Varna International Music Academy: Gateway to A New Musical World

Have you been searching for a summer program that provides an ideal combination of musical opportunities with a beautiful and fascinating destination? Varna International could be your perfect fit! Established in 1999, Varna International Music Academy (VIMA) has offered in-depth music training and extraordinary performance opportunities for artists worldwide. They provide opportunities for artists pursuing oratorio, opera, choral singing, instrumental performances, conducting, and collaborative piano.

The mission of VIMA is to create affordable opportunities to make music at the highest standards while exposing musicians to new cultural and artistic wonders in unique communities. Past participants like Jessica have raved about their experience: “I am grateful to Varna International for bringing such an unprecedented opportunity to all who live, work, play, and visit the Grand Strand! Exceptional music was performed, lives were touched by such artistry, and new relationships among musicians were made.”  

In the summer of 2023, VIMA will offer exciting programs in Europe and the USA. VIMA in Europe will take place along the spectacular shores of the Black Sea, in the City of Varna, Bulgaria and the region of Northern Italy. VIMA in the USA will take place in major cities of South Carolina, including the state’s capital, Columbia, the historic city of Charleston, and Myrtle Beach along the shores of the Grand Strand. Highlights of the season include Verdi’s Requiem, Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Weill’s Street Scene, and an orchestra concert featuring the music of J. A. C. Redford, whose work as an orchestra, arranger and conductor can be heard on films including The Little Mermaid, AvatarThe Help, and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Kalin Tchonev, CEO and International Director, recently shared his thoughts on VIMA’s history and his dreams for the company’s future. 

CS: In your mind, what sets you apart from other international classical music vocal programs? 

KT: Since 2011, Varna International began offering professional opera training to students specializing in voice and opera.  Few are opera programs, which offer a holistic, full range of training to equip young opera professionals to study in intensive, fully staged orchestral opera programs, which culminate in fully staged productions.  Our participants learn from experienced, internationally renowned opera artists: stage directors, voice professors, maestros, and vocal coaches, who instruct our students in the highest standards of the opera-making process. Within a period of 3-4 weeks, our participants grow artistically and musically in an incredible way, gaining confidence and producing music on such a professional level they never knew they would be capable of.

As a graduate of the music programs offered in Bulgaria and the USA, and my unique home and professional training by my father, the legendary conductor Prof. Marin Chonev, who was among the leading choir conductors of the 20th century in Bulgaria, I believe I have gained wisdom and professional understanding in the art of music.  I feel, therefore, uniquely equipped to design, and carry out music programs of the highest educational and performance standards.

What else sets us apart from other programs?  I believe our burning passion as Ambassadors of true Art between communities worldwide, our unwillingness to compromise on the quality of our programs, no matter the personal cost, our tremendous sense of responsibility, and our unwavering determination to carry out our mission and vision to preserve and promote the legacy of true art.

CS: How do you manage all the program tracks simultaneously without prioritizing one artistic discipline over the other?

KT: For all our program tracks, we engage the highest level of experienced master artistic – experts in their fields. For example, during the 2022 MUZIKA! In the inaugural program, we professionally engaged over 60 master artists who provided superb expert instruction and guidance to our young artists.  For all our programs, we have responsible managers, coordinators, and teachers, who ensure the smooth and productive operation of each track, to provide excellent, world-class training and performance opportunities to all our participants.

CS: How is your program distinct in preparing young artists to bridge the gap between school and a professional career?

KT: By the testimony of hundreds of professors and young artists over the past 23 years, the fruit of our program has been abundant: professional musicians invariably grow in their careers as a result of their experience with Varna International: professors receive promotions as chairs, and tenure professorships in their Universities, students gain confidence and advance in their performance careers by receiving exceptionally valuable hands-on experience singing roles in multiple operas in our fully-staged orchestral opera productions.  Conductors and instrumentalists gain superb training under the tutelage of our Maestros, who have earned the highest distinction throughout decades of their brilliant international careers; student instrumentalists learn under the leadership of master instrumentalists, who come from some of the greatest orchestras and Universities in the USA and Europe, to be principal players of our orchestras and teach chamber music and individual lessons to our student orchestra participants. All this amazing force of highly trained professionals engaged in the intensive process of training our young artists during our academies, ensures the most beautiful results, as our musicians invariably leave our academies transformed into better, more fully equipped, and more confident professionals with a sense of purpose and clearer than ever sense of direction.

CS: What are the best ways your artists can experience the culture of Europe and South Carolina while participating in the program?

KT: All our programs in Europe are designed in such a way as to provide meaningful opportunities not only from an educational and performance standpoint but also from the necessity to provide cultural and sightseeing experiences to all our participants.  During our concert tours in Europe, we provide excellent four-star hotel accommodation, we organize a series of guided tours of historically significant and culturally important sites led by professional, highly qualified guides and tour managers.  The programs are designed so that these travel opportunities are carefully integrated into the overall schedule to provide our participants with a balanced, rich, and meaningful educational, performance, and cultural experience during their visit to these nations.

For more information, visit varnainternational.com/musicacademy

Jonathan Blalock

Jonathan Blalock has sung with The Santa Fe Opera, The Dallas Opera, Washington National Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, The Pacific Symphony, Memphis Symphony, PROTOTYPE Festival and Opera Hong Kong. He currently serves as The Associate Director of Development for Major and Planned Gifts at The Atlanta Opera.