In the spring of 2016 an expat from Mexico Luis Aguilar ran a new music institute in Moscow–Aguilar Institute Cadenza, where all students are taught music, singing and dancing in English, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. We decided to talk to Luis and see what he thinks about the creative potential, the music industry and the specifics of doing business in Russia.
MOSKVAER: Luis, before coming to Russia, you lived in Mexico, Great Britain and China. Have you tried to develop business in these countries? Could you tell us, what are the differences between creating and conduction of business, which you noticed between Russia and the countries, where you have lived before?
LUIS: Whilst in China, I contemplated the possibility to start Cadenza Institute; I knew the language and the culture there, it seemed like the perfect time to launch it but I could not materialize it because many foreigners were leaving Beijing because of pollution issues and Chinese bilingual families were emigrating to other countries. Those two sectors were my main market potential.
The main difference I have seen for opening and running a business in Russia compared to other countries is that, other places might require you to file less paperwork and less administrative fees compared to Russia. However, in Russia, because of the exchange rate you do not loose that much money on the beginning stages of your project.
Also, laws for foreigners doing business here are a bit more stable than let’s say, China where a new law or requirement could be changed/added every 3-6 months.
How comfortable does Moscow seem to you for people of artistic professions? On your feelings, is it a city, where you should go to search you “place under the sun”?
LUIS: Moscow has a long tradition for arts; mainly music, ballet and theatre. Therefore, Moscow was the perfect place for me to open the Music/Art Institute.
For anyone who is passionate about performances, shows, concerts, etc. Moscow offers many choices throughout the year.
After living in huge world capitals like Mexico City, London and Beijing, I’ve learnt two things: first–there’s no perfect place to live; and second–wherever you go, people will always think another city is better than theirs.
Moscow is for me a very comfortable city as a westerner. What I like here is that, no matter the season, people always find interesting things to do and make the most of any kind of weather!
What difficulties have you faced here, as an expat?
LUIS: One of the toughest places for me to live was Asia. I feel Russians as ‘my cousins’, we might not be the same but we share many things in common when it comes to social situations and human interactions. Even without knowing the language that well, I’ve found a lot of support from people here trying to understand my needs and willing to help me in general whilst opening Cadenza.
The only part that seems a bit uncomfortable is when police clearly stops only people who are non-white to check their documents.
As an expat opening a business here, you are more likely to submit extra paperwork and to ‘prove’ that your business is legit to the government so, for many foreigners that can create some difficult situations.
Are you checking on political battles in the world? What did you know about Russia, in a political context, before coming here? Did it change after your move-over?
LUIS: Currently, news are not that positive and often portrait lots of stereotypes about countries, their political and social situation that is not always the case. Every time I used to arrive to a country for the first time, I had some ideas from what I heard or saw in the media. However, in every single country, that idea changed over the time. Therefore, I have learnt to always have an open mind and to try to understand each country’s people and environment. For instance, in Russia, I still have people from abroad that think I need to get tickets for clothes, food, the socialism and all the stereotypes attached to Russia.
Actually, young people here enjoy their time even better than in other countries. For example, many of them are into and have access to the latest trends and fashion; they listen and have access to all sorts of music. That is one of the reasons why I decided to offer contemporary music courses at Cadenza. Otherwise, I would not start a business here.
It is a common thing in the world, when popular musicians start to be politicians, deputies, etc. Tell us, in your opinion, is music can be mixed with politics? What do you think about this “reincarnations” of your colleagues?
LUIS: Music is an extremely powerful way of expression and that is why I created Cadenza so people can find a way to express themselves through the music and arts. I believe some famous musicians use their fame to get into politics in order to deliver a message across and to create more awareness within the people. But, some others might see it as a chance for gaining popularity.
Some fellow musicians I have met through the years have gone into politics and many ended up isolating themselves or just found out that their original cause has taken another shape.
So, mixing music and politics has to be handled with care.
You are a professional musician. Tell us, have you ever heard something from Russian Stars? What do you think about it?
LUIS: When it comes to classical Music and musicians reading music sheet, Russia is synonym of quality and prestige, hands down! Unfortunately, modern Russian singers/bands haven’t been able to go that step further and break into the English speaking music market, thus not gaining popularity worldwide. Also, is not very common for artists here to play without music sheets or to improvise, many of them are just not used to do that.
Is a shame really, because by nature, Russians are very talented. That is why I decided to establish Cadenza by offering music/dance lessons in English and helping them to develop their improvisation skills, which are crucial for standing out in the crowd.
Cadenza also provides them with the opportunity to do music summer courses in England so all those talented Russian artists can have a greater chance of success and the recognition that they truly deserve.
Is Moscow your constant location currently? What are you missing in the city for a feeling of a full comfort and harmony?
LUIS: Yes, now that I have started Cadenza, I feel very comfortable here.
In my ideal Moscow, the metro would be less noisy and with more clear visual indicators of information regarding stations and routes. You would not have to carry your passport all the time, food would be spicier and administrative paperwork for doing business would require less stamp and seals!
Apart from that, I really like this city and what it has to offer, especially on the arts scene.
Thank you for the interview, Luis!