Meet Valentina

Our cellist, Valentina Takova shares her story. Valentina at The Chapel

I am from Sofia, Bulgaria. My childhood experience was very different than that of the kids here in the U.S., but I like where I come from and I think I turned out OK. I started playing the cello when I was six years old, but actually my big dream was to play the violin, because my older brother, my first cousin and my aunt played the violin. So naturally, I expected to play the violin. I could not wait to start.

Well, during communism you couldn't really choose what you want to do, and the Dean of the Sofia Music School had other plans for me. Getting in to the  school was very competitive at the time and of course, he had to make sure that all the kids of famous people got in. So even though the audition process was "official", there was quite a bit going on behind the scenes (many of the violin positions were already filled!). He counted the open violin spots, and then he counted the kids that he "had" to accept and realizing all the violin spots were taken, assigned me the cello. Major drama ensued in our house:  my dad showed up at home with a cello in a plastic bag, I ran away from him and cried…and cried….I was supposed to play the violin…my life was over…my world was falling apart! This lasted a few days. Once the initial shock was over I got used to playing the cello, and I am so glad it turned out this way. Violin players have very hard parts with so many notes! We cello players have to keep it together in the foundation of the group, but we get to play the most beautiful and heartbreaking melodies. With so much amazingly beautiful music written for the cello, I cannot complain!

My musical training was very strict and growing up in a music school we had lots of extra subjects like music theory, music history, solfege, harmony, acoustics (and more that I can't even remember) and of course I had cello lessons twice a week, chamber music and orchestra. I did not do much sports and most of the time while my friends were playing on the street, always whistling under my window to come out and play, I had to stay home and practice.

But now I am thankful. Because of my cello I was able to leave Bulgaria at the most difficult period, the late 1990s, get full scholarships in every school I attended, travel the world and live a life with beautiful music every day. I was able to escape the impossible task of finding a job in a post-Communist country where nothing was working right. Here in the United States I can (as Dana says) "Do what I love", and have a life that would be impossible in my country. I love Bulgaria and I miss it every day, but I know that my cello saved me and I am grateful every day.