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Elina Akselrud follows Chopin and her musical dream to Canberra

If becoming a concert pianist meant anything less than "everything" to her, Elina Akselrud might well have found herself on the other side of a camera lens. 

Photography has long been a hobby for the 24-year-old Ukrainian, but it could never match the passion for piano that came from her being the daughter of two concert pianists. 

"I probably would have pursued [photography] more if I didn't take piano so seriously. I had to make a decision," Akselrud said.

That decision has seen her chasing her musical dream all around the world. This week it has brought her to Canberra where she'll come under the scrutiny of five judges at the International Chopin Piano Competition hosted by ANU's School of Music.

"To become a classical pianist is everything. I resigned from all my jobs and now I travel from competition to competition because I don't have an agent so it's the optimal way to be exposed," says Akselrud.

"I love seeing the world," says Akselrud. "I've been all over Europe; to Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Holland and also around the US, but this is my first time in Australia."

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To help pay off her US educational loan for studying a Bachelor and Masters in piano over nine years, Akselrud is hoping for a piece of the $40,000 prize money on offer. But she will have to beat 10 of the world's most talented young pianists to get it.

"I absolutely want to become a concert pianist," she says. "No one ever pushed me to do it, it was always my choice. Of course I was made to practise when I was 10 or 11 because nobody wants to practise when they're that age. But then you realise it's essential if you want to achieve something."

Similarly, Maciej Wota from Poland admits the reality that becoming a concert pianist takes sacrifice. "I was interested very much about cars but now I have to lose my interest in them because music takes so much time."

"I was thinking very much about my future as a classical pianist when I finished studying," he says. "Now I am a student of a degree in the organ because the possibility of being noticed as a pianist today is very difficult as there is lots of talent."

The competitors will have the chance to play some of Chopin's famous pieces and semi-finalists will showcase an Australian composition before Friday highlights the skills of three finalists against a string quartet.

Tickets for ANU students are free and more information on the 2014 Australian International Chopin Piano Competition is available on the School of Music website.

To become a classical pianist is everything. I resigned from all my jobs and now I travel from competition to competition.

Elina Akselrud

"Polish people hear and play Chopin all the time, but the fundamental is that we are not bored," says Wota. "The entire world is not bored by Chopin."