardly speaking to each other. A world that inundates us with virtual images and interactions showing a reality far from what people really are like and that is eventually detrimental to emotional health.
When it comes to facing a rehearsal, you should start from trying to connect people with their bodies and minds and lead them to know themselves. You need to go through a physical experience to sing. There is no way of thinking of good musicians if they are just sitting on a chair, reading a book, and trapped by a rigid, non-integral teaching. Music must be connected to dance. You need to know how to dance a minuet to understand Bach or a polonaise to approach a Chopin performance.
“One of the tools I use for my rehearsals and for children to know their body is yoga.” This statement is valid for all ages. People working at Silicon Valley live sitting in front of a computer, and the last thing we must do is sit down again when we are going to play music.
We must work on getting a Tiger BODY (strength, light, and energy), a Buddha MIND (calm, curiosity, and kindness), and a Spirit of Firebird (freedom, authenticity, and adventure)
- Physical space
To change the furniture. We need to remove the chairs so that we can move freely during a rehearsal and investigate the physical environment around us. Yoga mats and rehearsals have replaced the chairs, and the rehearsals are done barefoot. The rehearsal starts with meditation. It is essential to include moments of silence in every rehearsal. Three minutes of meditation can provide for three hours of productive rehearsal. These exercises work on all ages. In little children meditation is limited to keeping their eyes closed as long as the sound of zills fills the air.
It refers particularly to including movement and one’s body awareness during the warming up process. Singers must look into each other’s eyes as they warm up. It does not matter whether there is physical contact, but they must keep visual contact with each other. As a result of this exercise, conductors are less and less necessary at concerts, since singers communicate by singing and looking at each other, focused and unaware that the audience is there. Undoubtedly, this produces a much higher artistic and communicative effect.
Fun must be a part of education, and this is for sure. But also profoundness and reflection.
You only need to work on four keys: Contact, character, improvisation, and movement.