Monday morning, it's the beginning of the spring and I climb up to the fourth floor at Ayala street, where Svetlana Bendikov lives.
An opera singer and a voice teacher.
When did you first start singing? When did you discover the voice, your voice?
"My mother says," Svetlana excitatly tells me, "that when I was born, I immediately started singing. I sang before I even spoke. In first grade I started learning music at school, music theory, singing and I also played piano. I was lucky to be born to a musical family. My parents made sure that their four daughters will receive music education. Another sister of mine is an opera singer, and the other is an executive director of a cultural college."
When did you start singing in choir?
"I started singing at the choir when I was six, I've learned voice development and I was a soloist in the choir. As a second instrument I learned piano and conducting. I didn't think music could be branched out to so many fields, so diverse, so different and challenging."
Our Svetlana was born and raised in Ukraine, and Immigrated to Israel in the year of 2000 with her husband Michael and her two children.
Everyone in her family is doing music, just in case you were wondering. Svetlana is an opera singer, a voice teacher with a doctoral degree in music.
Her husband Michael, is also a conductor, writes music and rearranges music. Her children are also in the field of music-her elder son plays the trumpet and currently studies for his master degree. He has received a grant from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. The younger son Simeon, plays the clarinet and the sax. He studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music’s High School and received a scholarship from the ministry of immigration.
Svetlana divides her time between working in the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, project manager for The Center of Immigrant Artist and the Ein Kerem Music Center. She sings in different opera projects and performs on television and radio.
In what languages do you sing? I ask Svetlana
“I sing in English, Ukrainian, Russian, Italian, French, German.”
What about Hebrew?
"Of course! I do sing a lot in Hebrew. Also my husband Michael.”
Do you follow specific nutrition rules? A special food you're eating or avoiding in order to keep your voice healthy?
“There is no specific type of food for the voice strings. You just have to not eat too much spicy food and to take care of the voice.
How many people were at your concert?
“I performed in great halls around the country and abroad. I’ve performed in front of crowds of 1,000 people and even more. I don’t have a specific audience. Adults and children who love music. I love to excite the audience, to make them feel like they are a part of the music.”
In the year of 2008, Svetlana received an E.M.I. award, from the Israeli Union of Performing Artists, in honor of Ehud Manor for the depiction of the artistic image in a preformed composition. In 2012, an award from the minister of Aliya and Integration's under the name of Yuri Stern, was given to her for her contribution to the development of art in Israel. Most recently, in 2021 received a grant from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation.
Svetlana tells me-
“I received this award for my work. To encourage the Israeli art and creativity, the music development in Israel.
I sang in many opera projects at the Jerusalem Opera, in musical productions of the "Portrait" theater "The King of Operetta" and "Waltz of Love". I have recorded several CD's, including two in Yiddish”.
Do you still study today?
I am learning new songs and new roles. I am my own teacher, and also learn from other singers. I am at a very high level,” Svetlana says, “but I am always open to learn new things.”
How do you promote yourself? I ask
“I promote myself on television, radio and the internet. For instance, in the Jerusalem radio, I am being interviewed and invited for performances at the show 'Personal Friday (Shishi Ishi)' with Ely Matityahu.
On television I perform on different channels, promote CD’s and perform at festivals and concerts. All of my life is influenced by music-I live, breathe, eat music, drink music, all of my life is music!
In the year of 2008, there was an acceptance ceremony at the president’s house Shimon Peres, for the Ukrainian president-Victor Yushchenko. We sang there as artists who came from Ukraine to Israel. In the past, we also sang in front of the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. You can see how music connects between me and the most important people in Israel, with the leaders of the nation.”
How do you see your future?
“There are always goals. My goal is to sing and teach at the Jerusalem Academy of Music. There are not many singers with a doctoral degree in vocal studies. Music teaching also includes pedagogy teaching and psychology. Not all voice teachers play piano. My piano skills are helping me to accompany myself and my students while they are singing. Many of my students won international awards, getting high grades in their music final exams and singing at the Israeli opera.
I want to sing with orchestras more,” Svetlana tells me emotionally-”but Israel is a very small country and you need to have lots of connections and protections. It’s not always easy for me, but I will not give up. I am here for many years,” She mentions, “and I know how difficult it is to work as a musician in Israel. We are also traveling and perform abroad sometimes in Ukraine. I have a musical family there as well. Remember?" Svetlana checks my memory.
What do you think about the music education here in Israel?
"Look," Svetlana says-"from my experience, there are very talented students.
It is important for the teacher to have empathy and to understand what's best for the student and how to develop the individuality and talent of each student."
What do you do when you want to rest?
" I'm sewing the costumes for my next performance, travel and spending time with family and friends.
You should know," Svetlana summarizes, "that music is a way of life. All of my life starts and ends with music. I love music with all my heart and I live for it. "
We will wish our Svetlana many more years of joy from the music, singing, teaching students, performances and even greater creative success!
An enriching musical life here in Israel, the home of the Jewish nation.
English translation by Yael Der-E