The film, which received the Oscar as the best film of the year, is based on the biography of Donald Walbridge Shirley - an outstanding jazz musician from the United States. The film casually mentions Shirley’s studies in the USSR, and we will tell about this in more detail.
Don Shirley has been learning to play keyboards since he was two. His father was one of the first full-fledged black priests in the United States, and the boy, listening to organ music in the church, tried to find the notes he had just heard. Donald did it successfully, and the parents, impressed by the boy's abilities, decided to develop his talent. His first teacher was his mother.
Already at the age of nine years, Shirley was invited to study at the Leningrad Conservatory. It happened after the concert, at which the boy played complex classic parts before the guests from the USSR - they were amazed at the talent of the child and immediately made an offer to his father. Donald's parents could not then leave the country for personal reasons and did not dare to let the boy go to the Soviet Union alone.
Already after coming of age, Shirley became close to the outstanding Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. Including this fact pushed him to still enter the Leningrad Conservatory. He became the first black student of an educational institution, successfully completed it, and then repeatedly performed in Moscow and Leningrad.
Shirley often visited the USSR and even brought his nephews to visit the country. Here is how one of them, Carol Shirley, spoke about the trip:
“My grandmother, grandfather and I spent the summer of 1987 in the USSR, I was just 16. It was a difficult time, the Cold War period, we were all on pins and needles:“ My God, we are going to the Soviet Union! ”And my uncle assured everything us, that we will see a lot of beautiful historical sites, that you need to take a camera with you, that you definitely need to go to Krasnaya Square in Moscow. And these his stories sounded so romantic, so beautiful that we soon forgot about everything that propaganda told us. He managed to interest us, and this trip was just amazing. "
One of Shirley’s favorite composers were representatives of the Russian school - Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky. He was warmly received in the USSR, and, according to Don's relatives, the color of his skin did not play any role at all: the musician was valued for his outstanding talent and unusual presentation.