Getting to Know 2020-2021 Rising Star Evren Ozel

March 11, 2021

Evren Ozel smiling in front of fall trees

Our next Rising Stars concert of the 2020-2021 Virtual Season is this Sunday, March 14, at 4 PM ET! It features Evren Ozel and, in order to prepare for his concert, we asked Mr. Ozel if he would be willing to answer a few questions for us to get to know him better. Here’s what he had to say!


You started playing the piano when you were just three years old! What made you start studying it and what has kept you going?
The story of how I started is nothing out of the ordinary: we had an upright in the house and I would gently press down the keys passing by.  One day, my mom asked if I’d like to start taking piano lessons and I agreed — simple as that!  I think what made me get more serious about it, and what has helped me stick with it, is the never-ending world of incredible piano repertoire.  There are so many amazing works that I haven’t gotten to yet but I know that at some point I need to get to them and study them to the best of my ability, so I’ll need many more years to keep exploring!


You’re currently in your senior year at the New England Conservatory in Boston, MA. What does a normal school day look like for you?
I try to get up as early as I can (on good days around 6:30 AM, but if I’m being honest, most days it ends up being between 7:15 – 7:30 AM).  I take the subway and get to school usually around 8 AM and start practicing.  Because of COVID, many students are studying remotely this year, which means two things: 1. No need to fight for practice rooms, and 2. Academic classes (all online) happen in the morning to best accommodate students who live on the other side of the world!  My classes are between 10 AM – 12 PM.  After that, I take out the sandwich I brought from home and eat it hiding in a corner that seems safest and furthest away from all the other people.  Then I continue practicing until around 6 PM, and then, depending on the day, I will either have a chamber music rehearsal/coaching (lasting until 7/7:30 PM), or I will head back home on the train!  Once I’m back home, I have dinner, and then have the rest of the evening to study, enjoy my hobbies, or maybe get in a little extra practice on my electric keyboard!


You recently received second prize at the 2020 U.S. National Chopin Competition and have played performances across the United States. What has been your favorite venue so far?
I have two favorites!  Severance Hall in Cleveland, where I performed Beethoven’s 4th concerto with the Cleveland Orchestra in 2016, and Persons Auditorium at Marlboro College, where I performed in 2018 and 2019 as part of the Marlboro Festival (though the hall itself is not extravagant, the history there is mind-boggling).  Also, though this has not yet happened, I am extremely excited to play in the National Philharmonic Hall in Warsaw during the Chopin Competition this coming October.  And of course I’m super excited to be at the Wellspring Theater in Kalamazoo!


We’re excited for you to travel to Michigan and play at the Wellspring Theater. Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing while you’re here (even if we are in the middle of a pandemic!)?
I wish I knew more about Kalamazoo so that I could answer this question more appropriately, but I think for now I’m just looking forward to the experience of traveling somewhere for a performance, which I haven’t done in over a year!


Covid-19 has definitely changed a lot of things this year — do you have any hobbies that bring you joy?
Yes, and actually my hobbies change all the time, not just during COVID!  I’m currently learning Turkish on Duolingo, reading an Amor Towles novel, watching a Chinese TV drama, and I started learning to cook last week!


This is our favorite final question: if you had any advice for young pianists just starting out, what would it be?
I think the best thing to do is to stay curious!  As I said, the world of piano repertoire is unending.  As long as you are open-minded and don’t hesitate to explore pieces you’re interested in, practicing will never feel like a chore, it will always be an adventure!


Thank you to Evren Ozel for his candor and we hope you’ll tune in for his virtual concert on Sunday, March 14 at 4 PM ET. Get your ticket today!

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