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Behind the Shades

Behind the Shades: Irina Doliov

In this edition of Behind the Shades, we talk to Irina Doliov, a first-year member of our cymbal line. In the following interview, she talks about her Russian heritage, her marriage and a little thing called Crunchy Frog (shhh...)

Q:Where were you born?

A: Kiev, Ukraine -- which is now it's own country. At the time it was part of the Soviet Union.

Q: When did you move to the US?

A: 1978. I was 7 -- hence no accent.

Q: How did your family make it here? Obviously, relations between the US and Russia weren't exactly great at the time.

A: Oh, back in 1970's, there was an agreement to let out a certain number of refugees. So there was an immigration wave between 1977 and 1983 or so. Then the door was shut. But we were in that "wave." Since we were classified as refugees, we got automatic assylum in the US. It used to be a 2-3 month process -- it wasn't like you got on a direct flight from Kiev to here. So it was a process. Now it's easier to get here - direct flight. But you no longer get the refugee status if you're from Russia or the Ukraine.

Q: Do you still have a lot of family back in the Ukraine, or have they all emigrated here, and have you gone back to visit since then?

A: I don't have a big family to start with, and most of them are here. I have an uncle in the Ukraine, but he's way too old to move. I haven't been back. I want to go at some point, but I'll be just another American tourist - though one that can understand the locals -- the ones that speak in Russian, anyway.

Q: Was it rough growing up in America during the Cold War with your friends knowing you were Russian?

A: Nah. First off, I had a lot of Russian friends though Junior High. A couple of them tried to hide their backgrounds but I thought it was silly. Everyone was more fascinated with my background than anything. I was never made fun of or anything like that. I was always very proud of my heritage.

Q: Did you move to the Bay Area right away, or did you find your way here by other means?

A: Moved to beautiful Cleveland -- lived there for a year and a half. Then I moved to LA where my dad found a job. Grew up there. Moved up here to go to Berkeley and like many Angelinos fell in love with the Bay Area and never left. I also fell in love with my husband which was an extra incentive to stay -- and to my parents' chagrin, I did.

Q: How did you first get involved with music?

A: Took piano lessons since I was 5 or something. I actually got into Kiev's conservatory of music at the age of 6. The only Jewish child in its history, I'm sure. Attended for a year and then we left. My parents got me a piano and lessons here as soon as they could afford it -- when I was 14 or 15, I think, so there was a break. But I've been playing music on and off for a while.

Q: And when did you find out about marching band and/or drum corps?

A: We moved right before high school, so I went to a school where I didn't know anyone. Happened to make friends with people in the marching band and joined the following semester. We had a shortage of percussionists that year so the director was very happy to get someone who could read music. He handed me a pair of mallets, pointed to a xylophone in a practice room and said, "Here, go practice." That's it. I was vaguely aware of drum corps from some of the drummers, but didn't really know the difference and really didn't care -- I wasn't going to try out anyway. My parents HATED the fact that I was in marching band so drum corps was completely out of the question even as a fantasy.

Q: So you're in high school band and your parents hated it. How did you deal with that?

A: Oh, that's beyond the scope of this interview. We argued a lot. They almost made me quit the week before our big competition my junior year. Only a phone call from the band director and threat to give me an F (tragedy for a college bound kid) got them to let me stay. As it turned out, I managed a 4.0 GPA that year, and had a job for a while, and took piano lessons, and on and on and on. I was one tired kid. But it worked out, so by my senior year they pretty much dropped their active/vocal opposition. They even attended a couple of concerts (by the concert band and orchestra). They still don't get the concept of marching or why in the world I'd want to do this.

Q: How did you find the Renegades? Was it after college was over and you had gotten married and settled down?

A: Yeah, last December. I was searching for "Taiko" and Renegades came up. I didn't know there was such thing as senior corps, although I knew about Vanguard and Blue Devils. So before I knew it I was emailing the corps. Chris replied almost immediately. Lee replied from Japan. I showed up to the January camp and the rest is history. My husband still doesn't know what hit him.

Q: How do you balance a marriage and drum corps?

A: Not very well. I'm still on the fence about marching next year. It was easier because I didn't have a job so I could run errands and do stuff around the house during the week. Now between a job, a 2 hour daily commute, I don't know how I'll be able to do that and drum corps and spend quality time with Steve. We're still talking about it. My heart's there -- I want to march, but there's a practical reality that I don't know how I'm going to overcome.

Q: Let's talk about DCA for a minute. What was that experience like?

A: Amazing. Let me back up and tell you what I love about drum corps: it's the camaraderie of a group of people working toward a common goal, it's making music, it's connecting with an audience. Now, DCA is all of that times 100. When we first did the show at prelims, I was a bit dissappointed with the audience response. I thought they'd be on their feet at the end but they weren't. Same at finals. But that applause afterwards was amazing. And when they booed our placement, I knew we connected. That, honestly, was the most emotional moment for me. And then all the fan mail that Lee's been forwarding to the group has just reinforced that. What a payback for all the hard work. It was so worth it.

Q: Let's play a little word association. I'll give you a word and tell me the first thing that pops into your mind. First one...Lee Rudnicki.

A: Genius

Q: Chris Nalls.

A: Blond

Q: Anthony Aranda.

A: "Surprisingly Firm Mexican Ass"

Q: Pennsylvania

A: Boondocks

Q: Renegades

A: Black

Q: Last one...Crunchy Frog.

A: Out of control, silly.

Q: Any final comments?

A: Nah, thanks for the interview. Now I'll have my 15 seconds of fame.

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