Queen of the Viola

Tuba Ozkan, associate professor at Mersin University, aka queen of the viola. She is a professor, a teacher, and a musician. The thing that makes her special is her capability of working in different environments and with different kinds of people. She can teach an 8-year-old student in the morning and the next day she can give a concert with the most popular and professional musicians. On one side, some 8-year-old students even can’t hold the viola, on the other side some musicians can play viola with closed eyes and Tuba Ozkan can work with both sides. I had a chance to be at her concerts. When she is on the stage, she looks like a different person. Shedoesn’tdance but she looks like dancing. It is no special light for her, but she is shining. She has no wings but seems to fly. We did an interview, let’s see what I asked and what she answered.

What does music mean to you?

Music; It is a miraculous discipline that unites people regardless of religion, language, or race. A universal language in which people can express themselves best with all their openly and sincerity without being judged.

How do you feel playing the viola?

When I play the viola, I feel united with the universe. It is a discipline that makes me fulfill my responsibility to myself and humanity and increases my awareness. Meditation, a religion, happiness.

How do you think art contributed to humanity?

Art; It is the only legacy that provides an infinite perspective, nurtures the imagination and more importantly, the only legacy that human beings can leave to the next generations.

If your progress from the first moment you picked up the viola until now was a way, what would it be? What did you encounter on this road?

A road that goes on non-stop throughout your own eternity. It is a great adventure and teaching. When you go through the same path over and over again, this discipline reminds you that change and learning are endless. Also, it teaches awareness, acceptance, and respect for everything. During the process, I realized that all humanity is traveling on the same ship (Earth). Although my personal and social development is very different, billions of people do not have another ship to travel in their lifetime. Regardless of our status, music needs its ability to unite and a universal language in order to understand one another and live in this tiny ship “as befits a human being”.

If art were a color for you, what color would it be?

I think I could answer this question differently in every ten years. However, if I need to give a single answer today, I can say that every color except “powder pink”, which is insistently tried to be imposed on people. My journey as a musician taught me that we have a rich palette.

If you chose 3 people you want to give a concert with, who would they be? Why is that?

Among those who are not among us anymore, I would like to give a concert with the former general music director and conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, “Sergiu Celibidache”, again legendary conductors “Carlos Kleiber” and romantic period German composer Johannes Brahms. At least I would like to breathe the same air. The common feature of all three is perfectionism. Music that is made with patience and well-made is loved in every geography and labor is noticed. These three precious people have left extraordinary legacies to humanity by always trying to bring out the best they can.

Could you share an unforgettable memory in your art life that affected you the most?

In 1997, I was invited to the Fuefukigawa Music Festival in Japan by Yu IIDA, the founder of the Festival and a famous luthier (instrument maker), for nine concerts. I would rehearse and play together with the world’s famous musicians. All musicians participating in the festival had to play with the instruments made by Mr. IIDA. He also gave me a viola he made for me to play at concerts. It was a great instrument. After the third concert, I asked hesitantly whether the viola was for sale and its price. It was a price too high for me to pay. I said I couldn’t take it with sorrow! There was already a Dutch violist and a Japanese violist who could afford to buy. He came to me before the last concert and asked “It’s as valuable as my kid, do you really want to buy it?” I said yes, but I can’t pay. Look, Tuba, I can leave my child to someone that I am sure will take care of him and play him, and this is you, you can pay the fee as long as you want. “Who knows, I will die tomorrow,” he laughed. I returned to my country, paying a small amount, with great responsibility on my shoulder. With viola of course !! I was invited to the festival again in 1999. In the last rehearsal of one of the concerts I did not play, an American violist playing in that band fell and injured his arm. There is a concert the next evening. All tickets are sold out. Mr. IIDA turned its head and we looked at each other. I remember saying no, no I can’t. The work is very difficult, I don’t even know the other musicians. “If everyone agrees, I believe you can,” he said. I worked that day and night, without sleep. We did a long rehearsal on the concert day. I fulfilled the IIDA’s request, taking a risk I would never take. The concert was not canceled, but I was so stressed. By paying him a little more at the end of the festival, I was able to pay a fifth of my debt. Mr. The IIDA hugged me saying “Your debt is over, Tuba”. I asked in surprise: How did it end? He said that you did me a favor I couldn’t pay for and the concert was not canceled. You bought this viola with your effort. You deserved it, it is yours.

Dogukan Sever

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