Meet a Colleague: Anna Billias Anna Billias is a lecturer in music and collaborative pianist.
Q. How long have you worked at W&L?
Washington and Lee has been my “work home” for over eight years, six of which have been as an adjunct lecturer. Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to have my status changed to full-time faculty.
Q. What courses are you teaching this term?
I am teaching Music Theory II and Class Piano II. In addition, I am working with the university choral groups Cantatrici, Glee Club and University Singers. I am also collaborating with all students enrolled in applied lessons (instrumental and vocal) that require an accompanist.
Q. What is the most satisfying aspect of teaching?
To me, it is the ability to share something that is precious to me, which is my prior training, education and experience. Whether it is advice from a former professor, or some work around or trick in a difficult area that might help other pianists/musicians in their career, or simply assisting students in pursuing their musical passion, I feel like I am giving the most important parts of my academic gifts to our deserving students.
Q. Where is your favorite location on the W&L campus?
The entire campus is a beautiful place to be. My family and I are quite often found walking the grounds, playing pickle ball on the court, or enjoying some fresh air with our golden retriever, Prince. Strolling along the creek is by far my favorite spot on campus as it reminds me of the unity between nature and our souls. The water and idle serenity of the wooded areas calm, inspire and help me in my music-making journey. For my family, I would probably say the Marketplace, as my kids and husband do love eating there!
Q. What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not working?
Travelling is probably my favorite thing to do. We discover, bond and create memories that last the rest of our lives. I also like to hunt for mushrooms (morels are my favorite!), and I am passionate about horseback riding. Swimming is another passion – almost like an addiction. I also enjoy engaging in activities that I had not previously tried, like rock climbing. This world has so much to offer for those who want to explore it!
Q. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Eastern part of Ukraine, in the city of Donetsk. Unfortunately, these days people around the world have only heard of it because of the association with war that I find very difficult to speak about.
Q. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was very young, I dreamed of becoming a hairdresser (partially this dream came true as my family allows and entrusts me to take care of their hair styles)! As I grew older, my dream of being a professional musician was dampened because of the reality of economic life in Eastern Europe, where musicians are not able to be self-supporting. It was only after I was fortunate enough to meet my future husband and after coming to the United States that my dream became a reality by my work here at W&L!
Q. Who inspired you to teach?
It was my beloved husband who inspired me and believed in my abilities when I never imagined myself in academia. While I did not plan on being a professor, once I experienced the joy and feeling of accomplishment in helping my students achieve their goals, I realized I had truly found my ideal profession!
Q. What is the most adventurous thing that you have ever done?
Going with my oldest daughter on a horseback safari trip in South Africa. There were eight hour rides daily, and the trip was meant for strong intermediate and advanced riders. At that point, I had only been seriously riding for about three months. That being said, while I was not the ideal rider, it was the best trip of my life featuring plenty of adrenaline, prayers and fascinating animals and scenery!
Q. What is the website you visit most often and why?
Social media like Facebook is the one that I find myself enjoying. It allows to me to stay in touch with family and friends who are far away, keep updated on my student’s life after their graduation and share my activities and children’s development with them.
Q. If you could have coffee with one person, who would it be and why?
If I had such a blessed chance, it would be my Dad. I miss his presence here on Earth. I never knew just how much he influenced me when he was still alive. I owe him so much, and I would want him to know what he meant to me. I would also want him to see how his grandchildren have developed, and have a chance for him to meet his great granddaughter.
Q. If you could live anywhere, where would you build your dream home?
My dream home is where my family is and where love dwells. I truly feel that I am in my dream place here!
Q. What is your desert island food?
Seafood (any) and fruits. Therefore, I suspect I would function just fine if ever I was in that situation!
Q. Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I used to ballroom dance semi-professionally in the international arena. I have recently obtained a black belt in martial arts. Horseback riding and scuba diving are my new areas of passion.
Q. What is your secret talent?
Creating poetry in my mother tongue (Russian). Also a special talent observed by my husband is my creating chaos in minutes and clearing it almost as fast!
Q. Anything else you’d like to share?
I truly feel blessed being part of this community that embraced me and made me feel at home, my dream place!