Larisa Topolkaraeva has been a faculty member at the Lawrence Community Music School since 1994. A native of Tbilisi, Georgia, Dr. Topolkaraeva began her piano studies at the age of five with her pianist mother. After receiving her B.A. in piano performance from the Tbilisi State Conservatory she moved to Moscow, where she earned her master's degree with highest honor and Ph.D in piano performance and pedagogy from the Russian State Academy of Music—formerly Gnesin's Institute—in Moscow. Prior to her move to Appleton, she taught piano at the numerous music academies in Tbilisi and Moscow.
Throughout her teaching career, Dr. Topolkaraeva's students have actively participated in and regularly won top prizes at different piano competitions, including WMTA Badger, Solo & Ensemble, and Steinway Junior among others. Her students have also participated in summer music programs at the Aspen Music Festival and School and Interlochen Center for the Arts among others. Her former students have been accepted into undergraduate music programs at the Oberlin Collage, Northwestern University, UW-Madison, Colburn School of Music, and Lawrence University.
"Every student is different, and each of them has a very rich inner world and countless abilities.
My mission is to help each of them individually to find the way to uncover and open up their abilities and realize their full potentials. My goal is to guide them to the most precious, magical world of music, to expend their horizon of imagination and creativity, to build up their confidence, and to help them to develop and expand their musical, technical, and intellectual skills."
— Larisa Topolkaraeva
What is your favorite thing about working at the Community Music School?
Our school has been a very special place for me for 26 years. I can say that it's much more than a work place—it’s my second home. I feel warm and safe here surrounded by not just colleagues but very close and trusted friends.
During these years I also was blessed to meet and become very close with exceptional people: my students and their parents. Long time relationships with them is priceless.
What is one of your favorite quotes?
I have two favorite quotes:
"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything."
"To play a wrong note is insignificant. To play without passion is inexcusable."
What is your favorite thing to do?
My favorite thing to do is teaching my students. This is when I am the happiest, especially when they do well and I see that all our hard work gives good results.
Also, my husband and I love to travel, see new places, and learn from different cultures. We both love nature.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration was my school and college piano teacher. She was an amazing musician, incredible teacher, and, most importantly, had an exceptionally passionate and inspiring personality.
If you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?
I have a dream of traveling in time. How incredibly exciting would be to capture some moments in the past—for example, to attend Rachmaninoff's performances at the Moscow Conservatory, to be in Paris during the second half of the 19th century, or to hear the concerts of the greatest American jazz musicians from the past.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
If I could, I would help people to see more beauty in our world and feel the miracles of life.
If you could play one instrument that you are not able to play now, what would it be?
It would be singing. What could be more exciting than to be able to skillfully use the most precious instrument you carry inside of yourself, which is given by nature?!