President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good morning, Mr Bashmet. I would like to wish you a happy birthday.
Yury Bashmet: Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you for your music, for your social stance, and for all the work you do with children, which I would like to single out. The job you are doing is truly colossal, though not many know about it. People usually see you either with your viola, or at the conductor’s stand. However, few know of your social work, primarily your involvement with children. Special thanks to you for that.
Yury Bashmet: Thank you for finding the time, despite your busy schedule.
Vladimir Putin: No problem, we are all busy people.
Yury Bashmet: Later I will show you a wonderful film made about those children, about their tour and our performances in Crimea. People in the three cities – Simferopol, Sevastopol and Kerch –welcomed us with standing ovations even before we began playing.
Vladimir Putin: How do you select the children? What is your method?
Yury Bashmet: We have made it a rule in every town and city that we perform in to spend two hours at the local music school or college. This is like a contest for the local children, they prepare for it. Musicians in our orchestra, by the way, come from 39 different cities. Playing in this orchestra is like a reward for them. Importantly, this is not a one-time mechanism but one that functions constantly and works very well. I will give you this film and our recording. Unfortunately, we have constant rotation in the orchestra due to age limitations – from 9 to 22. Nevertheless, it is a regular orchestra that has already won high acclaim. You would not even believe these are children performing if you do not look at them.
Vladimir Putin: And who works with them on a regular basis? Who are their music mentors?
Yury Bashmet: These are their local teachers, our concertmasters from the Novaya Rossiya orchestra, our teachers, my assistants. I also visit, and they know the music by heart.
A nine-year-old girl from Cheboksary came up to me once and asked me to hear her play, just for a minute. I told her she had won the competition and had already been picked for the orchestra, but she said: “You cannot hear me when there are a hundred people playing together. I would like you to hear me play, something I practiced.” And she began playing the part of the second violin (hums). I mean, there was no melody, nothing – the part of the second violin. It was amusing.
In other words, this is an endless process, endless rotation.
Vladimir Putin: Happy birthday to you once again. I would like to wish you all the best.
Yury Bashmet: Thank you.