Youth

«I finished sixth and seventh grade in Dnepropetrovsk. At the end of seventh grade, at the age of 14, it was suggested that I should go to a technical school. I did not know what my calling was at that time, and I settled on mining because miners earned a lot.
When I finished technical school, I was called for duty in the Soviet Army. In 1956, there was a well-known recruitment for army candidates to work lands with abundant harvests. And without taking the oath of military service, we were ordered to gather harvest before proceeding to military service.
I had a serious reason not to go into the army. Upon returning from the harvest in the so-called cattle-car (the railroad car for transporting cattle), my eye became infected and I was nearly blinded by this. I certainly could have told the selection committee that I could not see properly, but I decided to cover up the problem, and showed them the sight in my left eye as though it was the case for both eyes. When asked to read the letters on the eye exam with the left eye, I covered my right eye with my right hand, and read all the letters correctly. Then, when asked to read with my right eye, I simply covered my right eye with my left hand, and read it with the left eye again. That’s how I got into the army. I just very much wanted to serve.
Initially, I served in the Trans-Caucasian military district, in a school for non-commissioned officers. And in 1957, during national selections for the World Youth Festival, I received a very flattering offer from the artistic director of the Ensemble of Song and Dance of the Trans-Caucasian military district of Mordasov to continue service in the ensemble, and I immediately agreed.
Working in such close association with professional teachers, I thought about the possibility of attending music school in the future.
This created a stormy relationship with my family. They were all up in arms about it – except my mother.
In Moscow, I applied for three institutions – Gnesin, the Merzlyakovsky and at the VGitis conservatory. But the teachers at Gnesin were the most accepting, so I decided to study there.
Sometime in 1959, I attended an Ostrovsky concert, and I approached him after the concert, introduced myself and told him that I studied at Gnesin. At the end of the conversation, I asked if he could give me any songs or whether we could perform together….He somewhat offhandedly said, “call me in a week,” and gave me his phone number out of courtesy. But I really started to call. His wife always answered the phone. Ostrovsky never approached the phone and always said “later” or “I am busy” and the like. But eventually he got so sick of my persistence that he invited me over to hear me sing. I arrived and performed several of his songs. He listened and said “...well, if you would have had a tenor in your music course, I could probably do something... I have a lot of soloists, but I need a duet.” I replied that there were tenors, and invited Viktor Kokhno to sing with me. Ostrovsky later gave us two or three duets and introduced us to Fradkin, Dolukhanov, and Frankel.
We were considered to be Ostrovsky’s performers, but he kindly shares us with the others».


Read Futher: Joseph Kobzon about childhood, about family.
Go Back