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March 02, 1990 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-03-02

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



"I love teaching music."

Last November; Alla Begun
began a new life
away from her home
in Minsk.


Special to The Jewish News


yen at the age of 5,
Alla Begun was show-
ing signs of musical
talent. As a little girl, Begun
remembers being able to
listen to a tune, go to the
piano and immediately pick
out the right notes on the
keyboard. Her parents
recognized her ear for music
and her perfect pitch. They
arranged for piano lessons for
their only child — an instru-
ment and a discipline that
would become her life's
"Music is my life," she says.
Begun, 30, arrived in
Detroit last November from
Minsk with her 5-year-old-son
Tolley and her parents, Max
and Era Galperin.
Detroit was a natural
destination, since Begun's
father has family here. Like
many other Jews leaving the
Soviet Union, Begun was
seeking a better life for
herself and her son. She had
a good education — a master's
degree in music and instruc-
tion from the conservatory in
Minsk — but she gradually
began to realize that her
training would not take her
Her Jewishness would hold
her back. "This part of
Russia, Byelorussia, is very
anti-Semitic. I felt I was
Jewish every day. Because of
that, it was very hard, almost
impossible to find a good posi-
tion in music, even with a
master's degree.
"I had been working in the
Institute for Culture for seven
years, and I had never been
promoted. If you are Jewish
in Russia, it's very hard to be
promoted. Now, I have come

to the United States, I feel
Jewish. I'm proud of it, not
Like most traditionally
trained musicians, Begun's
instruction started early. Pro-
gressing from the piano
lessons in her home, Begun
attended a special school un-
til she was college age. She
says it was extremely difficult
to get into the state-run
university. She had to pass
eight examinations and write
an essay to gain entry.
While at the state conser-
vatory, in addition to classes,
teaching duties and practic-
ing an average of five hours a
day, Begun dabbled in jour-
nalism and broadcasting and
performed in public concerts.
She also wrote a book on jazz
and improvisation, which was
published in Minsk.
Eventually, Begun says she
would like to have the work
translated into English.
After five years of study,
Begun completed her
master's degree in 1981, but
could not find a teaching posi-
tion. It took six months for
her to land a job at the school
where she had received her
degree. At that time, Begun
decided to try to continue her
education and obtain a Ph.D.
"It was a very hard time,"
Begun recalls. "I had a child.
I had my job. And in the even-
ing, I had to go to the univer-
sity to continue my educa-
Begun says that seeking an
advanced degree in the Soviet
Union takes longer for Jews
than non-Jews. Looking at a
10-to-15 year stretch to com-
plete her doctorate, Begun
was discouraged.

"Instead of continuing, I
decided to leave Russia and
continue my education and to
start my life over from the
very beginning in the United
It took six months for
Begun and her family to get
out of the Soviet Union, and
while she says it is easier to
leave now than 10 years ago,
the impact on families is still
unpleasant. They were only
allowed to exchange 90 rubles

I love teaching music —
adults and children."
Annette Chajes, Jewish
Community Center music
director, is impressed with
Begun's credentials and per-
formance. Chajes says Begun,
seeking assistance in obtain-
ting a teaching position,
played for her shortly after ar-
riving in Detroit.
"I was impressed with her
and the fact that she could
play after having been depriv-
ed of a piano for a while. She
played with feeling and fine
interpretation," Chajes says.
Whether Russian or
American, Chajes concedes,
it's difficult for those trained
in the performing arts to find
appropriate jobs. It's not a
skill in great demand. Still,
Chajes says, she is trying to
line up opportunities for
Begun to give private piano
lessons at the Oak Park JCC.
The waiting is hard for
Begun. She shipped her piano
from Minsk, but to date it
hasn't arrived and may never.
To keep her skills sharp,
Begun can practice at Con-
gregation Beth Shalom. She
is hungry to improve her
already existing English
skills, in part because the bet-
ter she speaks English, the
easier it will be to teach in
English, a language she
thinks is melodic, though not
as melodic as Italian, which
she can also speak.
She is also making ad-
justments to American life —
as an emigre and single






Rochester Hills, To
Gillian (On Her 37th
Birthday), through March
17, admission, 375-1390.


Baldwin Theatre, Royal
Oak, The Nerd, through
March 18, admission,

Detroit, Peter Pan,

through March 4,
admission, 872-1000.


13103 Woodrow Wilson,
Detroit, Fences, through
March 18, admission,


Oakland University,
Rochester, The Great
Sebastians, through
March 25, admission.,


211 S. Woodward,
.Rornartce, Romance,
through March 18,
admission, 644-3533.



Detroit Institute of Arts,
Mystery Train, through
March 4, admission,



Players Club, 3321
Jefferson Avenue,
Detroit, How to Eat Like a
Child (and Other Lessons
in Not Being Grown-Up),
through May 6.


Alla Begun is partial to Russian composers.

each — equal to approximate-
ly $150. Most everything they
owned had to be left behind.
"My parents worked hard
all of their lives. They had
pensions in Russia. They lost
everything because we
wanted to come here."
While Begun emigrated to
the United States for
religious freedom, she also
sought to further her career,
especially the teaching aspect
of it.
"Basically, I am a teacher.

mother. Her ex-husband still
lives in the Soviet Union.
Begun has high hopes for
the future. One task she is
already tackling is adding
American composers to her
teaching repertoire, and
developing her knowledge of
American music,
The transition from being
Russian to being American is
difficult, but Begun says she
is up to the task.
"I know I made the right

Detroit Institute of Arts,
5200 Woodward, Gemini,
11 a.m. and 2 p.m. March
3, admission, 832-2730.


380 S. Bates Street,
Birmingham, magic
taught by Bernie Stevens,
admission, 644-5832.


Royal Oak, in the Daily
Tribune Building, Robert
Wuhl, through March 3,
admission, 542-9900.



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