Mary Baldwin College, the Heifetz International Music Institute, and the greater Staunton community were shocked to learn that Russian cellist Dmitry Volkov — who was nearing the end of his yearlong, successful classical music outreach — passed away May 10 from a heart attack, while visiting friends in Baltimore. The world-renowned musician was only 26 years old.
The first ever MBC/Heiftetz artist-in-residence greeted students in Hunt Dining Hall, spoke in MBC classrooms, performed for nearby civic groups, and introduced classical music to scores of local elementary students. Before his arrival in Staunton, the Heifetz alumnus attended the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He won numerous scholarships and awards and performed in several of the most prestigious concert halls in Europe.
Daniel Heifetz, president and founder of the institute, will accompany Volkov’s body as it is flown home to his family in Russia. He wrote the following tribute:
Rarely does a bright star come into the lives of a person, a family, a school, a community and flash for only a short period of time. Such a star was the amazing cellist, Dmitry Volkov.
I discovered Dmitry seven years ago when he sent me an audition tape to gain entrance into the Heifetz International Music Institute. Upon hearing his DVD, I immediately accepted him and arranged for him to have full scholarships for every one of the three summers he was a student with us.
As an alumnus, he continued to come to the summer institute as an artist in residence and ultimately, this past year, as the institute’s first full academic year artist in residence at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. His work as our first yearlong artist in residence was nothing short of heroic. He performed throughout the Shenandoah Valley for more than 4,000 people in venues ranging from concert halls to Rotary clubs to senior centers to schools. He inspired students from elementary age to college students. He went into the Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind and had students hold his cello and feel the vibrations as he played. He touched and inspired audiences throughout the Shenandoah Valley, in addition to almost every citizen, young and old, of Staunton.
When I first brought Dmitry to the institute, he had not been to America. After a few weeks, he came to me with tears in his eyes. He said that, until then, he had never experienced being free to play music in a personal way that expressed what was in his own heart. In Russia, he was forced to play music only in the way his teachers told him to play.
For me, Dmitry was like a son. For his father, Vadim, mother, Natalya, and brother, Evgeny, he was a shining light in their lives. In all my years of teaching, I have rarely brought a young musician so close to my heart. My wife and I loved him! Chairman of the Heifetz Institute Board of Directors Gary Abramson and his wife, Pennie, brought him into their family. Several of the institute’s board members supported him financially throughout his life in America, even loaning him a beautiful cello on which to play.
After several summers at the Heifetz Institute, after earning a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the Moscow Conservatory of Music, after earning an artist diploma from the Peabody Conservatory of Music where he studied with the great Israeli cellist Amit Peled, he was the winner of international cello competitions. He also won international chamber music competitions with his newly formed “Russian Trio,” comprised of Heifetz Institute alumnus violinist Nikita Borisevich and pianist Katherine Harris Rick.
Dmitry Volkov was poised for a truly exciting future. As an artist, Dmitry was brilliant, with complete mastery of the cello. As a human being, Dmitry had charm, charisma, a great sense of humor, personality, warmth, and sensitivity. Whoever met him loved him. Wherever he performed audiences acclaimed him.
The only way I know how to cope with our tragic loss is to feel grateful I had the honor and privilege to have known and experienced, for any amount of time, this bright star in our lives.