By Angela Higginbotham
Growing up in a small town near Tula, Russia, Yana Weaver always had a profound love for music and a vast interest in American culture. A longtime music student trained by world renowned professionals, Weaver attended nine years of music school before going to college and earning a degree in both music and Russian Philology, which prepares students for the art of teaching. As a young student, a former teacher’s love for the English language gave encouragement to Weaver in pursuing her own endeavors in speaking fluent English.
Weaver met her husband of 10 years, Chad, while in America as an exchange student. 2007 marked the year when Weaver made her move to join him in the United States long term. She admits to feeling much culture shock, but with the support of her husband, it wasn’t long before she began to feel more at ease in America. The Weavers later made the move from Ft. Lauderdale to Jacksonville. “It was the first time that I really felt at home in America,” Weaver said.
First offering piano lessons via ads on Craigslist, Weaver shared her passion for music by giving lessons in homes around the area. She also performed often for private parties and various other functions. In 2013, she opened her first music school, Wind of Change Academy, on Beach Boulevard. A second location recently opened on Baymeadows Road to better serve students on the Southside or in nearby areas. With approximately 400 total students and more than 20 teachers at the present time, Weaver is a true example of strength and determination to live the American dream. Her kindness and genuine love of people show every time the studio door opens.
- What made you choose the Southside for a studio location and what do you love most about the area?
Opening a business is scary, so it’s important for the location to feel good and comfortable. The area was familiar to us because we had lived on the Southside before. I love this area. We did our research and saw that a lot of children were in the surrounding neighborhoods. We just felt that this was the perfect place for a new studio.
I love the trees and nature here. Jacksonville has so much to do, and some of it even reminds me of home. I love being close to the ocean, sports, and theatre. I really love Jacksonville. I wouldn’t change a thing.
- Are you surprised with the success you’ve had since opening your first studio?
I never had a plan. I always take it one day at a time and I never thought I would actually do something like this and be so successful. I’m very thankful for the support from my husband and from the community.
- What are your goals for the future of your business?
My goals are to continue to employ teachers who have all the components of a great musician. You can’t really be taught to teach well. A lot of that comes naturally. I hope that we can make a difference in our students’ lives. I really want to keep concentrating on making something good for people who enjoy music and want to work hard to learn an instrument. I don’t want anything to be stressful for the students or parents, and creating a place that is good for everyone has always been my goal. Not all the students will be passionate or keep playing an instrument forever, but I hope they remember their time here as happy and beneficial.
- What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I like to read. I play tennis and I enjoy horseback riding, hiking and knitting. We also love to travel
- What music is usually playing in your car?
My parents always listened to music when I was growing up and I have a love for all genres of music. I think it’s all beautiful. I listen to a mix of different sounds. I actually have a great appreciation for country music and even pop and R&B. I love classical, of course. Bach is a favorite. We like what we have experienced, and I think it’s important to listen to all kinds of music.
Photo courtesy Yana Weaver