When Tatsiana Asheichyk's father asked her at dinner one night which instrument she wanted to play, the eager 5-year-old chose the piano.
Her father said that when she became a famous pianist, he would be there to carry her sheet music for her.
"He said, 'I will always follow you with your music,' " said Asheichyk, who grew up in Belarus, an Eastern European country on the border of Russia.
What: "On the Way to Carnegie Hall" performance
Who: Pianist Tatsiana Asheichyk and saxophonist Jenifer Knippel
When: 4 p.m. Saturday, March 15
Where: Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 87 Fourth St.
Suggestion donation: $10
But when Asheichyk was only 12, her father died, leaving her no choice but to quit school and the piano and begin working to support her mother.
She worked until she was 18, when her mother found a way to send Asheichyk back to school, and back to studying the piano.
"I had always wanted to go back," Asheichyk said.
She later graduated from high school, and went on to earn degrees from the School of Music in Minsk and Brest State College of Music, both in Belarus.
She was two years into studies at the Belarusian State Academy of Music when Alexander Tutunov, a world traveled pianist and a Southern Oregon University professor, found her.
Tutunov travels around the world as a piano instructor and received his doctoral diploma from the Belarusian State Academy.
Asheichyk said in 2010, Tutunov invited her to study with him at SOU.
"My mom was the first who supported me," said Asheichyk. "For my future, she said, I had to go."
Though none of her degrees or credits transferred to the United States, Asheichyk started over at SOU and is two terms away from earning her bachelor's degree in music performance.
Asheichyk said that because Belarus is a communist country, art and music aren't widely embraced, and she wouldn't have the opportunity to further her music there the way she could in America.
"Here I have found all this appreciation," she said. "I want to develop this, and share my gift with people."
Last year, Asheichyk won the American Protégé International Romantic Music Competition, earning her a chance to perform at Carnegie Hall. She will take the stage on March 29, performing alongside other musicians in a Winner's Recital.
"This trip to Carnegie Hall will be something special for me," said Asheichyk, who has yet to travel through most of the country.
Ashlander Daniel Murphy first saw Asheichyk perform in the fall during her senior recital at SOU, and was immediately drawn to her talent.
"I thought she was absolutely delightful," said Murphy. He said he'd attended many senior recitals at SOU and had never seen one with as large a turnout from the community as Asheichyk's.
"I've followed her piano career and she's a brilliant pianist," said Murphy, who has since developed a friendship with Asheichyk. "Objectively, she really is fabulous."
After she graduates from SOU this June, Asheichyk plans to pursue a master's degree and ultimately receive a doctoral degree in music. She also wants to teach.
"It's my dream to share not only my knowledge of music by becoming a teacher, but to bring people happiness and joy through performance," she said. "I want to develop this and share my gift with people. In my country, it's just not possible."
Asheichyk will perform a show to display her gratitude for the city of Ashland at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. There is a suggestion donation of $10 to help finance Asheichyk's trip to Carnegie Hall.
Asheichyk will play alongside SOU graduate and accomplished saxophonist Jenifer Knippel during the performance.
For more information about Asheichyk and the performance, see www.asheichyk.com.
Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.