Sound of jazz from U.S. was music to their ears

December 10, 1993|By Patrick Hickerson | Patrick Hickerson,Contributing Writer

After three years in the United States, Nicholas and Irina Zamoroko do not see any tarnish on their American dream.

They and their son, Igor, arrived here on Dec. 30, 1990, with just their suitcases after leaving Kiev for political reasons. In Kiev, Mr. Zamoroko played piano and did arrangements for the National Concert Orchestra of Ukraine and taught music at Kiev State College.

Earlier that year, Mr. Zamoroko had been awarded the title of National Artist of Ukraine. He left while studying for his doctorate.

Mrs. Zamoroko, a violinist, taught for 16 years in music schools and had performed for the Kiev Opera Company, the National Concert Orchestra of Ukraine and the National Conservatory of Ukraine, where she met her husband.

Despite ending their professional jobs for a dubious future, both had the confidence that they would be successful in America.

"I predicted it . . . in Russia," Mr. Zamoroko said. "In a month and a half, we had work."

"We feel we are newborn," said Mrs. Zamoroko.

In March, they moved from Pikesville to a two-story townhouse in a quiet Ellicott City neighborhood.

Now all three can claim success. Mr. Zamoroko still teaches music students and plays the piano for the enjoyment of others.

His next concert will be at 8 p.m. tomorrow for the Columbia Jewish Congregation's Hanukkah concert at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center.

His concert is divided into two parts. The first is made up of what Mr. Zamoroko considers the "golden part" of American music: Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers.

"Arturo Toscanini said that the real American folk music is the songs by George Gershwin," said Mr. Zamoroko.

The second part will involve classical arrangements of Jewish traditional music and Mr. Zamoroko's own arrangements.

Like many musicians, Mr. Zamoroko's workweek is divided among a few part-time jobs: Nordstrom's in Towson, where he plays the piano for shoppers; the Peabody Institute's Preparatory Department, where he is a pianist and concertmeister; and the couple's instructional studio in the basement of their home.

Above the upright piano in the studio is a print of Sergei Prokofiev, drawn by Henri Matisse. Asked about the significance of the picture, Mr. Zamoroko reacts like a Baltimore bartender taking the same query about a Johnny Unitas photograph.

"Because we love him," he said. "He is probably the most Russian composer."

"And we don't have another picture by Matisse," Mrs. Zamoroko said.

Mrs. Zamoroko teaches violin for the Baltimore Talent Educational Center and performs with orchestras in Lancaster and Harrisburg, Pa., and other ensembles. She also instructs students in violin and piano in the Zamorokos' studio.

Igor Zamoroko, 20, is a computer science student at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and works part-time for the National Bureau of Standards in Gaithersburg.

Thirty years ago, when Nicholas Zamoroko was a teen-ager in Ukraine, his thoughts started to turn to something different from classical music to an American export: jazz. His thirst for it was sated somewhat by the Voice of America.

"I was highly trained in classical music," Mr. Zamoroko said, citing 20 years of study. "But I fell in love with jazz."

Particularly influential was the broadcaster Willis Conover and his "Music USA" jazz program.

"It was a very good education -- informal, but very solid," Mr. Zamoroko said.

His earliest influences were swing and traditional jazz. "Easy to accept. Easy to understand," he said. "Later, my taste became more polished, Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Chick Corea."

He cut a solo jazz album seven years ago in the former Soviet Union, playing his own works and those by Western artists.

In March, Mr. Zamoroko made a trip to VOA's headquarters in Washington to thank Mr. Conover.

Mr. Zamoroko's jazz collection was one of the casualties of their emigration. Months before he left Ukraine, he mailed his classical LPs to the United States. Since his jazz collection was on tapes, the authorities did not allow them out of the country.

During the tenure of Nikita Khrushchev in the early 1960s, the Zamorokos indulged in American culture through reading many recently translated works, including such authors as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe.

"We were already with American culture," Mr. Zamoroko said.

How do they like the United States so far?

"In one word: We love it," he said.

Mr. Zamoroko will perform for the Hanukkah concert at the Columbia Jewish Congregation at 8 p.m. tomorrow at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia. Tickets are $7.50 and may be paid at the door. To reserve a seat call 730-6044.

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