Nona was born and grew up on the coast of the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus), in the former Soviet republic of Georgia—and 29 years later, ended up across the ocean in the state of Georgia, U.S.A. In 1985 she graduated from Tbilisi State University with a master's degree in Middle Eastern studies (with a concentration in Arabic language, culture, history, and politics). She married a classmate and they have two beautiful daughters. She writes, "In the late '80s, our lackluster Soviet lives suddenly took an extraordinary turn. The Iron Curtain, which had seemed a perpetual fixture, miraculously began to dismantle itself and the 'Evil Empire' started crumbling right in front of our eyes. Suddenly the United States, which seemed like a world outside of our galaxy, became our next destination. My husband was invited as a scholar to the department of radiology and neurosurgery at Emory University in Atlanta, and that's how we began our American saga, traveling from Georgia to Georgia."
How long have you worked at Juilliard, and what do you remember about your first day? Or what is one of your favorite memories from your years here?
I have been at Juilliard for more than four years, but it seems like it was just a week ago that I came. I don’t exactly remember my first day, but I do remember a general, overwhelming feeling of “Yippee, I am at Juilliard!” My favorite memories here are always associated with my [international] students’ performances. I will never forget how desperately I was trying to log in to the Van Cliburn Festival’s Web site to watch live online performances by Chu-Fang Huang, Gaby Martinez, and Joyce Yang. The connection was slow and I was cursing so badly that my husband could not bear staying in the same room with me.
What job at Juilliard would you like to try out for a day and why?
I would not mind being the president of Juilliard—but not for just one day, as the things I’d like to accomplish would require much more than that!
What is the strangest or most memorable job you’ve ever had and what made it so?
My life has been anything but ordinary and conventional, but when it comes to jobs, I cannot think of anything strange and unusual.
If out of the blue your boss said to take the day off, what would you do with your free time?
I would bury myself in all of the available media sources in order to catch up with current foreign affairs. Perhaps what you are thinking now is “please, get a life”—but that is my life.
Many Juilliard staff members are also artists. Are you?
I am not a professional artist, but you can surely call me a true music aficionado. If I could start my life all over again, I would definitely be a pianist, and a darn good one.
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
There are many things, but these are my top three: foreign affairs, music, and … English bulldogs. In my dream-world I am a secretary of state of Georgia, working in my office in Tbilisi, listening to Lohengrin and petting my English bulldog.
What was the best vacation you’ve had and what made that trip so special? Or where would you most like to travel and what draws you to that place?
The best vacation for me always consists of going home and hanging out with my childhood friends. As a tourist, I would love to visit Israel and explore Jerusalem.
What book are you reading right now, or what CD are you listening to?
I just finished reading Istanbul, Memories and the City by a Nobel Prize-winning Turkish novelist, Orhan Pamuk. He presents a breathtaking portrait of a city, an elegy for a dead civilization, and a meditation on life’s complicated intimacies. I do not even remember when I purchased my last CD. If I am not mistaken, it was The Essential Miles Davis, almost three years ago. Thanks to Napster I am taking full advantage of advanced technology and enjoying any music at any given time.
What might people be surprised to know about you?
I will be celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary in June.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
Its chaos and unpredictability. This city makes you drop-dead tired, but at the same time keeps you fulfilled and alive. I like the philosophy of, “If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.”