Pianist and conductor connect through Lamont

Before this year, Gergana Argirova and Linda Shea were strangers. Now, they’re friends with deep connections that lead back to DU.

Argirova, a sophomore piano performance major at the Lamont School of Music, started playing piano at home in Bulgaria when she was five. She came to Lamont two years ago to study under Theodor Lichtmann, who chaired the piano program at the time.

Lichtmann was also the reason Linda Shea came to DU, but she was here long before Argirova, graduating from Lamont in 1985.

The two met by chance. Shea was auditioning as conductor of the Pikes Peak Philharmonic in Colorado Springs, Colo. A month before the planned program, which included “Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Opus 25,” her piano soloist backed out. When she called her alma mater, Piano Professor Steven Mayer said he had a student already working on the piece: Gergana Argirova.

Over the next month, a friendship was formed. When Shea first went to pick Argirova up for rehearsals, they learned of another connection — Shea once lived in the same off-campus apartment complex unit where Argirova lives.

“It felt like one of those things that was just meant to be,” says Shea. “We have a friendship and connection that will be lifelong. It’s beyond the music we shared.”

From all accounts, the music was amazing as Argirova debuted as a soloist with the Pikes Peak Philharmonic Feb. 10.

“She has a special talent,” says Mayer. “She has a way of playing that is soulful, old fashioned — not technical  — but a melodic style.”

Shea says Argirova has one more connection, this time with the composer. Felix Mendelssohn composed this concerto when he was 22; Argirova performed it three days after her 22nd birthday.

“His youthfulness came out in the piece because of her youthfulness,” Shea says. “She is a real up-and-coming talent who will go far.”

Not many students have a chance to perform with an orchestra, and it is an experience Argirova doesn’t take for granted.

“It was so exciting, I don’t know if I can express it,” she says. “You feel so powerful to have a 40-person orchestra playing with you. It felt so good that I want to do it my entire life.”

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