RAISA ORSHANSKAYAface comm dec. 2019.JPG


You are an accomplished musician. Please tell us a

little about your career.

By profession, I am a musician – a cymbalist and conductor of a folk instrument orchestra. I graduated from the Vitebsk School of Music, and continued my studies at the Minsk State Institute of Culture. I worked as the Art Director in the club of the Vitebsk Orchestra.

After the Chernobyl accident, my young son’s health deteriorated, and my parents and I decided to emigrate to Israel. There my son, fortunately, got stronger.

In Israel, I worked at a music school and played cymbals in the Israeli Andalusian Music Orchestra and toured extensively throughout the country. In 1998, I moved to Canada with my 12-year-old son. And, although everyone advised me: “Forget about cymbals, become a programmer,” I could not imagine my life without music. Of course, I did not immediately succeed in getting a job in my specialty, especially since I needed to support myself and my child alone. By the way, I am very grateful to my son: he, as an adult, supported me in my quest for a professional path, and helped me with advice. Fate smiled upon me: I met a musician, a pianist named Victor Kotov. He also lived in Israel in the past, but we met in Toronto. We developed a duet with him, and not only professional, but also personal. Victor is a versatile, talented musician: he is a composer, a jazz improviser, and plays a variety of ethnic instruments. And now, for 15 years, we have been performing together with various programs. Our repertoire includes classical, popular and Israeli music, Victor's jazz improvisations and, of course, klezmer. At the invitation of cantor Marcel Cohen, we took part in his project “Jewish Music.” We held two musical presentations of klezmer music in Eastern Europe. We are invited to play at Bar Mitzvah celebrations and all kinds of receptions. Knowing that Victor plays the Armenian folk instrument duduk, he was invited to play at a reception arranged in honor of the arrival in Toronto of maestro Charles Aznavour. The performance impressed the great artist so much that upon returning home to Paris, he personally called Victor and thanked for the wonderful music. Being next to Victor, I also developed my composing talent and began to write music. My symphonic poem "Spring Fantasy" gained the interest of American producers, and they signed a contract with me. This past February, I went to the Czech Republic to record my poem with the Ostrava Symphony Orchestra. Next year, the release of an album of contemporary classical music is scheduled, which will include my poem. I really love children, writing poetry for them and teaching me how to play the piano. In 2012, in Toronto, my first book of poems for children called “Wonder Song” was published. I’m very close to the work of my great countryman, artist Marc Chagall. My husband and I prepared a literary and musical composition dedicated to his life and work. The demonstration of Chagall's work was accompanied by Klezmer music. The audience really liked the program, and we hope to perform with it more than once.

Where does your family come from?

As mentioned earlier, I am from Vitebsk, a city with a long Jewish tradition. My grandfather read Hebrew fluently and, although it was impossible to pray in the synagogue in Soviet times, he regularly visited an underground prayer house. In Israel he became an active member of the Chabad synagogue. He taught Torah and shared knowledge with his family. I remember that he said that cymbals were an instrument of the time of King David, which is mentioned in the Psalms. My mother is from Leningrad. Her parents died during the war. Her father was at the front, and her mother died of starvation, giving all the food to her daughter, my mother.

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

My husband and I really love nature, and we often travel by car. We visited many picturesque places of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, and British Columbia. We also made an unforgettable road trip around Iceland. In addition, in my free time I work as a volunteer with the York Region police. In my youth I dreamed of becoming a forensic scientist, but the music won out. So now I managed to touch this field a little by volunteering.

If you had the opportunity to make a “lechaim” with: a historical character, a modern politician, a figure of literature and art, or just a friend, who would you choose? Why?

I would love to see my dad again, whom I miss so much.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to keep making music. For our duet with my husband, we came up with interesting programs. I would like to have time to implement everything. And most importantly, we plan to introduce our listeners to wonderful Jewish music - these are our origins!