A question and answer from 1976

14th October 2016 | Books, Inspirations, Teaching | 3 comments

Clearing out old files this week I came across an article called ‘A Talk with Gyorgy Sebok’, from a 1976 edition of Piano Quarterly. It was an interview of the Hungarian piano guru Gyorgy Sebok by a colleague, pianist Seth Carlin. Sebok taught in Indiana University; Carlin at Washington University in St Louis. Alas, neither man is still with us, and the magazine has disappeared too.

The 1976 interview ended with a question which, although posed 40 years ago, struck me as more relevant today than ever. Sebok’s answer is equally relevant:

Seth Carlin: ‘Mr Sebok, you have devoted great energies to developing the musical talent of the oncoming generation, but aren’t you concerned about the young musician who graduates from a conservatory today, and goes into a world where there is really little or no room for him or her?’

Gyorgy Sebok: ‘It depends how you see it. It’s like overpopulation, which scientifically may be true, but you can drive hundreds of miles without seeing anything besides a gas station – so the overpopulation is not obvious. There are a great number of musicians – that’s obvious if you are in Indiana University and you are in one building. But if you travel, then you have the feeling that music is a very rare treasure, that there is no overpopulation of musicians in a real sense. If everyone wants to go round the world, or give a recital in Carnegie Hall, then we are too many. But if we want to live in different communities small and big, and teach and perform music, then we are not enough.’


  1. Michael Robertson

    This took me back to re-read your memories of Sebök in “Beyond the Notes”. Something about your descriptions of him always evokes for me the image of an inscrutable but razor-sharp Zen teacher, with aphorisms (like the last two sentences here) that have something koan-like about them.

  2. Susan Tomes

    Quite right! Definitely something koan-like about them. Thank you for this comment, Michael.

  3. Anton Nel

    Susan, this is quite wonderful, and will definitely share it with my student. Such an important issue of our time, and addressed so eloquently. Many thanks for posting! Warmest wishes.


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