Hard work and determination define music professor: Solomia Soroka By Dustin Combs ’08
Choosing a career at the age of 6 is hardly considered normal in the United States, but it was normal for Solomia Soroka. Growing up in Soviet-controlled Ukraine, Solomia had to decide upon a career at such a young age so that she could begin specialized schooling.
Though Solomia wanted to study biology – “I was interested in looking through the microscopes” – her parents wanted to enroll her in music school. When the piano classes were overcrowded, administrators persuaded them that violin classes were what she really needed, which set the course for her life.
It didn’t take long for Solomia’s instructors to notice her talent. At the age of 6, she played the violin with perfect pitch. Combining natural talent and practicing for four hours a day, Solomia quickly took her place as one of the best in the class, alongside another boy who played exceptionally well. Not wanting to be outdone, she practiced long, hard hours.
“I was stubborn and I was determined,” said Solomia. Determination and hard work. These are the invaluable resources that Solomia would draw on for strength throughout her life. It was not enough to be good; one must be great, she thought. As Solomia advanced, the number of performances she participated in, the hours she spent practicing and her desire to be great grew together.
“It was a disaster when I didn’t practice,” said Solomia. Not only would she not be playing up to her full potential, she also had an instructor who would point out her flaws, even throwing a chair once to make his point. On good days, when the mistakes were few, there was still not significant praise, Solomia recalls.
Playing violin gave her purpose and pleasure, but when Solomia wasn’t busy practicing, she was playing bridge with her family, going to school dances and skiing in the Carpathean Mountains.
Today, as assistant professor of music at Goshen College, the criticism has been replaced with abundant praise. In performances with the orchestra or in duets with her husband, Arthur Greene, pianist and professor of music at the University of Michigan, she plays with a grace and beauty – often with her eyes closed and hitting every note perfectly – which captures and amazes audiences. And her students look up to her. She teaches them to be great, but even more, she teaches them to have grace in their music and their lives.