Today we’re happy to introduce you to Sasha Korcyzinski! Sasha is a wife and mother expecting her 6th child, and she is also an incredibly talented professional musician (she’s played with bands like Foreigner and Transiberian Orchestra!).
In this interview, she’s sharing how she realized that making room for music and creativity has made her a better mother.
Hi Sasha! Thanks for sharing your story with us today. As the title of this interview suggests, you’re a professional violinist. How did you get there? When were you first introduced to the violin?
I was born in Athens, Greece to a Greek father and an Italian mother who decided they wanted all of their children (five of us eventually) to play string instruments. My maternal grandmother was a professional classical pianist, and her father had been a conductor, so music has been ingrained in us from the beginning.
When I was 5 years old, we moved to New York and my three older siblings and I grew up playing in a string quartet in addition to our solo studies.
When it was time to decide on a college, I couldn’t commit to a conservatory, so instead I went to Barnard College in Manhattan which was conveniently academically connected with both the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music — two of the best conservatories in the world.
I played in the Columbia University Orchestra, and during my freshman year, the orchestra put on a joint concert with the Manhattan School of Music, where my future husband had just started as a pianist. He was required to participate in the choir for a year, and I’m so glad he did, because that’s where our story begins.
During the rehearsals, and during the concert itself, we had our eyes locked across the room, goofy grins taking over our faces (this while playing and singing one of the most gorgeous pieces of music ever written, Brahms’ German Requiem).
We did not end up meeting after those days spent crammed in a room with 200 other students; we didn’t even learn each other’s names! It was 2002, prior to internet-sleuthing days, but we say it might have been for the best, because perhaps we weren’t ready at that point in our lives to be together as a couple.
Two years went by, and we never ran into each other, despite living just blocks away…but that changed one night when I was dragged to a Manhattan School of Music party by my Barnard friend. My eyes locked on a very familiar face, and my future husband, John, rushed up to me and we coyly said how we remembered each other (goofy smiles returned).
The best part was that we discovered we both attended the same church on 114th and Morningside Drive, and made our first official date for the next morning, to go to church! It is the same church where he proposed the next year, and where we got married the year after that.
During spiritually and emotionally tumultuous times, it’s so clear that God’s hand was leading us to be together.
We have five children now—Eliana (11), Raphael (9), Sebastian(7), Evangeline (5), Amalia (15 mos), and I’m due with another girl in May.
How have you changed since becoming a mother?
I’ll be honest, when my first daughter was born, I was only 22, and—dare I admit—selfish. I had a hard time adjusting to my new life. All my friends and family were moving on with careers, enjoyment and SLEEP, and I had just moved away from the city to the suburbs in New Jersey with my little family. And, I was probably dealing with what I now recognize to be mild postpartum depression.
By the time Raphael came along less than two years later, I had definitely fallen into more of a groove, though I still looked a little enviously on the lives of my freelancing musician friends and sister. I was too far removed from New York City and too tired and disoriented to participate in any musical activities, and that was probably an additional cause of the blues I felt at times.
But, with each child we welcomed, my heart expanded, my purpose expanded, I became softer, and I began to really explore what kind of mother I wanted to be, what example I wanted to set for my children, in what direction I wanted our family to be heading.
How did you get back into violin after having small children?
I began homeschooling in a homeschooling-unfriendly area, and we started thriving as a unit. I saw the bigger picture clearly, and I realized I didn’t have to neglect my own interests in order to raise a family, just that my family will always need to come first.
When something is off-balance, we all feel it. So I began practicing my violin again, started taking gigs within an hour radius, started giving concerts with my husband at the church where he served as music director, and eventually started taking auditions with my husband’s support.
And then one day I won an audition that entailed a move away from my husband’s hometown of his whole life down to Florida. My husband saw how much it would mean to my life, to OUR lives as a couple and as a family to try this new direction, and so he hopped fully on board.
He found another job as a music director in a nearby town and we moved away from both our families, which was such a hard decision in that sense, but clung to each other, clung to our faith and moved with our then four kids down south.
What values and qualities have you strived to cultivate in your marriage and family to stay sane and support one another through all of these transitions?
We are able to make this work because my husband and I strive to treat each other with respect, support each other emotionally, spiritually, physically at all times, especially when the other is weak, and we don’t keep track of our acts of service (something I definitely was not good at before! And I’m still working on it). Of course we fail at times, but we repeatedly ask for forgiveness.
When we moved down and I started working four nights a week, my husband stepped up and started cooking, cleaning, and just supporting our family life in such needed ways. We are blessed that usually our work schedules allow us to trade household duties nicely, only requiring a babysitter occasionally. We have learned to truly listen to the other person, putting aside our own agenda.
Making room for motherhood and a job outside the home at the same time can be a challenge, no matter how much you love both things! How are you making this work for you and your family?
What I didn’t realize was how much playing music was helping me become a better mother. When I started paying more attention to being creative in this way, I began to flourish in my role as a mom. It lifted any cloud I had in my head, and made me able to focus more on my children’s emotional needs.
Even just practicing for 20 minutes left me rejuvenated to be solely MOM for the rest of the day.
Some of my favorite moments as a musician and mother include playing a solo piece with an orchestra while 8 months pregnant with my 4th child, providing the music with my husband for a dear friend’s funeral, and playing my favorite childhood Disney songs in Disney World while watching children (and parents!) dance around.
Playing beautiful music with the best orchestras in Florida has been so rewarding. Also, I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to play concerts with fun bands like Foreigner and Trans Siberian Orchestra.
Looking back, it was a blessing in my life to be thrown into motherhood early and then left to figure out my career path after. We grew into it as a family, as our family grew. If I had started on my career first, who knows if I would’ve made the decision to “make room” for motherhood! While it was sometimes frustrating at the beginning, I am so happy with how things turned out.
For me personally, I need to know I met, or at least tried my hardest to meet, my children’s and husband’s needs before I feel comfortable going off to work, even if it is more than just a passion, but an income as well.
When I feel frenzied about getting my practicing in along with helping with science projects, cooking dinner, checking homework, chores, connecting with each person…when my frenzy makes me feel like screaming and running away, what works for me is putting my work last.
I breathe and take one task, one person, at a time, and any time that’s left over I use for my work prep.
If I go to work looking less put together than I’d like, oh well. Didn’t quite learn the music as well as I could’ve? Well, I left a happy family at home, so I’m at peace.
I make peace continually with the fact that nothing will be 100% perfect, but try to devote my best attention to family and home. Some rare days, the timing is perfect and I get everything done to a wonderful degree. Other days the kids eat burnt fish sticks and ice cream as I scurry out disheveled to work, running behind on life. One day at a time.
Do you have any advice for a young musician who is thinking about a future career in music?
Put in the practice now! Especially if you want to have a family, as a musician you won’t always have time to work on technique in those years, so put in that work now. It’s a regret of mine, taking off time from violin in my youth, because I feel sometimes I set myself to be behind where I could’ve been.
Stay friendly with other musicians, none of this competitive stuff. It’s true you get jobs through connections, so keep up your relationships. Explore different types of music from what you’re used to. There is so much out there, and it helps you grow as a musician to expand your musical tastes and your musical ear.
Always keep your love for music, don’t get dragged down by worries and insecurities and fear. Love of music is what makes people shine, not always the best technique (but of course, still work on technique too).