The Road to Success Full of Obstacles | Interview with Ketevan Kartvelishvili

“Triumph is followed by progress, which, in turn, gives way to the dawn of a new era and new audience. This is when you must reach a new level of self-confidence – that is the main achievement in and of itself. Sometimes it takes years, a lot of hard work and dedication, especially for a pianist, but I find the work process fascinating; discovering new details fills me with newfound vigor each time. Music and the stage make me forget all my problems. Establishing a connection with the audience is quickly followed by feelings and emotions that are simply indescribable and irreplaceable.

I linked my future with these feelings from an early age: each time I came across a grand piano, I would try to sit down and play something.

I remember when I was applying for Music School N8: once the exam was completed, I asked the jury if I could play on the grand piano. They were flabbergasted, I was so small that they could not even imagine that I would be able to play. They agreed and so I sat down at the grand piano, full of excitement. This made a great impression on them and it is one of the first, most vivid memories associated with music that I hold very dear to my heart. It reminds me of success and never fails to rekindle the special love I have for my work,” – says the pianist Ketevan Kartvelishvili.

Photo Credits: Jovanka Novakovic

How difficult is it to make it in your industry and what were the challenges you faced when launching your career?

It really is rather difficult to make it in the music industry. This field proves to be quite challenging, requiring a lot of talent, hard work and willpower along with luck and being at the right place at the right time. I have experienced several financial hurdles. There have been times when the studying environment in the US was not as comfortable. All of this has certainly set me back to some extent. Luckily, I happened to win several competitions which have significantly improved my financial circumstances. American sponsors/patrons became interested in what I did and they have provided financial aid during critical times.

How has the U.S. changed your career?

The U.S. is a big country with big opportunities. You can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do. Talent, professionalism and hard work are appreciated. I have always wanted to lead my professional life there. Moreover, my professor, world-renowned pianist Mr. Lekso Toradze taught at Indiana University here in the U.S., and that was one of the main reasons for my coming here. I have always wanted to work with a pianist of his caliber. I was lucky enough to have received the full scholarship back in 2009 from Indiana University and traveled to the United States. This country has completely changed my career. It was in the U.S. that I achieved what was almost impossible in Georgia due to various reasons.

In retrospect, how would you evaluate the period of your studies in Georgia?

When I was studying in Georgia, there was quite a strong competition among the young pianists. I maintained close friendships with a lot of talented people, which is very important and necessary.

I am glad that during my studies in Georgia I had the opportunity to learn from the best: Eter Gunia at the Music School N8, Rusudan Begishvili at Tbilisi Zakaria Paliashvili Central Music School, and Tengiz Amirejibi at Tbilisi State Conservatory.

While in Georgia, I had numerous performances both as a solo act and with symphony orchestras. I participated in several international competitions across Europe.

Tell us about your achievements and wins at the international competitions.

I have won numerous awards at various international competitions across the United States. I have graduated with the Artist and Performer Diplomas from Indiana University. Moreover, I have performed in various American cities and states, in concert halls and venues such as Carnegie Hall NY, Benaroya Hall WA, both as a solo act and with symphony orchestras.

Photo Credits: Jovanka Novakovic

I have had numerous solo concerts in Chicago. I have also performed at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, concerts at Nichols Hall, PianoForte Foundation. I have recorded several compact discs.

What do you learn from these achievements and how do they change you?

Each win makes me realize how far ahead I still have to go and how vast this industry can be. After each win, I get an even bigger motivation to make more progress, develop as a musician, a pianist. It pushes me to discover even more fascinating aspects the field has to offer.

What does your work process look like?

The work process is quite tiring, though extremely interesting for me. I find it incredibly fascinating and enjoyable to see how the pieces develop and improve on a daily basis, the many phases they go through during these works. I often perform the pieces at the rehearsals as if I am actually playing at a concert. That is one of the most enjoyable moments for me.

When left playing all by yourself, what are the emotions and feelings that take over you?

It largely depends on what I play, or what my mood is. My feelings and emotions change accordingly. I often get nostalgic feelings or memories from various periods of my life. Generally, I tend to be quite self-critical. I am often dissatisfied with my work results. There have been times when I seem to go back to prior phases multiple times before I reach my goals. The process can be endless.

What are your future goals and plans?

Unfortunately, the pandemic has adversely affected my plans. A lot of things have been delayed or cancelled altogether. I would prefer to call them desires: I wish to further develop my concert career. I would like to support people who have no means of self-realization. I also plan to hold a series of concerts in different cities across Georgia.

What would your advice be for young people who wish to become successful in the music industry? What should they consider?

My advice to them would be to remain fearless in the face of obstacles and difficulties that may come their way; those are by no means the end of the world. You should fight until the very end, even in times of despair. Try to avoid negative comments as much as possible. This can hinder young person’s self-realization, development and formation. You should try your best to choose the right teacher, the pianist with whom you will work in the future. You must always believe in yourself and your abilities. You should work on yourself and demand as much of yourself as you can. If possible, ensuring financial security is advisable.

What are the challenges that women face today?

The fact that men have had a lot more advantages compared to women is and has always been a problem. Previous centuries have been a lot harder and many women have been put in vulnerable positions because of it. Women have been prevented from achieving success using their talents and abilities. The situation at hand definitely needs to be changed and women should be given the opportunity to show what they are capable of.

Photo Credits: Jovanka Novakovic

How can women empower each other?

We must stand up for and encourage each other, share positive emotions. We must remember that many difficult problems can be solved by support from one another.

What is one thing that women should always remember?

Women can do anything if they want it bad enough. We have to realize what we want and how we want to live our lives. We should never make a decision that is acceptable according to the general criteria but doesn’t sit well with our own selves. Every decision must be based on our desires and abilities, otherwise, we might have to spend our entire lives being delusional.

What would you tell young girls who doubt their abilities?

I would tell them that if they put in enough hard work in what they do, they are sure to succeed. You may encounter numerous obstacles along the way, but without them success is nearly impossible. Such obstacles are a part of the journey towards success. You need to find the strength within you and forge ahead. Nothing is impossible when choosing the right path for you to flourish.