Thousands of miles from home and family, two young musicians who have dedicated their lives to the study of music at UND say they are excited to perform with the Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra this weekend.

Violinist Olga Kossovich, 24, from Russia, and Anne Marques Catarin, 23, a pianist from Brazil, are featured soloists for the concert, set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, at the Masonic Center.

Kossovich and Catarin are first- and third-place winners, respectively, of the 2019 Young Artists Concerto Competition, sponsored by the Grand Forks Symphony.

They met their mentors, UND music faculty members, at music events in their native countries and chose to enroll at UND.

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Russian violinist

Kossovich, a native of Moscow, met Alejandro Drago, UND associate professor of music, at a music competition two years ago in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he was a jury member.

“He invited me to study in Grand Forks,” said Kossovice, who came here in 2018.

Kossovich has completed her bachelor’s degree in violin performance and is pursuing a master's degree in violin performance, under Drago’s tutelage.

“He is an amazing teacher,” she said. “He actually encouraged me to participate in the Young Artist Competition. He is an inspiration for me. I’ve developed my skills because of him.”

She also captured first place in the 2019 Bismarck Young Artist Competition earlier this year. But these awards are only the latest in a long list of winning performances at prestigious competitions in Russia and Paris.

Kossovich began playing violin at age 4, taking musical training in preparatory classes at the Moscow State Conservatory.

“For me, I knew that music was my life when I was 12 years old,” she said.

Her mother, who plays viola and teaches music, “really wanted me to go this way musically,” she said.

“It is really important for every musician to participate in competitions,” she said. “It really helps you to improve yourself -- the quality of your performance (ability) goes much higher -- even if you don’t win anything.”

After she completes her master’s degree at UND, Kossovich said plans to pursue a doctoral degree and a career as a soloist, but she is uncertain where she’ll study.

She hopes to continue to perform as a soloist in concerts with orchestras, she said.

“It’s a really important experience for the future," said Kossovich, adding she hopes to stay in the U.S. where opportunities to pursue a performance career are much greater than in her homeland.

She also envisions herself in much the same role as Drago, her mentor at UND.

“I am really interested in pedagogy, too. I hope to teach at the university level," she said.

Brazilian pianist

Catarin, who came to Grand Forks from Curitiba, Brazil, in 2017, recently completed her master’s degree, majoring in piano performance, as a student of Nariaki Sugiura, associate professor at UND.

“I really had no idea what to expect,” Catarin said of North Dakota. “I knew Dr. Sugiura was here. And I knew he was a great teacher.”

Catarin, who recently began her doctoral studies in music education, often travels to other countries -- such as in Europe and Asia -- to perform in concert, which is how she met Sugiura.

“As a musician, your mentor is such an important figure. You want to be with someone who not only plays well and teaches well, but also is a nice person, because you are so far from home and he guides us," she said. “He has so much experience and is such a nice person, and he has played all over the world.”

In her music career to date, Catarin has received many prizes in solo competitions in Brazil and North Dakota. She has been active both as a solo and collaborative pianist in the U.S., Japan and Brazil and has participated in several renowned Brazilian music festivals.

Participating in competitions “tells people that you’re able to focus and work hard, that you have the willpower to keep going and keep striving for the best,” she said.

In addition to her solo playing, Catarin participates in several chamber ensembles, collaborating with a variety of instruments and settings. In the future, she hopes her career emulates Sugiura’s.

“He has the kind of job and the kind of mindset I want to achieve as a musician and a professional," she said. “I want to have a job just like Dr. Sugiura. I want to be able to teach university-level students and perform not only in the United States and Brazil, but also in other countries.”

She also plans to incorporate wellness into her teaching.

“I am very interested in figuring out ways to introduce students to wellness and self-awareness, because I believe music is a mirror of our inner world,” she said. “You can express so many things with music. I believe you are able to be a better musician if you really know yourself, if you have confidence in what you’re doing and you feel good about yourself, mentally, emotionally, physically, everything. It’s such a big influence.”

She is well on her way to becoming a teacher and performer, and pursuing a passion to “help people find themselves and express themselves through music,” she said.

If you go

What: Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra concert, “The Music of Poland and America”

Who: Featured soloists Olga Kossovich, violin, and Anne Marquez Catarin, 2019 Young Artist Concerto Competition college winners

When: 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8

Where: Grand Forks Masonic Center, 423 Bruce Ave.

Admission: Adults, $25; senior (65 and older), $20; student and military, $15; and child (15 and younger), $5. For more information, visit www.ggfso.org/tickets.