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UNF Foundation, Inc.

Lifetime love of music inspires philanthropy

Peter Trofimenko’s career merged two worlds — one financial, the other musical. He worked within both  for many years; investment expert by day, orchestra conductor and arranger by night. 

Though retired now, Trofimenko’s love of music continues and recently inspired a gift that will touch the lives of UNF music students for many years to come.

trofimenko and orchestraCollected over a long career, his donation included string and percussion instruments that filled the Robinson Theater stage, orchestra scores, 70 boxes of sheet music, CDs and DVDs. 

For the School of Music, the donation is indeed a treasure. The gifts include a grand marimba, timpani, xylophones and many other percussion instruments. Dr. Andrea Venet, assistant professor of percussion and department head, said the generous donation has enhanced operations and programming. 

 “Students now have access to full-size, concert quality instruments in our practice rooms as well as spaces used for instruction,” Venet said. “Peter’s generosity has allowed us to have multiple ensembles rehearsing at the same time, which we were unable to do before.” It has also allowed for a different kind of music to be played at UNF with the donated strings, which include Russian folk instruments called domras and balalaikas. Trofimenko, who grew up in what is now Ukraine, began playing a balalaika in first grade.

 After earning a Ph.D. in finance, and a second undergraduate degree in music, Trofimenko relocated with his family to work at an investment firm in Washington D.C., where he founded the American Balalaika Symphony. He served as artistic director and conductor for more than 70 musicians and also traveled the world to conduct other orchestras. 

These days, since his relocation to Jacksonville, you might find him visiting Room 2304 in the Fine Arts Center, where violinist Rose Francis and her students are learning to play domras. Francis said Trofimenko also has been generous with his time, demonstrating techniques and sharing the history of the instruments.

Francis has been tasked with creating a new program at UNF and to grow the current small ensemble. “It’s really a lot of fun, and we’re having a great time learning instruments of a different culture,” Francis said. “Not many musicians have seen a balalaika orchestra or heard the instrument, let alone been able to get their hands on one.” 

For Trofimenko, the donation is all about helping students develop as musicians. “I hope that the students take an interest in playing the string instruments, which are used as a foundation for music education in Eastern Europe,” he said. “They’re very easy to play, and your UNF students are progressing quickly. I’m impressed.”