How Violinist Filip Pogády Fuses Fashion-Forward Life and Music

Filip Pogády

Filip Pogády

We've certainly taken note of violinist Filip Pogády's Instagram lately and subsequently heard his beautiful playing. He has a knack for fusing talent with good looks that will make anyone swoon.

So we asked him how he's created this intriguing life and this is what we learned...

Life

What is your most cherished accomplishment?

My most cherished accomplishment is being able to do what I love. There is not one single day when I don't think about how lucky I am that playing the violin is what I get to do for a living. I am extremely aware of that.

How has your experience in life shaped your artistry?

I am sure it has and I am sure that everything that I have experienced and all the people that I have met in my life have left a mark - some more than others obviously. It is interesting to me to listen to my recordings from my childhood, because even though I play differently now, I can very much relate to this little boy playing in those recordings. Obviously I didn't have lots of life experience back then, but they are very much me. Maybe that's the essence of every artist, a certain spirit, a certain mindset and character. I think that life experience widens the emotional gamut of one's art, but there is a core statement that's just there from day one.

To which destination would you travel just for fun? Why?

Whenever I explore a new country/city I try to go where the locals go, off the touristy paths. That way I can experience the vibes of a place in the most authentic way. I enjoy traveling by myself, but having friends with me is always more fun, so as long as the company is right, I'll enjoy any destination. Russia is definitely on my list of places I would like to visit next - I hear Moscow and St. Petersburg are very beautiful cities. I would also love to visit Brazil soon, since it's such a melting pot of different cultures.

How has a daily routine shaped who you’ve become?

I feel like my whole life is about routines. When I am home in New York, my day is pretty much the same every day with minor variations, which I don't mind at all. It keeps me focused and gives me a sense of structure.

What do you do off the stage that provides inspiration on stage?

You have put in the work and you are concert ready! It's all about having a great time now! I try not to think about the fact that I am on stage too much, because I think it puts unnecessary pressure on the performer.

What was your most positive surprise in life?

That I can actually make a living playing music...

Where do you derive happiness?

Music, friendships and freedom.

Where do you want to be in five or 10 years from now?

I want to be doing exactly what I am doing right now, but do it even more: more concerts, more traveling, more great musicians to play with, etc.

What cause do you support and why?

I have recently teamed up with the Australian charity "Mad Music" in collaboration with the City of Sydney. It's an organization that brings music to people who don't have access to music performances. I will be playing a concert tour in October for them which besides concerts for the donors will include many concerts for the homeless and mentally challenged. I first got involved with this cause when I was part of Yehudi Menuhin's "Live Music Now!" Foundation in Vienna, Austria. Through this foundation I played countless recitals in orphanages, nursing homes, hospitals and prisons. A tremendous experience seeing the power of music working right in front of my eyes.

Throughout my days in college until present, I've been playing on the New York subway. It's amazing how powerful the solo sonatas by J.S. Bach are even (or maybe especially) without a special introduction. In a way I feel like the traditional concert hall can be alienating and frightening to many listeners, so we bring the music to them and let the music do the talking.

Music

What projects (concerts, albums, tours, collaborations) are you working on right now? 

I am currently working on an all Tchaikovsky CD that will come out later this year. As for concerts, I am really looking forward to the "Mad Music" Tour in Australia that I spoke about earlier. I have never been to Australia, so that is really exciting. Also I am looking forward to coming back to South Korea. At the end of the tour there's a Duo concert planned at the Seoul Arts Center where I will be playing with the superb German/Korean violinist Christian Kim, who also happens to be my best friend. We have never actually played together so that should be a lot of fun!

What was the inspiration behind your latest project? Why did you pursue it? Why should people care?

The Tchaikovsky CD project came about because the concerto is one of my personal favorites. I first played it when I was 18 and it has been with me since. There is just such a sense of grandness in Tchaikovsky's music but at the same time a sense of absolute tragedy. I had the opportunity to record with the Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra and I had a truly GORGEOUS golden period Stradivarius violin generously loaned to me by the Bears international Violin Society in London, so I thought: why not share my views on one of the most fundamental staples of the violin repertoire with my audience?!

What’s the one thing you want people to remember about your artistry?

Most of all - energy and emotion! Those are the qualities that I am trying to bring across the most, so if I succeed at doing that, I will be happy.

Why do you perform on stage?

There is always something special about a live performance. It's this "Now or Never" feeling that makes a live performance so special. For me, the bigger the audience, the better I play. There is nothing like playing a pianissimo phrase and feeling the energy of thousands of people around me in that silence. It is the feeling of absolute control - a very powerful and addictive feeling. It's such a rush!

Where do you come up with your best ideas that you might end up applying to a score?

It usually happens during a practice session with the violin in my hands, but sometimes also when I am by myself, just having a cup of coffee.

“Desert island disc” - What is your favorite album ever released?

That is a very tough one, but I would have to go with one of the Mozart operas. Don Giovanni, Abduction from the Seraglio or Nozze di Figaro. I could listen to any of these for the rest of my life.

Name three musicians who have inspired your own artistry. 

Obviously, there are so many musicians that I absolutely adore and admire, but I will name three of my teachers, because they have played an active role in my playing: Tomasz Liebig, Grigori Zhislin and Pinchas Zukerman.

Tomasz Liebig is a phenomenal violinist and currently concertmaster of the Bruckner orchestra in Linz. He has brought structure and order into my playing like nobody has and basically taught me how to practice. For hours and hours he would practice scales with me and not let me get away with faking my way through even in the slightest. He was also the first one to address proper sound production, sounding point, etc. When I am in Austria, I still like playing for him sometimes and get his very honest and helpful feedback.

Grigori Zhislin was one of those great violin virtuosi coming out of the Soviet Union. What he focused on most of all was bringing out the character of every piece that I was playing as much as possible and finding cross relations to other compositions. What an incredible musician! Sadly, he passed away last year.

Pinchas Zukerman has been one of my absolute violin idols from my early teens and he still is. I love his sound and the way he makes the music come alive. Needless to say that I was completely starstruck when I had the opportunity to become one of his students. Just by listening to him play only a couple feet away from you, you can learn SO much. 

I am extremely grateful for having had such outstanding teachers/mentors.

Business of Music

What needs to be done to improve growing classical music audiences for live concerts? Or is it fine the way it is at the moment?

The music itself doesn't need to change, obviously. It has been perfect since it was written. The way it's served up might need an update, though. I see a lot happening on social media and also breaking with the stiff atmosphere of the serious concert hall. Those are all good things. But one also has to accept the fact that classical music will never be completely mainstream. That's just the way it is and one has to accept that there are limits to what can be done. 

What is your #1 piece of advice to artists who are starting their careers as professional musicians?

I would tell them that they should only do it if they absolutely cannot imagine themselves doing anything else in their life. This is not a job - it's a calling! If it doesn't take up all of your being and all of your thoughts, becoming a professional musician is a bad decision.

Once the decision has been made to become a professional musician, my piece of advice would be keep trying and be patient. If you do what you love and you do it well, someone's going to notice. It might take awhile, but one has to stubbornly stick to what one believes in. Don't compromise your ideals and don't settle for anything, because both are choices that are always regretted in the end. See what resonates with your audience and develop it further while sticking to what you believe in - your "brand".

What steps need to be taken in many parts of the world to offer high quality music education to children?

I wish I had the answer to that...I think that putting children in touch with art in any way possible is a great start, whether it's dance, music or visual art. Also, not everybody wants to be the next classical music star. Instruments that children generally think are "cool", like guitar or drums are a great way of finding that connection to the world of music. I mean who DOESN'T want to be a rockstar?!

My parents are not musicians. They were simply music appreciators and they believed that music should be part of everyone's basic education. I agree with that profoundly. They never expected me to become a professional musician - my own interest and obsession led me to that decision. The point is, that if my parents hadn't made the initial connection to music possible for me, I might have never known what a fascinating world there is out there. I think that making the parents realize how important music education is, is the first and most important step.

Any ideas on improving the future of arts funding?

Arts have always relied on altruistic support to survive and flourish. It would be a very sad state of affairs if this crucial part of who we are as humans were to stop due to economic reasons. Sadly, art is usually the fist item on the list when it comes to cutting funds because it's not considered to be an absolute necessity. I think that life without art/music would be a rather dull one, and it makes one wonder who we are as human beings if art is not considered important.

That's why I feel that we must come up with new and innovative ideas to maintain and augment this rich heritage. In the 21st century, we must not rely solely on government funding. As always, support must come from other channels working in tandem: audiences, business, private donors. How? New media and outreach, connections and creativity in presenting music are the ways to keep audiences engaged.