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Eli Kalman

The following faculty Q&A was submitted by the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Faculty Advocacy Committee, a committee of the Faculty Senate. Richard Kalinoski, professor of theater, wrote the introduction.

Eli Kalman, Ph.D., is a distinguished pianist and professor of music. Kalman was recently honored by having a chance to perform in concert with a cellist at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in January 2011. He is from Romania and is an inspiration in performance. Kalman honors the work of composers by graceful and delicate expression. He is an accomplished musician and cultural asset to the Oshkosh community.
How did you find your way to UW Oshkosh?

“I have been a professional musician on three continents. During my doctorate at UW-Madison, I realized how much both my wife and I would love to stay in Wisconsin, should the opportunity arise. Because we are fluent in five different languages we were able to successfully immigrate to the United States. It was the right time for us to settle down for a different phase of our life.

“My first visit to UW Oshkosh was musically marked with a Katrina Benefit Concert collaboration with faculty violinist Klara Fenyő Bahcall. I was tremendously impressed by UWO and its people and deeply honored to contribute with my music.”

Why did you choose to go into your field?

“I started playing the piano before age six in Romania as one of the two hundred fortunate youngsters brought together for a special music program in my hometown. Twelve years later only 25 of us became musicians. The journey across many exams and yearly competitions taught us that being a musician will never be an easy profession but a way of life.  The 12-year program – which is still offered – remains a wonderful compliment to our devoted teachers and their methods. Their main focus and mission was to teach us the love and respect of music.”

What is your favorite thing about UW Oshkosh?

“I see myself as the ambassador of musical values. My favorite thing about our school is the chance I get to make a difference to my students and to provide guidance. The search and initiation for the musically talented makes me a valuable tool in the hands of those who wish to learn about three hundred years of musical achievements.

“It is an amazing position to have tremendous academic freedom and real opportunities to be an example for students while staying faithful to my artistic beliefs. The music I teach or perform and the actual interaction with my growing piano studio make my life exciting and challenging. I recall from my past how good it feels to have a special mentor. I want to be that person for each of my students. It is the chance that I have here and, with no doubt, my favorite thing at UW Oshkosh.”

What is the professional accomplishment of which you are most proud?

“I am proud to have found a career that allows me to combine teaching with performing music. The dedication I have invested in both areas is highly gratifying. It means the world to me to have done well on the last many concerts I have played (here in the U.S.). I am proud of my future engagements as well. I am pleased about my recordings, especially the Schumann chamber sonatas. I am proud to make a difference for my students who have made their journey to the graduation recital. I am also very pleased about my publication of the first edition of Respighi’s Violin Sonata, dated 1897, which will come out in a few weeks on AR Publications. This is after more than five years of research and effort.”

What leadership or service activities are you involved in?

“In addition to my involvement in a variety of service activities at UW Oshkosh, I am maintaining a presence and visibility in Wisconsin and nationally with my contributions as adjudicator/clinician and as a guest performer.

“I have brought to our school our annual performances with my partner, cellist Parry Karp from UW-Madison. The recitals have been presented yearly since 2006, both at UW-Madison and UW Oshkosh. Other performances have been annual broadcasts on NPR at ‘Sunday Live from the Chazzan’ and often from WFMT in Chicago. In addition to our performances at UW Oshkosh, I have appeared with distinguished cellist Amit Peled (John Hopkins) in fifteen different states over the past three years. I have been a member of the faculty at Rocky Ridge Music Camp in Colorado since 2005. I am also on the piano faculty of ‘Maestro’ which is a non-profit organization in Israel that provides a home base for accomplished Israeli musicians living abroad. In 2010, I performed at the Ein Hod International Festival in Israel organized by Maestro to support music education.”

What is the most common misperception about what you do?

“The most common misperception about what I do is in regard to the music learning process itself. The satisfied listener of a concert comes to you after the performance and compliments you if you did well. I often wonder why the outsider’s first assumption is that it is about  ‘having fun’ at the piano. The listener wants to hang on to words such as ‘effortless’ and ‘enlightening.’ It is a great feeling to be associated with such imagery but feels odd, especially when one isn’t even close to the effortlessness that others perceive. Audiences often forget how hard pianists must work. Musicians train in mental discipline and consistency from an early age. This is why being a musician is a way of life and not only a profession.”

What is the most exciting project you are working on right now?

“My most exciting projects in 2011 are my performances with cellist Amit Peled from the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. We released our 2009 recording on the Centaur Label entitled ‘The Jewish Soul.’ Our duo concert engagements have taken us to some of the most distinguished stages in this country. We have performed on Tuesday Evening Concert Series in Virginia, in San Francisco Performances, the Sylvia Adalman Concerts Series in Baltimore, the Connoisseurs Concert Series in Wichita and the Myra Hess Concerts in Chicago (and many other significant venues). Mr. Peled and I had two notable concerts in January: at the Farley House in Madison and at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.”

How does what you research help you to be an effective teacher?

“My research focuses on many musical aspects from teaching to performing music. In teaching, my research is based on working together with the student and understanding the nature of the problem at his/her level. In performance my research is my active concert life. I believe it is important to be an active performer as a teacher because of the energy and the journey one has to make in order to serve music with every concert. The live performance has always a  ‘magical’ component based on inspiration which is difficult to define with words.

Describe some ways your department serves Northeastern Wisconsin.

“As service to NE Wisconsin I have built and maintained a solid personal, professional relationship with the Northeastern Piano Teachers Forum based in Green Bay. Our collaboration has led to my current position as an adjudicator and clinician at their festivals and concert engagements. I am invited to teach master classes for the Forum and to interact with students in a variety of formats.”

Tell us about your family.

“As they often say, behind a successful man there is always a woman who knows how things should be done properly. That is very true regarding my family. Nori has been the real heart of all happenings. Nori is a violinist whose career began as mine did in Romania. Later, a graduate of the Romanian Conservatory of Music “G. Dima” with a double degree and certification of violin pedagogy and performance, she currently teaches violin at Lawrence Academy and maintains a private violin studio in Oshkosh. She also enjoys her performances as an orchestral violinist in Water City Chamber Orchestra, Fox Valley Symphony and the Green Bay Symphony. My son Norbert started his ambitious career with a computer/engineering diploma from Technion, Israel. Norbert returned to school recently and is soon to graduate from Ross Business School in Ann Arbor with an MBA.”

What are your hobbies?

“I like hiking in the mountains and enjoy higher altitudes. Most summers I teach five weeks at Rocky Ridge Music Camp in Colorado located near the base of Long’s Peak, which is in Rocky Mountain National Park. Both Nori and I enjoy good music and the simple life at 9,000 feet in a historic log cabin in the woods. The combination of music and mountains in majestic settings, such as the Rockies, is second to none.”

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