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Faculty Friday with Anikó Szokody

Our Faculty Friday is in full swing again! For first time readers, our Faculty Friday blog is a series of questions and responses meant to feature instructors from Luzerne Music Center in a unique light. Focusing not only on their professional career, we ask faculty questions that give students and readers a glimpse into their daily lives.

Anikó Szokody stands in this week's spotlight: maintaining a busy teaching schedule at the University of Szeged and the Vántus Conservatory, Anikó is a renowned pedagogue. Since establishing her private studio in the United States in 2001, Anikó's students have been regular top prize winners at piano competitions, and several of them have continued their studies at the Juilliard School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Bowdoin and Indiana University School of Music. While continuing her teaching schedule, Anikó is also pursuing a Doctoral degree from the Franz Liszt Academy.

Tell us a little bit about your history with LMC: how did you get connected and how many summers have you been on faculty?

I have a very long and memorable history with Luzerne Music Center. The founders Toby Blumenthal and Bert Phillips invited me to join the faculty in 2007. It was wonderful to be able to play chamber music with both of them, as well as throughout the years meeting and working with so many outstanding, extremely high caliber musicians both as resident faculty and visiting artists. I am probably the longest serving full time faculty member here at the moment. I feel fortunate to have the connection with the founders. It’s also very exciting to be involved in the work as LMC keeps expanding through the visionary leadership of Elizabeth Pitcairn, turning into a truly diverse international summer camp.

What is your favorite thing about coming to camp in the Adirondacks?

My favorite thing is listening to the sound of the rain on my cottage roof. I love the magic of the whispering pines, being surrounded by nature from every direction, the fresh air, nice walks, the peaceful atmosphere of the Adirondacks, the sunsets over the lake while I practice in my studio. I love meeting and working with the students and colleagues. It’s a home away from home for the summer.

Each summer you come to the US from Hungary and you bring some Hungarian students with you. Why do you think that it is important for them to have this experience?

Music is truly international, classical music even more so. I think students need to have an understanding of other cultures, styles, ways of thinking. While we try to teach that concept, it is best learned when they experience it for themselves. Hungary is a small country, with many excellent musicians and great classical tradition in performance. While it gives certain strength to the young performers, there are other things they do not know of. When they see a different work method, way of expressing themselves, a different approach to the concept of performance, it is an eye opening experience for them. They treasure this opportunity and learn much from it after returning home. By the same token, I think the American students enjoy similar benefits from the other side. The cultural and language barriers are dissolved by music. We work as a team, teach and learn respect for one another in so many ways.

What is your favorite performance that you have given?

I don’t think I could name an absolute favorite one. Every concert is special on its own way: the music, the players, the place, the instrument, the audience all contribute to the experience. The nature of our art makes each one unique. If I had to choose one, being asked on the spot to perform for former Hungarian President Árpád Göncz at an embassy event in Buenos Aires was one that is hard to forget.

What is your favorite non-classical genre of music to listen to?

I do like the soundscapes and ideas of Peter Gabriel and Sting. l also like some pop music with strong beats. I used to ride race-bike and that helped me in speed training.

You are an avid proponent for students practicing sight-reading. Why do you think that sight-reading is so important?

Pianists need to deal with coordination of the two hands, while we do not regularly sight-read in an orchestra, like other instrumentalists do. Being able to form a meaningful image of the music placed in front of us is extremely important in my opinion. It doesn’t only speed up the learning process, but helps shape artistic ideas. The visual design of a pianos score can hold much extra information and a skillful scan gives a powerful first impression.

Finally, if you could be a superhero, who would it be and why?

Haha! That’s an interesting question. Wonder Woman? I’d like to be that powerful and have the ability to be invincible. But more importantly, I can deeply identify with a naïve approach of not recognizing my limits, thus trying to reach for the impossible. Also really like to help others and put on a good fight for the right cause that I believe in. Not to mention how much I like a nice amazon tan.

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