Posts tagged “palm beach illustrated

There’s Something About Lola

Posted on November 5, 2013

Photo: Michael Price

Photo: Michael Price

I profiled Russian-American piano virtuoso Lola Astanova for the November issue of Palm Beach Illustrated. By age 8, Astanova was giving performances alone and with orchestras throughout Europe. By age 13, she was featured in a UNESCO documentary about twentieth-century child prodigies. But her childhood was normal, she says, adding that she even played with friends and Barbie dolls.

Now, Astanova is bringing classical music to a new generation of listeners, thanks in no small part to her penchant for hard work and her social media savvy. She became a YouTube sensation (1.5 million page views and counting) after she infused Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop the Music” with a heavy dose of Rachmaninoff-style drama. She has also graced some of the world’s great concert venues, among them Carnegie Hall in New York City. Next week, she’ll perform in Charleston, West Virginia with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

You can find my story about Astanova here, or on newsstands in South Florida. In the meantime, here are a few highlights from our interview:

* Astanova’s mother was a piano teacher and didn’t want her child to pursue a musical career because it was too difficult.
* She studied at the V. Uspensky Specialized School of Music for Gifted Children and enjoyed the competition and rigor that came with learning at such an elite school. To this day, she says “I’m very critical of myself and wish I could change that, but I don’t think I can so it doesn’t make life easier for me.”
* Having said that, it’s worth noting Lola loves reading the philosophical works of Arthur Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer wrote that the world was driven by a continually dissatisfied will and was always seeking satisfaction, a belief that must speak to the perfectionist Astanova.
* Astanova moved to Houston in 2000 and studied music at Rice University. But she maintained her ties with her Russian teachers.
* She is a fashionista known for wearing Chanel and Tom Ford. She’s also a self-proclaimed “beauty product junkie.” She justifies her passion for fashion by sharing an anecdote about the time Chopin lamented a pair of fabulous gloves he couldn’t afford. “He was into fashion,” she says. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s a sign of respect for the audience.”

Lola Astanova was a really fun interview. I really enjoyed meeting her and learning about how someone has followed their passion successfully and on on their own terms. Definitely catch her in action if she comes to your town. For a taste of what she’s like live, here she is in an exclusive performance for PBI’s YouTube channel:

She also maintains a pretty sassy Twitter feed at @followlola, where she shares her global exploits, hair color changes, fashion adventures and on-stage triumphs with her fans.

Farm to Table

Posted on October 28, 2011

There is farm to table.

And then there is farm to a table at which I was not seated.

I say that in jest, of course. I am always happy to write for Palm Beach Illustrated when they’ll have me, especially because they gave me one of my first big breaks as a freelance writer. Besides, the article below was a nice, light detour from my graduate studies.

The assignment: Write about a July 4th party in the ultra-chic Hamptons for November publication without actually attending the to-do. This feat is not unlike writing about a 19th century architect I’ve never met (my thesis topic), all the while explaining the social, political, economic and cultural factors that I didn’t experience, but which contributed to the man’s rise.

It can be done. Fortunately for me, jewelry designer Michelle Farmer hosted the party and graciously consented to pre- and post-party interviews. Farmer not only answered my nit-picky questions in detail, but forwarded me pictures and menus, responded to my neurotic follow-up emails and put me in touch with additional people (among them, God-like party planner Jeff Fowler) who could talk about how wonderful the evening was.

I don’t know if my words do the night justice, but the pictures seem to indicate that it was a dreamy affair.

See for yourself here: Gaga_Evening