Tetyana Haraschuk’s debut album is a musical thank-you letter to those who have supported her.
For the 23-year-old jazz drummer and composer from Winnipeg, the project was inspired by some heavy philosophical thinking. She challenged herself to read Nicomachean Ethics by the Greek philosopher Aristotle amid the pandemic and connected with the ideas therein.
"What does one do, you know, other than ponder existence and stuff?" she says over the phone from her apartment in small-town Spain; bells from the village’s lone church ring out during our conversation.
Haraschuk left home last fall, at the height of the pandemic, to pursue a master’s degree at the Boston-based Berklee College of Music’s Valencia campus. Being a world away from friends and family gave her a greater appreciation for the important people in her life.
"I was thinking about how these values of kindness, honesty and perseverance are very important to me," she says. "And I learned them from the people around me… I’m very grateful for that."
That gratitude informed her first album, The Intentions of Honesty, Kindness and Perseverance, which she wrote, recorded and released for her thesis project. The work is made up of three instrumental tracks portraying the feeling of each moral value — kindness is a clean, gentle movement while perseverance is frantic and distorted — connected by shorter interludes.
Focusing on composition gave the project creative restrictions.
"The box I put myself in was really painting a picture and creating a story in the form of a suite," she says.
Creating an album has also been an exercise in letting go.
"When you first write (something), it’s only you that’s touching it," she says. "Once you start rehearsing and recording, everyone else is touching it as well, and I think at that point you have to kind of separate from it."
Haraschuk started playing percussion at 10 years old and was encouraged by her parents to pursue the interest. Before receiving an electronic drum set, she practiced tapping out beats on anything and everything — the floor, her knees, tabletops.
She joined the jazz band at Transcona Collegiate, where her teacher sparked an interest in the genre. Initially, her goal was to play along with songs by AC/DC, Bryan Adams and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. By the time she graduated, it was all jazz, all the time. She was introduced to the world of composing at the University of Manitoba and has tapped into a new level of creativity at Berklee in Spain.
"I was surrounded by people from all over the world, and I think that was the most amazing part," says Haraschuk, whose degree focused on contemporary performance and music production. "I’m slowly getting into production and electronic music… I can see that being part of my creative projects and creativity moving forward."
She had never been to Spain and arrived with one suitcase, little understanding of Spanish and a misguided assumption about the local climate.
"I just assumed that it was warm, or warmer than Winnipeg, so I didn’t actually bring a jacket," she says with a chuckle. "Turns out that Valencia is super windy and… my parents had to send me a package with, like, tuques and gloves and a jacket."
Despite the minor culture shock, Haraschuk has fallen for the European way of life and will be sticking around for a while, looking for gigs and working on her next album. "I would like to explore more of what Europe has to offer," she says. "Because it’s pushing me out of my comfort zone and I’m enjoying it."
The Intentions of Honesty, Kindness and Perseverance is available on most streaming services.
Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.