ECI’s 10 Minutes with Peter Illavsky
Patrick Hiebert (PH): Hi there, I’m Patrick Hiebert, the COO of ECI Development and I’m here with Peter Illavsky. And well Peter, I’m actually going to ask you to explain yourself
Peter Illavsky (PI): Hello, I am Peter Illavsky from Vienna. Great to meet you here. I am a musician and a singer. It’s my first time out here in San Pedro, and it’s amazing what is happening here.
PH: Can you tell us a little bit about the purpose of your trip to Belize?
PI: Yea, it was quite interesting. I met some time ago, Joel (Nagel) because I was teaching his daughter in Vienna, in our institute. She had music classes, she had voice lessons, piano lessons. Then one day we met each other, talked, and he and his wife mentioned to me about a beautiful place in the middle of nowhere, which is apparently very nice, and people like to do music. So, where could it be? And, he said, “Yea it’s in a Caribbean island” and I got more interested about being in this part of the world, and just imagining doing here some music would be great, so we had the idea to make a music week in Belize City. So that made me to come out here for one week and meet local musicians and to organize something great with them, we want to form a group where we also have music being played together and we can go on a tour to present the Belize music everywhere else. It’s beautiful, it rocks you.
PH: The Joel you mention, Joel Nagel, one of the founders of ECI, and he was instrumental, him and his wife, and their daughter taking lessons from you and getting you to be here, so I just want to, from him and from all of us, say thank you for being here. It’s a big event for Belize. And I’m sure it’s not so bad for you either, being on the turquoise water and the white sand.
PI: Yea, this is really paradise. It’s wonderful.
PH: How did you get started in music?
PI: Well, I actually was born into music. My father was an opera singer, so I was surrounded by music. I started early with playing an instrument, the violin, and then in Vienna, there’s this boys choir, The Vienna Boys Choir. So they travel a lot, I heard they were traveling and I love traveling, so I did this entrance exam and so there I was with the Vienna Boys Choir, singing all over the world, touring. And then I stuck with the music. It was never work for me, still today its fun for me doing music. Music brings people together. When people do music, they have fun, usually. There are no discussions, it’s a good time always, a party time.
PH: That’s great. Who were your early influences in music?
PI: Well of course as I said, my father was my biggest influence. Then of course all of the surroundings in Vienna. Vienna is a very musical town, you meet so many artists. You come together, you learn with them, so many teachers, teachers of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. I’m so thankful to them. I even met one teacher – he was the founder of the New Year’s concerts in Vienna, which take place always the 1st of January. It was great for me to be sort of at the source of classical music. And this is what is in my heart, and wherever I go, I want to bring the people together by doing music. Living peacefully together, creating something beautiful, something even more beautiful with music.
PH: That’s great. You mention that you like music and you like to travel. Whereabouts in the world has music taken you?
(3:51) PI: Ok, so me personally, I have lived in, after I finished my studies, I lived in Verona. This was this huge outside opera arena. There I met for the first time in my life, to work together with Pavarotti, with Domingo, with Jose Carreras. It was quite a great thing for me. Then I got a contract to perform in the opera house in Pretoria (South Africa), the National Orchestra. So, I signed this contract and I stayed there for three years. It is a beautiful part of the world. Then I got my next contract to be a teacher at USC (University of Southern California) in Los Angeles – so this was quite a big move. So, I stayed there for quite a while. Getting involved with studio gigs with Barbara Streisand, with Chicago, with the Disney Studios. It was actually wonderful, I still have some work there to do. And then this brought me to Spain, where I lived in Granada, worked there in the orchestra. And after, worked three years right at the sea in Malaga in the Philharmonic Orchestra. And then I started to become independent and I formed my own music festivals and I opened my first private music academy in Marbella (Spain). And this then later led me to Germany, where I opened twelve years ago the next music institute which is quite a big success and two years ago it brought me back to the roots, back to Vienna. So there I am, back home.
(5:29) PH: You mentioned opera and obviously the classical music, what are your favorite styles? Who are your favorite artists? Other than yourself…
PI: No, I was just before I came here, we had the opera production of the Parsifal, by Wagner in Baden-Baden, with the Berlin Philharmonic, with Sir Simon Rattle. I mean, those people, I love them all. You know, they are great. Next week, I do an opera with Cecilia Bartoli at the Salzburg Fest. I mean she’s great, I’m happy to perform with all these people. But I’m also very happy, I just remember when I was in LA, I studied with the voice teacher of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. That was great to find out that his teaching is sort of rooted in classical music
(6:22) PH: So if you weren’t a musician, what job or occupation do you think you would have had?
PI: I think I would do something like be on the beach and sell coconut or something
PH: Well, you’ve come to the right place then.
PI: May be my next job.
PH: So what have you thought of Belize so far?
PI: Wow, its quite impressive so far. When you arrive at the airport, you think like, wow, this works. But yea, it works, its so humble and its easy, I would think here. And the first day, they showed me the Mayan excavation, its beautiful. And you see all these languages and cultures living together – I really like that. And of course, there are bananas, coconuts, watermelons everywhere. This is so healthy! You don’t see sick people, they’re all healthy. It’s great. So very relaxed lifestyle. It’s similar to Spain, you live with the sun you know. What other problems should you have?
(7:28) PH: I know. I believe you brought a violin down, I think you’re…
PI: Yea, we brought from the music institute as a present to the Foreign Minister of Belize, it was presented to him a beautiful violin from Austria. Yea, I can send you some pictures from that later on. They really liked that. We will do more exchange, cultural exchange, between Austria and Belize.
PH: Can you tell us a little more about that? What kind of exchange do you do? You’ve been working with the kids in a musical school here, I think you might have a bit of a performance coming up or something like that?
(8:04) PI: Yea, we are going to set up various centers in the six districts of Belize where all the teachers can become independent teachers. They can live on their own so they won’t need a subsidy, like in the old system, sort of the government has to take care of them. But nowadays, everything is modern, so they can make themselves a living and so we teach them how to become also successful by touring around, by doing chamber music, by appearing at weddings, at party gigs, to have fun by doing the music.
PH: That’s great. What, if you had to pick one thing, what one thing has stood out for you most in Belize?
PI: In Belize…Actually, the watermelon juice.
PH: The watermelon juice?
PI: I love it.
PH: Well, you can probably bring that back to Austria too.
PH: Well, I just want to thank you very much for joining us and for everything that you are doing for the country.
PI: Thank you, and all the best and good luck.
PH: Thank you.