When she applied as a teenager to Kwantlen College from the former Soviet Union republic of Latvia, Anna Vavilova could barely speak English.
But all it took for the college (now a polytechnic university known as KPU) to accept Vavilova into its piano performance program was one listen of an audio recording she’d sent on a cassette tape.
Twenty years later, Vavilova — who founded the World of Music and Arts in Steveston nine years ago — is to receive a lifetime achievement award to mark the 25th anniversary of KPU’s music department.
The award is all the more surprising for the talented musician and teacher, considering she’s only 38-years-old.
But no one was more taken aback than Vavilova, who immigrated to Canada as an 18-year-old.
“I was even surprised that someone nominated me, let alone getting the award,” she told the Richmond News.
“It was very humbling and totally unsolicited. It felt amazing. I was crying.
“I don’t consider myself to have accomplished everything; I’m only in the middle of my journey. So for someone to even consider me for the award is very special to me.”
As well as overseeing the rapid growth of her music academy — which now has 450 students, up from 170 just a few years ago — Vavilova has recorded and premiered Canadian music and performs regularly in Richmond, across B.C. and internationally in Italy, France and Russia, as well as judging competitions and lecturing.
Prior to all of that, she graduated with a diploma in piano performance from Kwantlen’s Langley campus and then went onto to a BA and masters in piano performance at UBC.
Vavilova will receive her award at a concert on March 23 at KPU Langley, where she will also be speaking and sharing her immigrant story.