Interview with Igor Ostrovsky
Sound engineer, concert pianist and Ladino music enthusiast: Interview with Igor Ostrovsky
Igor Ostrovsky is a man of many talents. A concert pianist with degrees in sound engineering, as well as an amateur photographer, a restaurant manager and polyglot, Igor has a pivotal behind-the-scenes role as the Assistant Director of Operations at Beit Hatfutsot, providing technical and logistical support, and ensuring that all events, concerts, and exhibitions run smoothly. Igor began working in Beit Hatfutsot in the cafeteria twenty years ago, before his musical and engineering talents were discovered and put to use at Beit Hatfutsot. This month, he celebrated the 20 year anniversary of his aliyah to Israel. In this interview with Elana Sztokman, Igor shares his story, as he celebrates two decades of life in Israel, and at Beit Hatfutsot.
When did you arrive in Israel?
I came to Israel with my wife on March 25, 1992, from Moscow. My parents wanted to come in the 1970s, but they missed the window. I was studying music, a master’s degree in piano, and as soon as I finished, we came immediately. All in all, we are very happy to be here. It was definitely the right decision. We built a good life and we have a family- we have a fifteen year old son, who was born here. We also own a home in Tel Aviv, and I expanded my professional skills, learning sound engineering. Today, in addition to my work at Beit Hatfutsot, I also work privately as a concert pianist and I provide music technology for events and shows.
When did you first begin working at Beit Hatfutsot?
My first year in Israel, I could not find work as a pianist, so I decided to take a job in a restaurant. The restaurant was actually the cafeteria at Beit Hatfutsot! I thought it would only be for a short time, but I eventually became the manager of the restaurant. Throughout the years, I was doing both at once – managing the restaurant while playing piano on the side. I sometimes played at Beit Hatfutsot as well.
In 2008, with the museum renovation, when the restaurant was closed and Aroma opened, I finally left the restaurant business and focused on the work that I really love. First I was asked to help out with the Sonnenfeld exhibition. They needed someone who spoke a few languages to help guide the exhibition. It was an amazing experience – the Sonnenfeld exhibition is an incredible treasure. I’m an amateur photographer, and seeing all the photographs of Jewish life in the 1930s was really amazing for me. I really enjoyed that. I also worked with Russian speaking groups from Taglit, which I also enjoyed.
I worked in the music department, helping to digitize the music records. That’s really my area of expertise. I’m a technology freak, and I’ve been playing music my whole life. So that was really a great project for me.
Shortly after that, I was asked to join the logistics and operations team. Today, I provide technical and audio visual support for events. I am also Assistant to the Director of Operations.
Is there a lot of pressure in the job?
Yes, there is a tremendous amount of pressure because we are responsible for everything behind the scenes – electricity, sound, logistics, lighting, water. Sometimes there are events going on everywhere at once – in exhibitions, in halls, and in classrooms. There are weeks when there is an event every night, when there is activity until midnight every night – lectures, concerts, openings. Whenever there is something going on at Beit Hatfutsot, our department is working.
How has your work at Beit Hatfutsot impacted you?
The part of my music that I have developed that I would have never encountered had it not been for my work at Beit Hatfutsot is the extraordinary culture of Ladino music. I never heard it until I came to work at the museum. In the process of digitizing the music, I got to listen to old recordings, and then had the privilege of attending live performances in the museum halls. This music gives me enormous, indescribable pleasure. Today, I don’t miss an opportunity to attend performances of Ladino music.
What was your most exciting moment at Beit Hatfutsot?
When I was guiding at the Sonnenfeld exhibition, I met an elderly couple who discovered themselves in one of the photos! I was showing them the photos, and suddenly they saw a photo of a young couple with a child from the 1930s, and they said, 'that’s us'! They had never seen the photo before. It was just remarkable – and of course we took all their details and put them into the database, etc. It was one of the most emotional moments I have ever experienced. This is really what Beit Hatfutsot is about.