Petra Elek


Photos by Matt Dine


1st Place, 2017 College Solo Division at CA Percussive Arts Society Solo and Ensemble Competition; 1st Place, 2017 College Ensembles Division, as part of the University Percussion Group at Long Beach, at CA Percussive Arts Society Solo and Ensemble Competition

What is your earliest memory of classical music?

I started learning the piano when I was in kindergarten and I have this very vivid memory of playing a “character game” with a friend of mine, in which one of us had to be the fox, the other one the rabbit, and our teacher was the hunter. It was really fun at the time, even if it seems a bit random. I like thinking back to this memory and believing that classical music can be both.

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career?

In Hungary you pretty much have to make that decision around the age of 14, since we have music high schools, called conservatories, designated to pursue music as a career. Around the age of 13 was when I decided that I want music to be part of my daily routine. I also grew up with musician parents, so music has always been part of my life.

How did you hear about TŌN? What inspired you to apply?

I was doing my undergraduate studies at Bard when TŌN started, so I’ve known about the program from the beginning. Many of my friends have joined back then and ever since. I’ve always loved the environment and the whole idea of making music more accessible for younger generations.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st Century?

I think creating an environment for the audience that allows them to connect with us and have conversations with us are amazing steps in the right direction. A lot of people still feel like they’re “not educated enough” or “don’t know enough about classical music” in order to go to a concert. Breaking down that ideology, popularizing classical music, and engaging with the audience should be high priority in my opinion.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most?

I honestly don’t think there is one composer or one genre that I could highlight and say that I connect with the most. I absolutely love playing classical music, but playing in wind bands is so entertaining as well. I love listening to all kinds of genres depending on my mood, including pop, house, electronic, jazz, hip/hop, salsa, literally anything.

What has been your favorite experience as a musician?

In my third year in college, the conservatory orchestra went on a tour to Europe and we were lucky enough to perform in the Liszt Academy in Hungary. I’ll never forget the feeling of playing in my home country, in front of so many of my friends and family.

Favorite non-classical musician or band

Martin Garrix, a Dutch DJ

If you could play another instrument, what would it be?

I think it would be the trumpet. I’ve always loved the sound of it.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

I’d love to be a florist, it just seems like such a happy place to walk in to every morning.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us

I originally had absolutely no intention of playing percussion. My dad has been the conductor of a wind band in Hungary for a long time, and when I was around 11 years old, they went on a tour to Poland. I told my parents that I was sick of staying at home and that I wanted to go with them. Since I knew how to read music, my dad suggested I “stand back there with those guys, they’ll tell you what instrument you have to play . . .” I’ve been playing “back there” ever since.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician

Be patient, it’s really worth it.