The Heroine’s Journey of Sandra Stojanovic

WHAT IS THE THING THAT I LOVE ABOUT MY WORK? Surely it is the feeling of curiosity which brings us back to what we were like when we were children. It stimulates us in a continuous search, observation and wonder. When we are surprised or fascinated by something, when we can cry, and laugh while reading a new piece of music or even hearing music that touches our soul. The same is true when we play with others in perfect harmony. All these things come about when we are in contact with our true self, with our essence and with the divine that resides in us; we are free, joyful and creative. We are in a state of bliss like children playing with a universe full of music.
WHAT IS MY IDEA OF PERFECT HAPPINESS? My idea would be to have a balance between my professional, private and spiritual life. I think it is very important to nourish different parts of my personality; one important aspect for me is my need to travel. Another is my need to communicate creatively with others through concerts. Then it is important for me to work with my students because it is a source of great exchange and enrichment. I also need a peaceful life with my partner and with my friends; a peace that comes from taking care of the house, plants, animals and preparing healthy food. Finally, the most important aspect for me is a continuous work on myself and a spiritual search. WHAT IS MY GREATEST FEAR? My biggest fear is losing control of myself and not having any bearings in the world. The thought of waking up one day without knowing who I am is something that scares me even more.
WHICH OF MY TRAITS DO I DISLIKE THE MOST? I tend to be very critical of myself and, consequently, I am a bit of a perfectionist. For this reason, I often become tense and anxious, and want to control everything around me.
WHO ARE THE PEOPLE IN MY PROFESSION THAT I MOST ADMIRE? I admire artists with a strong personality, morals principals and ideals, who do not follow the fickle fashions and trends of the present time. I appreciate those artists who do not accept compromise and who faithfully follow their artistic calling. True artists in this field aren’t in it for themselves but do it because they have a vocation and are inspired. They simply become instruments of something greater, which guides them and puts them in constant contact with the Source of Creation. One of these artists is undoubtedly my former teacher, the great pianist Grigory Sokolov
WHAT IS MY GREATEST EXTRAVAGANCE? I’ve indulged in many! But, among the funniest, I remember the time I took a trip to Geneva to eat my favourite cake, and then took a flight to New York the next day. Returning to Italy for concerts in three different locations, I suddenly had the desire to  have a coffee at Caffè Florian in Venice, contemplating the domes of Saint Mark’s Cathedral and the marvellous sunset of the Venetian lagoon. Nice memories! But I’ve never stopped! My journey continues.
IN WHICH SITUATION WOULD I LIE? I generally use lies in small everyday situations and in situations where I want to avoid long explanations. Sometimes I forget that I’ve lied; when people notice it, they sometimes point it out to me in a funny way. I try to get out of that situation by acting in a nonchalant way.
WHAT IS THE THING THAT I DISLIKE THE MOST IN MY WORK? To start, I have to say that the bond between music and me is sacred and separate from any relationships I have with colleagues. Music is my calling and therefore everything to do with it excites me. There are, however, several things about the business side of music that I dislike. The first is how some people will cheapen their musical vocation by reducing music to business transactions and favours. The second is the fact that there are those musicians whose lack of personal ethics means that they can pretend to be true artists in the field, even though they don’t do the hard work to honestly advance their musical abilities or the art form. Unfortunately, nowadays, this is often the situation. Such people are mediocre musicians who travel the world thanks to their networking skills rather than their artistic merits. Many highly-valued musicians that have chosen an uncompromising road by following their own personal values are less successful (in getting work).
WHEN AND WHERE HAVE I BEEN THE HAPPIEST IN MY WORK? I have a precise recollection: in April 2006, I received an invitation from the Spiritual Master Sri Chinmoy to take part in his celebrations, which are organized three times a year in New York City. I do not remember ever having an emotion stronger than this in all my life. I played as part of a duo with an exceptional American cellist and dear friend, Scott Terzaghi. We were in a hall with the Master sitting in the front row and behind him were sitting the Master’s disciples. The whole audience was in a sacred silence and in deep meditation. This concert was a turning point in my life as a musician and gave me a new vision of how to interpret music. The feelings of total freedom, lightness, absence of ego and immense joy that I got from that performance will remain in my heart forever.
IF I COULD, WHAT WOULD I CHANGE ABOUT MYSELF? I am convinced that everything can be changed or better stated; everything can be transformed. There are two concepts in particular on which I am working to develop and improve myself.
First, I am working on changing the notion that my success as an instrumentalist is
based on audience affirmation. I don’t want to have that kind of addiction which
comes from depending on the reactions of others in order to know my own self-worth.
The second is to do with moving on from the past, especially as regards past traumas, past pains and negative experiences in order to reach my full potential.
WHAT IS MY GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT IN WORK? I was called a “child prodigy” and, as such, I spent my childhood surrounded by the expectations and the praise of others, in the midst of the great circus that is the musical world. I worked hard to free myself from this situation and to affirm my individual identity as a musician. I have fought hard to be what I am today and this is my greatest achievement. I am an artist who lives her experience without compromise, without pretence and without the need to advertise my true calling. I am a spiritual being and music is my mission. Every day I get to share this wonder with others and I get to bring harmony to my little part of the world.
WHERE WOULD I MOST LIKE TO LIVE? I love big cities. They are full of various artistic movements: they have a lot of theatres, cinemas and a flourishing musical life. I like the feeling of being able to stay anonymous and, at the same time, be known and accepted. Undoubtedly, the cities where I would love to live are New York, San Francisco and Berlin.
WHAT IS MY MOST TREASURED POSSESSION? My upright piano, which I got in Catania in 1992, is a treasured possession. It is now completely out of tune as a result of changing cities and houses over the years. Despite that, I am madly in love with it: it is always with me and has become almost like a partner, a friend and a child for me. It has been a witness to my past: my joys, my sorrows, my transformations, my successes and my failures. It has been my faithful companion, always present and always available to welcome me, my rock in a sea of change.
WHAT IS MY MOST MARKED CHARACTERISTIC? I carry in my heart an incessant aspiration for spiritual progress, which I consider my most notable characteristic. I live for the evolution of the soul and in this cosmic game, music has been a great catalyst. It is one of the most elusive and inexplicable life forces but at the same time it brings me closer to the Divine.
WHAT IS MY MOST INSPIRATIONAL LOCATION IN MY CITY? I have lived in different cities of the world and among them all Catania is where I feel most at home. It is a city close to the foot of the largest volcano in Europe: Mount Etna. Every time I reach the top of this giant of fire and lava, I am aware of the perfect harmony between the elements of fire and water. Above there’s the snow on the top of the mountain and below is Catania and the sun on the Ionian Sea; the experience is a harmonic mix, from high to low, from sky to sea. This reflects the union in my zodiacal sign, Aries, and my ascendant, Cancer.
WHAT IS MY FAVORITE PLACE TO EAT AND DRINK IN MY CITY? As mentioned above, I consider Catania my home. My favourite restaurant is called Cutilisci, hidden in the small port of San Giovanni Li Cuti, on the volcanic black rocks facing the sea. There are dishes for all tastes and they use organic foods that create interesting combinations. One can also find very fine Sicilian wines and fabulous desserts, such as the dark chocolate cake with a warm heart, accompanied by a scoop of Bronte pistachio ice cream; it is a real treat.
WHAT BOOKS INFLUENCED MY LIFE AND HOW? There are three books that have profoundly influenced me. The first is Das Parfum by Patrick Süskind. It is the story of a person sensitive to animal smells who searches for an aesthetic ideal in the realm of the olfactory. This individual also has a profound need to be seen and loved. In the end, the protagonist is willing to sacrifice everything and even murder young women, for his aesthetic ideal. The second is Die Klavierspielerin by Elfriede Jelinek, who focuses on the complex relationship between a mother and her pianist daughter. The story is set in a politically and hypocritically poetic Vienna. The book deals with themes such as pornography, the repression of a castrating education and the borders between “legitimate” and “illicit” love affairs. Finally, there is the book by Vikram Seth An Equal Music, which deals with a love story between two musicians who meet after many years. I think every musician should read it. The plot of the book is incredibly similar to a story that really happened to me in my life. All three books have made a polyphony between writing and my real life, and have helped me to analyse and better understand certain relationships and certain situations in my life.
WHO ARE MY FAVORITE WRITERS? In terms of classic literature, I love Boris Pasternak, Fedor Dostoevsky, Thomas Mann, Elfriede Jelinek and Marguerite Yourcenar. As regards spiritual literature, I love Krishnamurti, Sri Cinmoy, Echart Tolle, Salvatore Brizzi and James Hillman. In the thriller genre, I am a lover of books by Jo Nesbø, Kathy Reichs, Wulf Dorn and Michael Connelly.
YOU ONLY DIE ONCE. WHAT MUSIC WOULD I LISTEN TO ON MY LAST DAY? I would listen to “Requiem” by W.A.Mozart.
DO I HAVE A HERO OR HEROINE IN FICTION? Yes, it is Liza Minnelli in the role of Sally Bowles in the film Cabaret by Bob Fosse.
WHO ARE MY HEROES AND HEROINES IN REAL LIFE? If we are talking about male artists, I love: Itzhak Perlman, Grigoriy Sokolov, Nemanja Radulovic, Ryuichi, Sakamoto, Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould, Ravi Shankar, Yehudi Menuhin, Charlie Chaplin and Emir Kusturica. If we are talking about female artists, I love: Jacqueline Du Pré, Billie Holiday, Ute Lemper, Mia Martini, Lara Fabian and Gabriela Montero.
In terms of spiritual leaders, my heroes are: Sri Chinmoy, Gandhi and Mother Teresa
of Calcutta. In the area of journalism and medicine, my heroes are Fulvio Grimaldi and Gino Strada.
IN THEIR LIFETIME? In my opinion, there are eight movies that a person should see at least once in his/her life:
The Last Emperor by Bernardo Bertolucci,
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover by Peter Greenaway,
Fanny and Alexander by Ingmar Bergman,
Underground by Emir Kusturica,
Cabaret by Bob Fosse,
The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino,
Dogville by Lars Von Trier,
and finally, the wonderful film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring” by Kim KiDuk.
WHAT ROLE DOES ART PLAY IN MY LIFE? Art is an integral part of my life, of my being and of who I am. I’m an artist when I shop, when I go to eat at a restaurant, when I choose clothes, when I speak and when I love. I communicate through my music when I play and when I teach. I am a part of the art and art is my way of being.
WHO IS MY GREATEST FAN, SPONSOR AND “PARTNER IN CRIME”? I have two friends and “guardian angels” in my life who I am immensely grateful to. They are Vladan Obradovic, a cinematographer from Belgrade, and Giovanni Miraglia, a librarian at the State Archives of Catania and also a poet, translator and organizer of cultural events. They are two loyal friends who are always present in my life and in my art. In the dark times of my life, they have always protected and supported me. In good times, we have collaborated, designed and exchanged views on different projects. I know that I can count on them, at any moment in my life, no matter where we are in the world. I know that they will always support my ideas, and, if not, we will have a creative discussion about our different points of view, which inevitably leads to something new. I love and value these two friends more than anything in the world.
WHO WOULD I LIKE TO WORK WITH IN 2019? In 2019, I would love to have the great pleasure to work with my favourite cellist Scott Terzaghi and with the special violinist Vittorio Passerini. A part from them, I would like to continue my collaborative work in the area of dance. I hope to work with my colleague and friend, the dancer and choreographer Laura Zago. I have never had such a strong need as I do now to form a group of people with similar thoughts on related art and work with one voice and the energy that comes from that. This brings with it a joy in the exchange of ideas. Musicians, dancers, actors and poets all together in perfect harmony.
WHICH PEOPLE IN MY PROFESSION WOULD I LOVE TO MEET IN 2019? 2017 and 2018 have been very difficult years for me because of health problems. The diagnosis of breast cancer followed by surgery and 7 months of intensive treatment has been a tough experience. The disease has been my greatest teacher and has brought more insight and clarity to my life. It has reminded me that we should not compromise and stay in a workplace where we are not appreciated, with people who are negative and bring little energy to the environment, and where destructive competitiveness reigns. It made me realize who my true friends are and gave me the ability to recognize the people I have to walk away from. It made me understand the value of every moment, and how quickly our lives can change. The disease has taught me that stress is one of the main causes of sickness and that it must be avoided. It made me understand the importance of forgiveness and gratitude. It brought back love to my heart, making me understand that I always have to move in the areas of high positive energy. I want to meet new people and work with artists similar to me, with the same vision and the same enthusiasm. With joy artists become aware of being “channels” of art and can anticipate the times. In such a way, they contribute to the evolution of the spirit,through their life in art.
WHICH PROJECT IN 2019 AM I LOOKING FORWARD TO WORKING ON? In these very difficult years 2017 and 2018, I have been surrounded by love and attention. During my treatment, I daily observed the people in the hospital. I saw their fear and despair, their need to be encouraged and sustained and above all the need to be able to change their mindset. During that period, my mind was clear and I felt my artistic mission. I am committed to bringing music to the intensive care unit, to the chemotherapy and radiotherapy waiting rooms and to the rooms where the chemotherapy infusion is done. I want to perform music that has the power to transform our thoughts and our emotions in places of pain and desperation. I believe that music can influence us even at the physical level of the cells of our bodies. The association of volunteers Anvolt of Trento, which were very close to me during my illness, decided with their president Elisa Zeni, to organize several concerts, which are aimed at raising funds for all their highly beneficial activities. Together, we are endeavouring to bring love, light and hope to all the suffering people through music, as a catalyst and positive influence towards the healthy functioning of one’s organism. Music takes care of our souls and relieves the pain of the body. I have received so much love and I want to share that with others.      WHERE CAN YOU SEE ME OR MY WORK IN 2019? You can find me in hospitals, prisons or nursing homes; I will also be touring with concerts in historic places full of art and I will be involved in women ‘s projects, in missionary projects and with the teaching of music outside Europe. I will begin this new period of my life in art, with a concert in the waiting room of the Oncological Department of Santa Chiara Hospital in Trento. The concert took place in collaboration with the Anvolt Association, on December 21st 2018, as the first in a series of events in which I will include guest musicians and dancers who I have chosen with care and heart. I have a lot of experience performing in various places
around the world. I have performed in concert halls; I have performed in competitions and at conferences, as well as on radio and television. Today, I want to pay a tribute to life with all my being, power of love and with the feeling that we are all one and that we can help and support each other. What better way to demonstrate this miracle than through music and art?
WHAT DOES THE PHRASE “PASSION NEVER RETIRES” MEAN FOR ME? Passion is my guide, my lighthouse in the dark on rough seas. Passion gives me motivation, increases my creativity, makes me do difficult and sometimes impossible things and leads me to obtain excellent results. Without passion there is no life, creativity and love. Passion resides in the heart and that beautiful heart is the main drive in my life.
I recommend Laura Zago who is a dancer, choreographer and a friend of mine.
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