Morro Bay music teacher from the country of Georgia featured in documentary

slinn@thetribunenews.comJuly 4, 2013 

A locally produced documentary about Morro Bay music educator Wachtang “Botso” Korisheli is headed to the East Coast.

“Botso: The Teacher from Tbilisi” will officially premiere at the Maine International Film Festival, which runs July 12 through 21 in Waterville, Maine. Local moviegoers will also have two chances to watch the film this weekend.

 “People are universally moved by the movie and (Korisheli)’s life story,” filmmaker Tom Walters said. “It’s a really a very deep human story.” 
Directed by Walters and written by Hilary Roberts Grant, “Botso” takes its title from Korisheli’s childhood nickname, which means "young steer" in Georgian.

Born in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Korisheli suffered a tragic loss at age 14 when his father, stage actor Platon Korisheli, was declared an enemy of the state by Josef Stalin and executed.

During World War II, the aspiring concert pianist was forced to join the Soviet army. While digging ditches on the front lines, he crossed the Russian border into Nazi-controlled Poland, where he was captured and drafted as a translator.

Korisheli eventually immigrated to the United States, arriving in Morro Bay in 1957.
Since then, the 91-year-old has become one of the region’s most influential teachers, founding the future San Luis Obispo Youth Symphony in 1965.

“Botso” features interviews with several of Korisheli’s students, including San Luis Obispo glass artist Larry Brebes, former San Luis Obispo County Sheriff Pat Hedges and Grammy Award-winning conductor Kent Nagano. His sister, Bay Area pianist Joan Nagano, and cousin, San Luis Obispo Symphony principal cellist Nancy Nagano, also studied with Korisheli.

Walters said “Botso” touches on universal themes, such as the importance of arts education.

“I often hear people say every school board and teacher should watch this movie,” he said. In fact, the documentary will be screened next school year at Coalinga Middle School.

In addition to the Maine International Film Festival, Grant and Walters are gearing up to screen “Botso” at a Hawaiian film festival early next year. The filmmakers showed a work-in-progress version of the documentary at the Ojai Film Festival in September 2012; they’ve also held a number of private screenings.

“It’s nice to take (“Botso”) to a completely different audience,” Walters said. 

“Botso: The Teacher from Tbilisi” screens at noon Saturday and Sunday at the Bay Theatre, 464 Morro Bay Boulevard in Morro Bay. Admission is $10 at the door.

For more information about “Botso,” call Hilary Roberts Grant at 528-4040 or visit


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