When Angela Oyzboyd started the European School of Music and Chess Aug. 28, 1993, she had little money but took a risk to fulfill a huge dream.
Next week the Sandy Springs school is celebrating its 25th anniversary.
“It was my biggest dream, coming to a free country to create a music school the way I had envisioned it,” said Oyzboyd, who grew up in Eastern Europe. “No one told me how to do it. It was my vision and freedom, and my desire to bring to Atlanta the unique techniques that I mastered after many years of training with some of the best piano professors in Eastern Europe. Nothing like this existed in Atlanta. I wanted to create a place for learning music, where children and adults could learn how to play in the right way, without suffering the repetition of playing a bunch of scales, learning how to feel the music and make a beautiful sound and at the same time enjoying the learning process.
“I wanted to give students the opportunity to develop their inborn abilities to their full potential even if they don’t have a noticeable music talent by adjusting to their capabilities and desires. To carry out the treasure of classical music, enriching people’s lives with its spiritual wealth. To give to the next generation what I got from my teachers, so that treasure will continue to live.”
Oyzboyd said music is the only thing that benefits both the intuitive and logical sides of the brain, “so it contributes to the educational development of the child.” She added Albert Einstein proved her theory by playing the violin from age 6 to his death.
“My discovery of the theory of relativity was the result of musical perception,” Einstein said.
The school started with just two teachers – Oyzboyd and her mother, Lyudmila – and grew to 12 teachers in the decade. The school also gave private music lessons at Jackson, Garden Hills and Barnwell elementary schools in Buckhead and Johns Creek.
The school, which was located on East Shadowlawn Road in Buckhead during its first five years, moved to a larger facility, including an acoustically designed recital hall, on Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, where it still sits. It opened with a large concert two days after Oyzboyd’s birthday and two years after she moved to America.
“I established a place of art where kids could learn to combine that classical music heritage with American culture,” she said. “(Learning these classical techniques enable people to play any kind of music, including popular music and jazz, and to even play it better.) … Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to do it.”
Oyzboyd said seeing the school turn 25 is “highly rewarding because the school is my heart and my child.”
“And it’s especially rewarding to see the accomplishments and successes of our students, to see them 15 years after they graduated, to see what they accomplished in life, including three highly successful musicians,” she said, adding she’s equally proud of the graduates who took up non-musical professsions.
Judging by her former students, in messages posted to the school’s website (unless otherwise noted), she has certainly accomplished her mission.
“The (school) played an integral role in my development as a musician. I would not be where I am today without their teaching, mentorship and patience,” said graduate Drew Silverstein, a Hollywood composer of several films’ music and co-founder and CEO of Amper Music.
Graduate Benjamin Warsaw, PhD., a classical pianist, composer and professor of music (piano) at Georgia Southern University’s Savannah campus (formerly Armstrong Atlantic State University), said, “The (school) helped shape the musician that I am today. From my studies at the school I learned how to develop my own individual voice at the piano and was offered a unique approach to music and art. The techniques and methods I acquired prepared me for my journey as a pianist in the professional music world.”
Graduate Christina Theodoris, MD, PhD., a pediatrician at Boston Children Hospital, added, “The school taught me about the meaning behind each song, the emotions in it, not just the notes … everything that I’ve learned at the school will stay with me forever.”
Daniel Cohen, who graduated from the school in 2012, the same year he graduated from Riverwood International Charter School, is 25 and works as an analyst with Angel Oak Capital Advisors, an Atlanta financial investment firm. Cohen, who started attending the music school when he was 5, said in an interview it’s had a huge impact on his life.
“I played piano all the time,” he said. “I have a keyboard in my room. It’s multipronged impact. The skill I still use. I used to play in a band. In high school I took AP music theory and IB music, which are both college-level classes. If I were a music major in college, those courses would have counted as credit. It really gave me a leg up in those courses on other students because the school focuses a lot on music theory.
“It helped me in my schoolwork in that aspect. Another would be my passion and appreciation for classical music. There’s not a lot of 25-hyearod kids who listen to Chopin and Beethoven in their spare time, but I do because I enjoy it and because I studied them.”
In an interview, Cohen’s father, Michael, said going to the music school helped in numerous ways.
“I think it helped him with his school work, especially his math,” he said. “Also, when he got to play at (his regular school), it helped with his self-esteem. … Overall, it was a really good experience for his whole family. Learning to play an instrument like that is a lifetime experience. Hearing him learn to play, I’m really glad I did it.”
Oyzboyd thanked her teachers, some of which have been there for 22 or 23 years, for their “dedication and passion.” The school, which offers classes for children as young as 5, plans to offer private music appreciation lessons for children as young as 4 and a new program that will include mothers and toddlers in a sing-a-long.
The school is celebrating its anniversary with a special discounted enrollment package and will perform Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. at the Sandy Springs Festival’s Cultural Corner. In addition, Oyzboyd said she hopes the school can do more public concerts like the one it performed in June at Chastain Park. Chastain has a piano provided by Play Me Again Pianos, a nonprofit that donates pianos for public use.
Also, in partnership with the Southeast Nature Society, the school will host an event on music and nature to show the connection between the two, with a student who is a big nature enthusiast, Nov. 4 at 4:30 pm. It will include an educational talk about nature and nature-inspired composers as well as performances of their pieces by our students and teachers. Free and open to the public.
The school is also starting a new program with a student music club to meet weekly to play together popular music in an ensemble band format, and is inviting students to join.