The Catholic University of America

Maria Rodriguez

A Passion for Piano


Anna Nizhegordtseva had her first piano lesson as a six-year-old growing up in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. At the time she was also singing in the children’s choir at her school, but it wasn’t long before she focused all of her attention on piano. “I played every day. It never felt like practice or something I had to do,” she says.

A winner of international competitions and a doctoral candidate in piano performance, Nizhegordtseva now teaches private piano lessons to young students at Music on the Hill, a music store on Capitol Hill.

“Not all of them want to practice. So I do my best to share my passion and to encourage them,” she says.

Since that first lesson at age 6, Nizhegordtseva has been a student of piano. She earned a diploma of distinction in 2004 from the Nizhny Novgorod M. Balakirev College of Music. In 2009 she earned her Bachelor of Music from the Nizhniy Novgorod State Conservatory, a prestigious audition-only program.

To further her music education, Nizhegordtseva headed to California. “It was hard to leave Russia, really hard for my parents,” says the only child. “But they wanted the best for me.”

She earned her Artist Certificate in 2012 from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif. It was there that she continued to hone her talent and skill in piano performance. She also met her future husband Enrique Reynosa, a fellow music student.

Nizhegordtseva and Reynosa are currently enrolled in the Doctorate in Musical Arts Program at Catholic University’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music. Reynosa was the concertmaster in the Catholic University Symphony Orchestra that played for Pope Francis during the papal Mass on Sept. 23.

“Music is my whole life,” says Nizhegordtseva. “It’s so beautiful to share that with someone who has the same passions and dreams, and who understands the demands and number of practice hours needed to pursue these dreams,”

Opportunities to perform together are special for the couple. This past summer they traveled to Italy to compete in the Euterpe International Music Competition, which brought together more than 150 musicians from all over the world. Nizhegordtseva and Reynosa, along with Serge Khrichenko, won third place in the chamber music category. Their group, International DC Trio, performed original works by Khrichenko, the group’s founder.

Nizhegordtseva also was awarded first prize in the category of piano solo. She won the prestigious award after being judged by a jury of world-class musicians and conservatory teachers in Italy. This is one of many international solo competition awards for the Russian pianist. In addition to the opportunity for professional recognition and development, music competitions allow her many interesting travel opportunities.

About the trip to Italy, she says “It was my first time there. I loved the museums, especially in Rome. Venice was amazing. And the food! I ate pizza for three weeks.”

In addition to performing in competitions, Nizhegordtseva enjoys any opportunity to perform for audiences large and small, including concerts at local churches, the Russian embassy, the Russian Cultural Center, and in a variety of cities.

She says one of her most memorable performances came in 2013 when she performed in the music school’s annual Carnegie Hall fall concert series.

“It’s such a huge place. I will admit I had some stage fright. But once I was on stage and playing, it turned into excitement. It felt amazing to perform in that beautiful venue,” says Nizhegordtseva, who performed Chopin’s Scherzo No. 4 and a selection from Rachmaninoff’s Etude-Tableaux.

Her favorite performance space on campus is Ward Hall. “Even though it is a renovated space, it has such an historic and intimate feel. It has a unique charm and beauty,” she says of the concert hall where she has performed many recitals.

Nizhegordtseva studies under the direction of Nikita Fitenko, associate professor and internationally acclaimed pianist. “He is very professional, an amazing pianist, and most important, he is a very talented teacher. He always knows what is best for each student, he supports the individuality of each student, and never pressures us to do things his way,” she says.

“All of the music school faculty are supportive and encouraging, and that is true of the students here as well,” she says. “My husband and I are very glad we found our way to Catholic University.”


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Anna Nizhegordtseva

What she's reading now: Arch of Triumph: A Novel of a Man Without a Country by Erich Maria Remarque

Favorite place on campus: The music school.

Favorite place in D.C.: The National Gallery of Art. "I love the French impressionists."

What reminds her of home: "I like to make Borscht. The traditional Russian soup is made with beetroot. It takes at least two hours. So I rarely have time. But when I do, it makes me think of my home and family."