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Composer, conductor and pianist Virko Baley (b. 1938, Radekhiv, Ukraine) spent his early childhood in Slovakia and at a displaced persons camp in Germany owing to the Second World War. His first music lessons took place at the camp with Roman Sawycky, although his music studies did not begin in earnest until after his family settled in Los Angeles in 1949. He completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano and composition at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music. After military service with a U.S. Army band in Germany, he joined the faculty of his alma mater, renamed the California Institute of the Arts, in 1967. In 1970 he joined the faculty of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Music, where he worked for the next 46 years. The founding music director of the Nevada Symphony Orchestra, he has conducted orchestras in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Ukraine and Russia.
Baley’s compositions include a symphony, a piano concerto, two violin concertos and other orchestral works, chamber pieces, compositions for solo piano, violin, oboe, bass clarinet, bassoon and contrabassoon, a one-act opera titled Hunger, about the Holodomor, and the score to Yuri Illienko’s film Swan Lake: The Zone. In 1996 Baley became the first American to receive Ukraine’s Shevchenko State Prize for music.