By Katyayani Krishnan
Natalia Nastaskin moved to the USA from the Soviet Union with her family at the age of 8. Her family was extremely poor, but every Friday, her parents would give her and her brother a treat: a dollar for pizza slices. Her brother spent his 50 cents on slices and soda, and she’d save hers to buy records. She’d play each record on repeat, and with her English-To-Russian dictionary, learn the translation and pronunciation of every word on the record – teaching herself how to speak English; albeit at first, her vocabulary was somewhat limited to love and heartbreak.
Nastaskin was this year’s featured guest at the 25th Zafris Lecture series, sponsored by the Music Business/Management Department, and it was an absolute honor to get to hear her story firsthand. As she spoke of her life and professional journey, all I could notice was how resolute and unswerving she was, whether it was about her struggles or her successes.
Her story of struggle as an immigrant in this country really resonated with me, having been in various situations of discrimination myself, but it gave me hope that sincere hard work and resilience really does bear fruit. As per her parents’ wishes, she finished her law degree, but still was unsure as to what she wanted to do. She loved music, wasn’t a musician, yet wanted to be in the business. And how would she pull this off? Landing an internship at the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) vanquished her uncertainty and was the first pivotal moment in her career.
Mrs. Nastaskin’s story laid out in context some very important truths that I am often reminded of, but here, really understood. First, your contacts and networks are your greatest allies. Though she had been introverted by nature, her passion for her career dragged her out of her shell – the people she interacted and worked with ended up giving her many of the opportunities she couldn’t imagine having. Even then, these opportunities led to risky decisions such as the choice to leave her own practice, which took 5 years to set up, to join the Agency Group (now acquired by United Talent Agency). Second, patience is key – from setting up her own practice to the head of US Operations at UTA took Mrs. Nastaskin over 16 years to achieve. Big things begin with small steps, and each step of the way, she was aware of her purpose and her passion. Third, the determination with which you conduct yourself professionally will never fail you. Graduates from college always complain about the lack of jobs on the market however she reassured us that there are always jobs available in this industry. One simply needs to be persistent despite the failures. And there will be many!
Graduating from Berklee in less than a year has already got me nervous, and attending this talk really opened my eyes to the world of hardships waiting to happen, but also to the endless sum of opportunities—if I am tenacious enough to find them.
Katyayani Krishnan is of Indian descent and was raised in Singapore. She is pursuing a double major in music business and contemporary writing and production and is a voice principal. She writes and plays her own music, but is also an avid photographer and videographer.
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As an immigrant from Soviet Union myself, I can relate to every single word. Thank you for sharing you story Natalia.