Irina Brouhard was born in the southern Ural Mountains of Central Russia. She began playing the piano at the age of 7. She attended Magnitogorsk College of Music graduating Suma Cum Laude and was one of only 20 accepted at Novosibirsk Conservatory of Music. After graduation, Irina went to the Armenian University as Concert Master for the Choral Department. In 1998, Irina accepted a position at the Magnitogorsk Ballet and Opera Theater as a Concertmaster but quickly rose to the position of Artistic Director. Irina also was Concertmaster at Magnitogorsk Conservatory of Music, a member of the Philharmonic Society of both Magnitogorsk and Chelyabinsk, and performed all over the Ural region and Siberia, Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In 2010, Irina moved to Kansas City and married.
She began to learn English at Longview Community College. One evening, she and her husband were planning to enjoy a holiday concert at a local church, but the musicians were no shows. Irina’s husband told the organizers that his wife could play. So, Irina played the music she knew by heart and the crowd applauded appreciatively. And again, music was part of her life.
She was asked to create additional piano programs over the next year or two including one about Russian Christmas—which she did. The Russian Christmas program received the attention of a reporter from the Lee’s Summit Journal.
After that, she took on piano students, which she enjoyed. But, then she heard of an opportunity to play
piano for ballet classes. She thought: “What if I play for ballet?” She had always been interested in ballet music but she’d never played for ballet before. She got the job and has never looked back. In fact, she’s flourished—recently earning a promotion after two years from a Pianist to Music Coordinator and Pianist. She now assists Kansas City Ballet Music Director Ramona Pansegrau with scheduling all accompanists for Kansas City Ballet School classes, Kansas City Ballet Company classes and rehearsals, and more.
“My duties as Music Coordinator and Pianist are to play for class and for company rehearsals, to make books of music by class category for pianists to use to play for any class—adding other genres like pas de deux, lower school, all Giselle music for class, etc., and translating Russian ballets into English so we can use them for class,” she says.
Irina also is creating collections of ballet music that will make life easier for these accompanists. “First, I made a big book of music for Russian Character class. I put together one book for each campus and soon there will be more versions for other classes as well,” she says. These collections will help any one of the pianists be able to play for class or sub for any class.
Every pianist has different qualifications. Some are more comfortable playing for younger students and some tend to find their strength with more complex music for more advanced classes. But with access to this incredible new tool, a book of ballet music pre-selected by genre and class type, every pianist has an opportunity to grow their own musical education as well.
“I believe ballet class is an education for your body and your mind—it’s also music education. We want to impress upon the students the joy of music so that it helps them dance with emotion. We work together with teachers so that they learn technique as well as musical appreciation,” says Irina.
After all, Irina says, “If you play with your soul, it helps kids to dance with their emotions.”
And that just makes all the hard work worth it in the end.