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Dr. Olga Kleiankina receives prestigious undergraduate teaching award

Photo by Marc Hall

Associate teaching professor Olga Kleiankina, director of piano studies, became the first-ever recipient of the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award from the Department of Music and University College on April 13. 

The award, one of the most prestigious undergraduate teaching awards at NC State, was presented along with several others by the Alumni Association in a virtual ceremony. Kleiankina and five other faculty members received the award in recognition of their contributions to the university’s teaching mission and their distinguished service in support of undergraduate teaching. 

“It’s an honor to be recognized for the work I’m doing to teach our piano students, especially this year when we are doing everything possible for them to have a meaningful learning experience under challenging circumstances,” said Kleiankina. “I know there are hundreds of faculty members at NC State who deserve this award no less than I do. That being said, I am thankful to be part of this prestigious group of honorees and for all the support I’ve received.”

Among her students and peers, Kleinkina is known for her innovative work in the classroom, interdisciplinary collaborations with other departments, and breathtaking performances. 

“Olga is driven to provide the best possible learning experience for her students whether its incorporating diverse composers and styles into their piano repertoire, creating a virtual master class and lecture series to keep them engaged during the pandemic, or developing an app to support their learning both in and out of the classroom,” said Department Head Dan Monek. “She embodies the Think and Do spirit of NC State, engaging in interdisciplinary research and unique performances that explore the intersections of music and STEM. All of us in the music department are proud to work with her and delighted to see her recognized with this award.”

Kleiankina, who teaches applied piano lessons, class piano (MUS 107 and 207) and piano pedagogy (MUS 208), also advises the music minors in the piano performance track. One of those music minors, Grayson Gall, chose to pursue the minor in part due to his experience in Kleiankina’s MUS 207 classroom. 

“Dr. Kleiankina truly teaches her students how to make music, not just play an instrument,” said Gall. “The environment that Dr. Kleiankina creates in her classes is one of the most positive and encouraging that I have ever experienced. It reinvigorated my passion to connect with music.”

Lecturer Kristen Turner helped Kleinkina edit the class piano textbook she wrote which became the framework for the groundbreaking Piano+ app she developed with DELTA. Through this project and other collaborations, Turner has seen firsthand Kleinkina’s commitment to her students’ education. “The text she designed is thoughtful, features a logical learning sequence to introduce new theoretical concepts as well as improve students’ piano technique, and features music from multiple genres rather than focusing on Western Classical music,” said Turner. “She had to reach beyond her training as a classical pianist to arrange music from other genres, but this helps make her classroom more inclusive and welcoming to students from diverse musical and cultural backgrounds.”

Teaching professor Paul Garcia, director of bands, said that Kleiankina creates an engaging environment for students that fosters growth and creativity, and helps connect them to music and to each other. “She is constantly working towards innovation and improvement so our department can better serve the entire NC State community.”

About her teaching philosophy, Kleinkina said, “Art, and particularly music, is not only a skill that we can learn; it changes the ways we perceive each other, the ways we behave, the ways we organize our work and the ways we express our emotions. It teaches us to create and share with others but also to set and follow an example of personal integrity. These lessons reflect the most valuable experience in my formation as an artist, and now they stand at the foundation of my teaching philosophy. Our students love music classes not only because they are fun but also because discovering music is a meaningful part of who they are.”

Kleiankina is a graduate in piano performance and music theory from St. Neaga College of Music in Chisinau, Moldova. She continued her international musical training at the Academy of Music Gh. Dima in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, further receiving a Master of Music from Bowling Green State University and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Michigan. She has presented numerous lectures, lecture-recitals, and master classes internationally and in the United States at events such as the 2008 MTNA Conference in Denver and the 2011 CMS Conference in Richmond.

Kleiankina is also an active solo and chamber music performer with an international career. She has performed with orchestras from Moldova, Romania, United States and Russia with conductors Emil Simon, Robert Houlihan, Zsolt Janko, Randolph Foy and Jeffrey Meyer. Besides her interest and expertise in Classical and Romantic music, she is an enthusiastic performer of new music promoting works of North Carolina composers Karel Husa, Rodney Waschka, and J. Mark Scearce. She has appeared in new music festivals such as 2002 Sigismund Toduta Festival in Romania, 2010 Sound Ways Festival in St. Petersburg, Russia, 2012 New Music Festival in Moldova, 2014 Modern Music Festival in Santiago, Chile.