Living the American Dream
Her Love affair with music made her the CEO of three companies
By Eva Simo
Oksana Kolesnikova is an inspirational example of living the The American Dream. She is an elegant Russian-born American pianist and composer, who transformed herself from a talented music student arriving into the U.S. into a renowned performer, educator, innovative franchise developer. Oksana is now the CEO of three companies including Oksana® Management Group, Inc and she is serving students and schools with her vision of a range of everything from languages and music, to academic tutoring. In Fall of 2019 Oksana launched her Oksana® Enrichment Programs, and educational platform, that is paying forward business opportunities for others to reach their own American Dream.
With these programmes Oksana has successfully combined team-building, mentoring, collaborative relationships, and digital resources into an innovative business model.
How would you describe your passion for music, and how did you start your path to your entrepreneurship journey?
Being classically trained, classical music is my first love and remains a focal element at the core of my soul. Indeed, it was in my early childhood that I discovered the joy and love for music, and everything I have achieved since in my professional career has been born of this primary passion.
Still, having to face the real world following my schooling, I quickly realized that there was more of an interest in rock and pop music than a demand for classical, forcing me to switch gears and adapt to the times. To this end, I dove head-first into exposing myself to the music of contemporary artists, actually enjoying the process along the way – I learned how to play everything from the likes of Sir Elton John and The Beatles to Queen, and even the great Jerry Lee Lewis.
In the end, though, my true artistic calling has remained – and always will remain – composing my own original music, which I regularly define as “crossover” in nature… A fusion of both modern and classical, reflecting a passionate love for beautiful melodies at the center of my every musical creation. What’s more, my music has often been described as almost meditatively deep, specially-crafted for personal contemplation and reflection, and I can’t argue with that.
While I love writing for piano, I have collaborated with many other talented musicians who laid the path to additional instrumental and vocal arrangements of my music in different styles, and there are now approximately 200 videos showcasing my talents on my YouTube channel, dubbed “Oksanabella.”
With regard to my entrepreneurial roots, the first company I launched was the Oksana® School of Music, which was born grassroots-style; when I became a mom, I could no longer travel and perform as much as I used to. So, I focused my energies on building my business. Because of the many years creating and cultivating contacts at the famous Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills, where I performed as in-house pianist for seven years, I was ready to take the next step and transition into launching my own venture and becoming a businesswoman.
What began as a project building my studio for piano students evolved into an opportunity for something different, when many of my existing piano clients would ask me for referrals for the siblings of my students so that they may learn to study other musical instruments. At that point, I began building a team of contracted professional musicians who shared the same passion for teaching and who wanted to earn extra money. The Oksana® School of Music was born, offering not only piano but guitar, drums, singing and other instrument lessons.
You and your family moved to the States in early 90s, how has this experience influenced your development and today’s success?
We moved to the United States in the early 90s, when I was in my teens; indeed, life was far from easy back home, as the country was going through significant economic turmoil and dramatic changes.
To say that I feel truly blessed that my family brought us to the States is something of an understatement. This one experience of moving across the world to the “land of opportunity” taught me, first and foremost, to never take anything for granted and to also show gratitude and appreciation for everything around me. It also taught me the value and meaning of hard work, and understanding the measurable results from it. As well as perseverance and determination – to never give up even amidst the specters of setbacks and defeat. Perhaps most importantly, I have learned the sheer value of helping and inspiring others through my artistic and business endeavours.
Which is the most unforgettable experience of your life in music?
If I had to choose the most life-changing event with regard to musical ambitions, I’d have to say it was moving from Florida to Los Angeles, California in order to pursue my dreams.
When my husband and I moved to LA in 2006 from the Tampa Bay area to reside in the mecca of the entertainment industry, we didn’t know anyone. To establish myself and grow roots in our new home, we literally had to knock on the doors of countless food and beverage directors of upscale hotels and other venues, as these were the entities handling all entertainment bookings.
A lucky break arrived when one of these managers provided me with the contact of a well-established booking agent in LA who handles all entertainment for several five-star hotels. After multiple attempts and passionate perseverance in trying to establish contact with him, he finally took notice and offered the opportunity to perform daily at one of the most glamorous venues in Beverly Hills, the legendary and aforementioned Polo Lounge, where I played from 2006 through 2013.
My seven years at the Polo Lounge were fueled by copious amounts of daily excitement and interactions with just about every A-list celebrity – from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Brad Pitt to Madonna and the Kardashians. I would play at the lounge during lunch hours when these stars would come in to have meetings with their managers… It was truly a magical time. One of my fondest memories of this era was when:
I was playing Elton John’s “Your Song,” and, much to my sheer wonder and amazement, the man now known as Sir Elton John himself walked in, coming up to the piano and smiling while quipping “Nice song, isn’t it?”
He then sat at the table next to my piano, and when the song was finished, hugged me and complimented me on my playing. This is just one of the many celebrity-related stories I can tell from my days at the Polo Lounge, and I will never forget them.
Some of these celebrities took notice of my performances and would inquire about hiring me for private piano lessons, which helped me build my private studio – where I would instruct celebrities and their children – while aiding in my performing at many gala events and fundraisers.
Can you tell us more about your success in business and most of all about Oksana Enrichment Program?
It’s not a secret that so many music, arts and foreign language programs have been cut 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 get him involved in extra-curricular after-school programs, so he could learn a new skill or subject. It was at that point that I realized none of these were actually available – not only at my own child’s school, but in so many others, as well.
Thus, it hit me for the first time that there must have been so many parents out there who wanted the same options for their own kids, ultimately sparking the idea for exciting and affordable group programs. In pitching this to different schools, I received an overwhelming reception for our After-School Enrichment Programs, which have since found a home in many schools throughout LA and in Beverly Hills.
While the Beverly Hills area was the initial launching point, our programs have expanded into Santa Clarita and South Bay, and we currently serve dozens of schools, actually reaching maximum capacity at our headquarters. However, since the demand for After-School Enrichment Programs has grown exponentially – and because we wanted to expand our brand nationally – the concept of franchising our business suddenly became a reality. As such, October 2019 saw the launch of our own franchise venture, Oksana® Franchising International, Inc.
Now, it’s possible to duplicate the same success by way of other entrepreneurs nationwide and, one day, as our namesake suggests, even internationally.
I must say that the private education sector is a multi-billion-dollar industry, and there was and always will be a high demand for educating children while providing them opportunities beyond the confines of “garden variety teaching.” As long as there are children, parents will want them to be involved in sports, music, art, drama and, of course, anything to improve their grades through premium tutoring.
In so many words, we’re on a mission to strengthen academics.
Through building my Oksana® Management Group, Inc. company, I learned that I could scale my business model because of this before mentioned demand. It took us 10 years of hard work, trial and error to get to this point of success and expansion, but our franchisees can now be assured of a minimized learning curve and avoidance of costly mistakes to arrive at the same level. We provide a proven formula and a turnkey operation so other entrepreneurs can be just as successful as we were.
Being a very active business woman, with 3 businesses now, how do you balance work and other features of your life?
I believe that life should be balanced so that we don’t get burned out under piles of pressure and stress. My favorite spare time, outside of work and playing piano, is being with friends and, most importantly, my own family. I am the proud mother of Alessandro Concas, born in 2009, who is already quite the successful and ambitious young entrepreneur, having completed his first book The A to Zs of Fighting Boredom when he was just eight. He has since expanded this into a profitable venture, with which he plans to fund his own college education and donate to charities; in fact, he is now also planning on opening his own publishing business, starting with his own school’s magazine/newspaper, when he returns to school. He is also a talented pianist, and loves to entertain crowds with his impressive skills on the keys.
To say I love spending my free time with him and teaching him all there is to know about business, music and other important life tools is another understatement.
In response to the Coronavirus Pandemic what is Oksana Enrichment Program offering?
I always dreamt of having my own foundation one day… To give back to communities that have nurtured my own hopes and dreams, and through which I could perform charitable work for these different communities. I also have always had a burning desire to help underprivileged youth by offering them educational opportunities that they otherwise could never afford. These dreams became reality when the unfortunate current events we find ourselves in lead to the launch of my non-profit Oksana® Foundation.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Oksana® Foundation has been providing free-of-charge online music programs to children aged seven through 13 and who have been confined at home due to social distancing measures. A plethora of children have joined our virtual classrooms every week to master a new skill, and we’ve been welcoming more students who wish to join us – regardless of where they’re located in the world.
I post ever-changing announcements and details about these programs on my social media pages, including on Instagram at PianistOksana and on Facebook at “OksanaEnrichment.”
To know more about Oksana and her work go to:
Photography by Mindy Sahagun-Ruder