When I was growing up in Hungary, I asked one of my piano teachers if he thought I had the talent to pursue a career in music, whether it in be teaching or performing, or both. He looked at me, turned my question around, and asked me: “Could you live without music?” Without hesitation, I answered, “no!” Since then I have never questioned if music was the ultimate way of living my life. Through music I can connect to people and their culture without physical or language boundaries. It is how I can express myself, how I can represent my country and heritage, how I can serve.
When I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I never had any pain in my back nor did my family or I recognize the signs. The first shock of my life was standing in front of a doctor who told me to wear a plastic corset 24 hours a day for the next three years. The second shock came when he said that I might have to give up playing the piano because of the design and physical limits of the corset. That moment was a major turning point in my life. I established a strong will to hold onto music, and ever since, music has helped me through the various stages of my personal growth.
A few years after I was successfully treated, I initiated the idea of a charity concert for the orthopedic company that provided me with the corsets I wore to straighten my back. With a singer who also had scoliosis, I performed a collaborative recital for the children and their families who were fighting the same health issues like us. With the donations from the concert, the orthopedic company, in association with the Vertebra Foundation, established the first summer camp for children with scoliosis in my home country. The camp is still functioning today and building a community of happy children and young people who are able to beat their scoliosis, who dare to be different from their healthy friends, and who work hard to bring out the best result from their treatments.
After years of having to work on special exercises and wearing a corset myself, I feel grateful for the difficult process I went through. As my spine, bones, and muscles were being reshaped, I was developing invaluable characteristics such as patience and persistence, which are not only important attributes in life, but also essential to practicing the piano. When I was being treated, my technical skills were slower compared to my classmates, but I deepened my relationship with the solo and chamber music repertoire I was playing, and that provided me with the mental support to face the medical and other types of challenges. Music and my health issues, pleasant experiences on one side and seemingly negative on the other, have shaped my personality and the musician who I am today.
Since then, I have studied abroad and have given recitals in cultural cities all over the world. I am grateful for the people whom I have met through music. The people I am surrounded by come from very different professions and nationalities, but our love and respect for each other is rich with joyful moments of sharing music. This connecting link is precious to me. I remain open to beauty, people, and the experiences music brings to my life. In the same spirit, I hope to contribute to our culture and to the well-being of all people through my music.
© 2013 Richard Rejino/What Music Means to Me
Editor’s Note: Click on the links to hear Eva’s Performances:
Eva Polgar plays Mendelssohn’s Variations Seriuses Op. 5
Eva Plays Haydn Sonata in E flat major Hob. XVI/52
Hungarian pianist Éva Polgár, a renowned performer of traditional and contemporary music is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of North Texas, where she also holds a Teaching Fellowship in the keyboard department. Every year since 2011, the Hungarian State has awarded her the Eötvös Scholarship for postgraduate studies and research abroad to sponsor her education in the United States. A graduate of the Franz Liszt University (Budapest, Hungary) and Sibelius Academy (Helsinki, Finland), Éva has won top prizes in piano competitions across the world including the International Liszt Competition in Los Angeles in 2012. She has performed as a soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist in Hungary, Austria, Finland, France, Italy, Colombia, and the United States.