By Karina Schultheis

On Monday, Feb. 30, dozens of people waited outside in the halls of George Mason‘s Harris Theatre. The scene comprised of a truly eclectic mix of individuals. Students, sporting Mason hoodies and jeans, talked animatedly with each other while laughing intermittently. Well-dressed young adults looking as if they just came from the office spoke softly to one another – clearly taking advantage of the free event.  Others wore gowns and suits, holding bouquets of red roses, looking as nervous as if  they were about to perform on stage –  instead of whoever they had brought the flowers for.

Mason’s School of Music holds their “Faculty Artist Series” in February showcasing the talent of its world-renowned teachers. Tonight Dr. Anna Balakerskaia, a Russian pianist who moved to the United States more than 20 years ago, will be performing five acclaimed Russian songs alongside eight other musicians. The theme of the recital is “Anna and Friends: A Night of Russian Music.”

Balakerskaia is no stranger to the stage. She has performed in dozens of recitals and competitions, and her concert tours have taken her from Belgium to Argentina (AND eight other countries). She has played everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center.

“I have had my opportunity to alter the world,” she said. ” Now I get to help my students change it.”

She is most proud of her performances in Moscow, where she played in the International Tchaikovsky Competitions and was thrice awarded the Best Accompaniment Diploma on three separate occasions.

“The talent we have in our rooms is exceptional,” Balakerskaia said, referring to the students she teaches within the School of Music.

“Anna and Friends” is not just about Anna, although her pianist abilities would easily console an impatient crowd. She was joined by three violinists (two of which were Mason students), a viola player, a cello player, a clarinet player, another pianist, and a bassoon player — fellow Doctorate of Music Arnold Irachi.

The recital spanned from 8 p.m. until nearly 11 and included the world premiere of “Mikhnovsky,” which Balaerskaia composed.

After the lengthy performance, students hugged and dispersed. Those in work attire made their way to the exits. The best-dressed individuals, still holding their bouquets, waited once more outside the hall. But this time, they looked neither impatient nor nervous. They were smiling, waiting to congratulate their special someones.