Since her public debut at eight, Dr. Popa has performed on both the North American and European continents as recitalist, chamber music collaborator and orchestral soloist. Her appearances in such distinguished halls as Jordan Hall in Boston, the Romanian Academy in Rome, the Dalles and Atheneum Halls in Bucharest, Festsaal des Bezirksamtes Margareten, Vienna, or the Ingmar Bergman Center in Sweden have garnered widespread audience accolades. Ana’s first live recording for the Romanian National Radio at age 16 was followed by several appearances on the Romanian National Television Stations, as well as the local TV stations in Massachusetts, USA.
Dr. Popa is a prize winner of several piano competitions that include the International Piano Competition for Young Pianists (Stresa, Italy) and the International Piano Competition for Young Pianists in (Rome, Italy), among others. Her Chopin and Haydn performances received Special Mentions at the Ibla International Piano Competition and Festival in Italy.
Dr. Popa is the founder and artistic director of two professional trios: Trio con Anima which has had several American and European tours; and the Stonehill Trio, named after its host, Stonehill College in Easton, MA, that combines performance and education through the format of lecture recitals. In both her solo and chamber career she is an active promoter of new music, has a strong interest in presenting music by women composers, and looks for the unusual and deserving when designing a program. In addition she has founded, led and was the Artistic Director for over a decade of the Sunday at Three concert series in Dorchester, MA, that brought free access to classical music to an underserved community of enthusiastic listeners.
Dr. Popa holds a Bachelor’s of Music in Piano Performance with Academic Honors from the New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, MA; a Master’s of Music from Boston University; and a Doctor of Musical Arts from Boston University. Her thesis You Become What You Practice: Applications of Tai Chi Principles to Piano Playing takes a critical look at the fundamental points of view prevalent in Western playing and pedagogy, identifies shortcomings and their effects, and proposes changes to the physical and mental approaches towards the piano. Her teachers include Venera Babes, Grazia Cernatescu, Alexandru Dumitrescu, Anca Peiovici, Veronica Jochum, Tong Il Han, Randall Hodgkinson, and Burton Hatheway. While at Boston University she also studied harpsichord and organ with Peter Sykes.
Dr. Popa’s interest in finding a form of exercise that has a low impact on the joints brought her to the first Tai Chi/Tàijí class. For the past 15 years she has studied the martial arts of Tai Chi and Ba Gua, various qigong sets, breathing, and Daoist meditation. With over 1300 hours of training and certifications in 6 different disciplines, she continues to practice and research these subjects and their applications to the music making. Some of her interests include body mechanics and instrumental playing; philosophical influences as practical outcomes in performance; Tàijí Quán as an integrated way to enhancing health, preventing performer’s injuries and actualizing potential; Eastern and Western attitudes towards performance; contemplative practices relevant to music making; piano pedagogy and body awareness; and pedagogical bridges between the teaching of martial arts and music. She is a student of Bruce Frantzis and his Senior Student, Bill Ryan.
Dr. Popa’s research has had a profound impact on her pedagogy. Using both body mechanics principles as well as mind training methodologies found in these practices, she has developed many integration pathways into the piano beginner’s physical setup; preventing repetitive stress injuries; teaching how to integrate the mind into the body and to be aware of the physical motion that accompanies any expressive gesture in piano playing; and the importance of whole body coordination, among many others. The effectiveness of her pedagogical work has been recognized through student achievements such as winning competitions and auditions, successful applications to undergraduate and graduate programs, and thriving careers in the music field. Most of her students stay with her for the duration of their studies.
Dr. Popa is a member of the College Music Society; the New England Piano Teachers Association; Massachusetts Music Teachers Association, and the Music Teachers National Association. She is an active regional, national, and international competition judge.
Some of her upcoming projects are Fingers, A Book of Piano Exercises designed for the non-reader young beginner who needs simple technical exercises to set the foundation for successful pianistic development; and a video course of the same name which includes teaching and demonstrations of these exercises, designed for beginners of any age and an excellent resource for self starters. In the medium future she plans to expand and update the material in her dissertation and to publish a book on the subject.
Dr. Popa is a faculty member of the Stonehill College and the Rivers School Conservatory as well as the Music Director of First Parish Dorchester. She resides in Quincy, MA.