A Violin for Yasa

June 2017

Yasa Poletaeva has a favorite quote from the Spanish poet Juan Ramón Jiménez: “If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” It seems a little contradictory for a young musician whose life centers on the firmly ruled lines of a musical staff.


“As students, we are used to being told how and what to do,” Poletaeva said. “But then there is a moment when you walk on stage and you are one with the universe. You just have to trust your guts and create.”

A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Poletaeva is working toward her professional performance certificate at Lynn’s

Conservatory of Music, under the tutelage of Elmar Oliveira. She earned her master’s degree in violin from Lynn in 2016 and is also a graduate of the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music. She has won Lynn’s Concerto Competition, the John Oliveira String Competition and many competitions in Russia. She tours with the Contrast Duo and has played with the Miami City Ballet and the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival. She has performed in the Philippines, Germany, Latvia, Finland, France and Italy.

And she has done it all on a borrowed violin.

Enter Jim Birle.

When Birle discovered Poletaeva was in need of her own violin, he made a gift right away to the Dean’s Fund for Excellence.

I want them to have these instruments to enhance their careers. I consider it an honor to help them.

Jim Birle

“I am so fortunate to be able to do this for her,” he said. “These students are so accomplished and they often have very little financial help. I have been going to concerts for years and I really care about the students. It makes me so happy to give them something in return.”

And Poletaeva is beyond happy to receive it.

“What can be more beautiful than buying an instrument for a musician?” she said. “It’s like giving an artist wings to fly.”

Selecting a violin is no typical trip to the corner store. To Poletaeva, the process is less about the neck, strings and pegs and more about alchemy.

“I need to fall in love with the violin,” she said. “Like with a real person. Because it’s actually a part of me, a part of my soul.”

Funding in place, she is still searching for her soulmate.

This isn’t the first time Birle, a retired executive with General Electric and the Blackstone Group, has bestowed an instrument on a conservatory student. Three years ago, he and his wife attended a Philharmonia concert at their country club. Clarinetist Fabiola Porras ’10, ’12, ’14 was seated at their table after the performance.

Birle said, “I told her I enjoyed her music, then I asked her about her clarinet. She said, ‘It’s not mine. It’s borrowed.’”

On the spot, Birle told her he and his wife would buy her a clarinet to own, which they did.

“I want them to have these instruments to enhance their careers,” Birle said, “I consider it an honor to help them.

I feel like I’m the real beneficiary of it, not them, because I get to hear them play and follow their careers when they graduate.”

Porras now plays clarinet for the Miami City Ballet.  

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