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Getting To Know Oksana Kolesnikova – Composer, Concert Pianist, Entrepreneur… And True Testament To “The American Dream”

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We recently sat down with Oksana Kolesnikova, the Russian-born classically-trained composer, concert pianist and entrepreneur based out of the Beverly Hills area, to find out more about her roots, her beginnings in Florida, the kind of music she composes, some of her most famous gigs and much more, offering a peek into the businesswoman extraordinaire who has become a true testament to “the American dream.”

The current owner and operator of the Oksana School of Music and Art in Beverly Hills – a facility that was won the coveted Best of Beverly Hills Business Award and which has become recognized on L.A.’s uber-competitive arts education scene – Oksana reaches students in the greater Los Angeles area through in-person and online lessons, with a plethora of professional instructors boasting years of experience under her tutelage. Pupils exhibiting skills of all levels, from beginning to intermediate to advanced, are welcomed in a state-of-the-art environment, and even students in other states or countries get in on the learning experience by way of Skype music lessons.

Yet even with the impressive accomplishment of establishing and running her own music school and recording albums that represent a showcase for her classical pianist expertise, Oksana has further expanded into other ventures, what with the Oksana Management Group, Inc. arm of operations regularly holding exciting mixer events throughout the Los Angeles area, her music school evolving to include well-received After-School Enrichment Programs and more.

Indeed, in a town notorious for sheltering the dreams of everyone who has ever fantasized about becoming famous – or infamous, in some cases – it’s not always easy to cut through the thick fog of Hollywood promises and find one’s footing…but this classically-trained composer, concert pianist and entrepreneur has done just that in a relatively scant period of time.

Q: Tell us about your move from Russia to the U.S. – what was it like for your family there, and where did you end up settling in America?

Oksana: We moved to the U.S. in the early ‘90s when I was in my mid-teens; life was not easy back home, and the country was going through major economic turmoil and dramatic changes. I feel truly blessed that my family brought us to America, eventually settling in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida.

Q: Why did you choose St. Petersburg when coming to the USA?

Oksana: I would have to say it was fate; upon arriving in the States, we landed in Miami, but we were heading to San Francisco, and so we took a coastal train to see and experience some parts of America. To say it was marvelous is an understatement – but perhaps more importantly, we struck up a conversation with a fellow traveler who offered a real glimpse into what the U.S. was all about, immediately connecting with this individual. She provided us so much interesting and valuable information, and we truly enjoyed learning about this new place we were calling home. One of the most powerful impressions she left on me was her enthusiasm about this gorgeous city called St. Petersburg; in fact, this enthusiasm had such an effect on us that after a year or so living in San Francisco, we decided to visit the Florida hot spot and fell in love with everything about it. In making St. Petersburg my home, I eventually graduated from SPC – of which I have the fondest memories – and during my tenure there won a piano competition that earned me a full scholarship at Florida State University.

Q: What kind of music do you compose? Where can we hear it?

Oksana: Being a very versatile musician and having been classically-trained, classical music is my first love…and always will be. Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Debussy and, of course, my favorite, Rachmaninoff, are all inspirational beacons for my work. However, in facing the “real world” following my schooling, I realized that the demand for popular and rock music was greater than the demand for classical. Ultimately, I had to switch gears and change with the times, as they say, so I delved into discovering and learning music of all styles as performed by contemporary artists. Indeed, I learned how to play everything from The Beatles to Elton John, Queen, Jerry Lee Lewis and everything in between; at one point, I had engaged in seven consecutive hours of never repeating the same song during practice sessions. Still, my true artistic calling is composing my own original music, which I would classify as “crossover” – a combination of both classical and modern – and I continue to pour my heart into beautiful melodies, a sentiment that I consider the essential core of my every musical creation. My music is overtly deep and intended to inspire contemplation and reflection, and while I love writing for piano, I have collaborated over the years with many other talented musicians who went on to create their own instrumental and vocal arrangements of my music, in varying styles. What’s more, there are about 200 YouTube videos depicting me in action on my channel, dubbed Oksanabella.

Q: How did you land the prestigious position playing piano daily at the Polo Lounge in the famed Beverly Hills Hotel?

Oksana: To be honest, it was the cumulative result of pure hustle, passion and determination. When my husband and I moved to L.A. in 2006 from the Tampa Bay area to be in the Mecca of the entertainment industry, we didn’t know anyone, and so to establish myself in the new city, we had to literally knock on the doors of countless food and beverage directors of upscale hotels and other venues (who, in Hollywood, handle all entertainment bookings). A lucky break came when one of these managers gave me the contact of a well-established booking agent in L.A. who handles all entertainment for several five-star hotels; after multiple attempts and a passion-endowed perseverance in trying to establish contact with him, he finally took notice and gave me the opportunity to perform daily at one of the most glamorous venues in Beverly Hills, the legendary Polo Lounge, where I performed from 2006 until 2013.

Q: You must have quite the interesting collection of stories – who are some of the celebrities you played for?

Oksana: My seven-year tenure at the Polo Lounge was filled with daily excitement and interactions with just about every A-list celebrity – from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Brad Pitt, Madonna, the Kardashians and others. I would play at the Lounge during lunch hours when these stars would come in to have meetings with their managers. One of the best highlights of that time is when one day I was playing Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ when lo and behold, Elton John himself walks in! He strolled over to the piano, smiled and said, “Nice song, isn’t it?” He then sat at the table next to the piano, and when I was done, he hugged me and complimented me on my playing. This is just one example of the many celebrity interactions I can tell you about; in fact, some of these celebrities took notice of my playing and would inquire about private piano lessons. This interaction eventually became the catalyst that helped build my private studio (teaching celebrities and their kids) and also inspired me to perform at many gala events and fundraisers.

Q: How did you transition from pianist, composer and one-on-one music teacher to educating countless students on a variety of instruments?

Oksana: My first company, the Oksana School of Music, was born grassroots-style, if you will; when I became a mom, I could no longer travel and perform as much as I used to before, so I focused my energies on building my business. Thanks to the many years of creating and cultivating contacts at the Polo Lounge, I was ready to transition into starting my own venture and becoming a businesswoman. I started out by building my studio for piano students, but I soon spotted an opportunity for something unique when many of my existing piano clients would ask me for referrals for the siblings of my students, for the purpose of learning other musical instruments. At that point, I slowly started building a team of contracted professional musicians who shared the same passion for teaching and who wanted to make extra money. This is essentially how the current iteration of the Oksana School of Music was born, offering not only piano but guitar, drums, singing and other instruments. Currently, we have over 70 teachers on our team.

Q: How did you recognize the need for the arts and scholastic enrichment in L.A. schools?

Oksana: It’s not a secret that so many music, arts and foreign language programs have been cut out from schools nationwide. When I moved to a new school district and was enrolling my son in the new school, I was also hoping to enroll him in extra curriculum after-school programs so he could learn a new skill or subject. At that point, I realized that none of these were available; not only at my child’s school, but in so many others. In understanding that there were so many other parents that wanted the same options as I did, I created exciting and affordable group programs and pitched them to several schools. I received an overwhelming reception for our After-School Enrichment Programs, which now are in many schools throughout L.A. and in all the schools in Beverly Hills.

Q: What inspired the foreign languages and test prep options to evolve from your music program?

Oksana: In 2010, I launched my second company, Oksana Management Group, Inc., also known as OMG, Inc., and wherein the Oksana School of Music would only offer music lessons, OMG, Inc. would expand to provide foreign language and academic tutoring, being that I saw the growing demand for these subjects through my music lessons clients. In fact, many of the very same clients who had signed up for music lessons ended up needing additional services such as foreign languages and/or academic tutoring for their children. So, once I had informed them about our new expansion, they felt more comfortable working with us rather than searching for an outside solution, being that they could experience everything under one roof, delivered in a professional manner.

Q: How many schools are you serving and where are they located?

Oksana: We initially launched in Beverly Hills, and then expanded into Santa Clarita and South Bay. Currently we service dozens of schools and have reached maximum capacity at our headquarters. However, since the demand for After-School Programs was at an all-time high and we wanted to continue growing our brand nationally, the idea of franchising our business model came along. And so, as of this past October, we launched our own franchise venture, Oksana Franchising International, Inc., allowing us to duplicate the same success through other entrepreneurs nationwide – and, as our namesake suggests, even internationally at some point.

Q: What was the inspiration to make your enrichment program available for franchising?

Oksana: The private education sector is a multi-billion industry. There was and always will be great interest in educating children and providing them opportunities beyond what general education can provide. For as long as there are kids around, their parents will want them to be involved with sports, music, art, drama and, of course, anything to improve their grades through tutoring and strengthening their academics. Through building OMG, Inc., I learned that I could scale my business model to meet this demand; it took us 10 years of hard work plus trial and error to get to this point of success and expansion, but our franchisees can minimize the learning curve and avoid costly mistakes to get to the same point. We provide a proven formula and turn-key operation for other entrepreneurs to be just as successful.

Q: What goes into the preparation for that kind of business offering?

Oksana: Well, I am going to be honest here…it’s not exactly a walk in a park: It entails a lot of hard work, organized thought and many sleepless nights. It took one year of diligent work and preparation for putting our Franchise Disclosure Document together with the help of our Franchising Consultant, which made it possible to get it all approved by the FTC and U.S. Regulators. But now, I’m proud to say that as of October 2019, Oksana Franchising International has been officially approved to award franchises in 35 states, to start with.

Q: What advice do you have for musicians, educators and budding entrepreneurs who want to move beyond their current vocations, but don’t believe they possess the expertise to run a franchise?

Oksana: Be your own boss! And I’m here to help by offering this fantastic franchise opportunity. I’m highly vested in our franchisees’ success; when they succeed, we succeed! To ensure that, we provide several days of in-depth training and ongoing support so they can duplicate our success and attain their own American dream. Also, our competitive advantage is that we make the entry level for our franchisees as smooth and easy as possible by offering very low initiation fees and royalties, and by assigning the largest protected territory.

Q: Are you performing at any upcoming events where we can catch you?

Oksana: Yes, I can be followed on social media, where I regularly post my activities, upcoming performances and other interesting tidbits; on Instagram: Pianist Oksana and on Facebook: OksanaEnrichment.

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