Many in Europe will know the name ot Tatiana Lukic because of her past competition and performing successes in both East and West Europe but they may not know her English and married name Tania Lukic-Marx.
Tania's life has been lived in three very different places (Yugoslavia, Kiev-Ukraine and Sydney-Australia) so this Celebrity Interview has tried to follow those three phases of her musical career.
Q. We would like you to begin by describing the region you were born in. Could you tell us where you were born, about the area and the environment.
A. I was born in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, but I grew up in the town of Kragujevac where I was living permanently until the age of 18.
Q. Could you relate to our readers something about your family and the importance of their input in your early musical education?
A. Nobody in my immediate family is a musician. My late father was a lawyer and my mother is a doctor-pediatrician. My brother is a lawyer too. To my parents, education was always very important, and when I showed a strong interest in music, they enrolled me in the "Dr Miloje Milojevic" Music Center, the only music center at that time in Kragujevac.
Q. Do you have any childhood memories that you could relate to us?
A. Like any other kid of 8, I liked the music, but at that age I didn't quite like the idea of daily practice. I remember my mother sitting next to me while I practiced, making sure that I did my required practice. I am now so very thankful that she did that.
Q. How and why did you commence learning the accordion?
A. As a child, I remember being fascinated by people playing musical instruments which I had mainly seen on TV. Even at that early age, I knew I wanted to play a musical instrument. Now I understand it was my calling. I wasn't quite sure which musical instrument and then my parents decided it for me: it was to be the accordion.
Q. Who were your earliest teachers?
A My parents enrolled me in to the Musical Centre (School) in Kragujevac (my family still lives there) and my first teacher was Milica Lazarevic. Now days, that Music Centre is internationally well known for its excellent accordion department.
Milica was an excellent accordion teacher and I studied with her for 6 years. Luckily for me, she must have felt my very big interest in music, as she paid special attention to me from amongst her many other pupils. She entered me in various Yugoslav accordion competitions, and to me, that feeling of challenge, was enough to keep me very motivated to practice hard.
Q. You had tremendous success in Yugoslavia in the first phase of your musical career. Please tell us some of the highlights?
A. My next teacher in Yugoslavia was Radomir Tomic who I was studying with for 4 years. Radomir is very well known in international accordion circles as a member of the various international adjuducating panels and a founder of the Yugoslav accordion school. I was in the first generation of Radomir's students after he graduated accordion at the Gnessin Institute in Moscow.
Being the only highly educated accordionist in Yugoslavia at that time (1980), Radomir was also a very enthusiastic teacher, who was determined to make a future generation of good accordionists and in that way, lift the standard of accordion performing in Yugoslavia to a new level. With him we went through a very intense accordion drill, resulting in me winning the title of the Yugoslav Champion at the State and Federal levels several times.
Q. Do you have any memories of these times and the teaching methods. Could you tell us of any points they emphasized and any other interesting musical incidents you may have had with them?
A. Milica and Radomir were very dedicated teachers, spending a lot of time with their students. I remember having lesson with Radomir about 3 to 4 times a week, and the length of the lesson would be aproximately 1 to 3 hours each time. Radomir opened up to us the world of classical music. He was an excellent psychologist, and he knew how to get the most from of every one of us and how best to motivate each one of us to give our maximum.
Q You have attended some important music institutes in Europe for advanced study. Would you relate to us their names and locations?
A. In 1983 I went to Ukraine, Kiev, to continue my accordion studies at the Kiev Conservatorium of Music "Tschaikovsky", now called Ukrainian National Music Academy, where I studied to 1990 with Professor Vladimir Besfamilnov and completed my Graduate and Post Graduate Studies Majoring in Accordion.
Q. What prompted your decision to leave Yugoslavia, a country that has had tremendous international success with accordion pupils in recent years, and go to study in Kiev?
A. At that time, there was no accordion department at any of the Yugoslav Music Academies, so if I wanted to continue my accordion studies at the University level, I had to enrol in one of the Eastern European Music Academies, as they had a recognized accordion department.
Q. What are the entry requirements for these Institutes and how would you finance your studies?
A. In order to became a foreign student in the former Soviet Union, you had to apply at the Yugoslav Department of Education and pass a very strict selection system. At that time, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union had a Student Exchange Programme, so I went there under that programme. I was living at the Student's Dormitory, and my parents were financing 7 years of my studies in Kiev. The cost of this was about the equivalent each year of the average mans wage in Yugoslavia, so you can understand the enormous input my parents made towards my education. I am forever grateful to them for this opportunity.
Q. Please tell us about the teaching methods employed by your tutors in Kiev.
A. In Kiev, I undertook a complex music education programme. Besides the accordion, we had many different musical subjects: harmony, history of music, piano, solfeggio, musical forms, reading orchestra scores, conducting, etc, etc. Musical Institutions in former Soviet Union were giving you a very wide knowledge in all the areas of music, with the main emphasis on the instrument, which in my case was the accordion.
Q. Tell us about studying with Vladimir Besfamilnov?
A. Professor Besfamilnov had a tremendous impact on my musical development at that stage. I admired Besfamilnov as a musician and followed his musical advice religiously. His enormous musical, performing and pedagogical experience and knowledge surely helped greatly in my musical development. On a personal basis also, I developed a very warm relationship with his whole family, and even became a Godmother to his grandson called Maxim.
Q. Please describe a typical day of practice and study in Kiev?
A. The lectures were starting at 9.30 in the morning until approximately 2 pm, (six days a week) and after that I would practice the accordion in the afternoon for about 3 to 4 hours. I would then go and attend some concert, opera, ballet, picture exhibition. I used this opportunity in Kiev to soak and blend into the world of music and art to its fulliest.
Q. You had a number of important competitions successes after departing Yugoslavia. Please tell us about these?
A. In 1983, I competed at the CMA ( Trophy Mondiale) International Accordion Competition which was held in Caracas (Venezuela) and was 4th in the Senior Category. In 1986 I competed in the Senior Category at the International Accordion Competition in Klingenthal (Germany), and won 3rd place. In 1988 I competed at the CIA Coupe Mondiale competition held in Trossingen , and won 2nd place.
Q. Are there any incidents regarding these competitions that you could relate to us, either of your own feelings or some amusing incident that occurred?
A. I was preparing very hard for the Klingenthal competition and wanted badly to became Laureate (placed in the first 3) of that competition. There were 3 rounds, and I remember the German organizer reading the names of the players who were selected for Round 3. He said "here are people selected for the 3rd Round", and he read the names not mentioning my name, turned around and went from the stage, then in the couple of moments came back on the stage and read my name. But I still remember this couple of moments until he read my name and all the feelings and thoughts I had .. I felt like I was losing the ground from under my feet .
Q. Are there any other music or non musical activities that were a part of your life in Europe?
A. I especially liked touring and travelling with the accordion. I played concerts solo and with Professor Besfamilnov in many cities in former Soviet Union: Moscow, St Petersburg, Vilnus.
Q. What events and circumstances lead you to decide to migrate to Australia?
A. In 1990 I completed my Post Graduate Studies in Kiev, went to Belgrade and started teaching accordion at one of the Music Schools there. Although at that time, the living standard in Yugoslavia was quite good, I knew it was only temporarily good.
I have an aunt here in Sydney and she invited me to come to Australia and stay with her family. I came to Australia with a "Special Talent" Visa which meant that I was the only person with such a qualification in Australia which eventually gave me Permanent Residency and later Australian Citizenship. Basically, I had a chance to came and live in Australia and nothing to lose. I decided to make the best of that opportunity.
Q. Do you have any first impressions of your new adopted home and have these been changed over the years you have lived in Australia?
A. I instantly like the country. Australia is an exotic and beautiful place to be. Regarding accordion and music in general, my first impression was that Australia has a lot of catching up to do with European countries. Additionally, professional values are different than in the East European countries, but in the years since coming to Australia, I also adopted the same professional values in order to assimilate with the society I live in.
Q. Since living in Australia, you have become very involved with accordion activities. Please tell us about your present positions and responsibilities in the Australian Accordion Teachers Association?
A. I have been President of the Australian Accordion Teachers Association Inc for 7 years now. The association was formed in 1993 with the aim, to promote and improve accordion playing, teaching and in general the standard of the accordion in Australia. I believe the Association has been doing that very successfully in the past 7 years.
Q. Could you tell us in some detail about some of the important activities of the Australian Accordion Teachers Association?
A. The AATA organises every year, on the last weekend in May the "Australian International Accordion Championship and Festival" which is our main major accordion event during the year. The competition part offers a variety of classes and there is also a strong Festival part of the event. Accordion lovers have the chance to hear some of Australia's best accordion artists, soloists, orchestras, ensembles and entertainers as well as hear international guests from other countries such as New Zealand, USA and China.
Q. Not long after the start of the Accordions Worldwide internet site, you were invited to review accordion recordings for the internet. This you started in July 1997 and have been doing since that date. Tell us what this involves, how you go about making a review and the types of sounds/criteria you are listening for?
A. First of all I have to say that I really enjoy reviewing accordion CD's which I get sent to me from all over the world. I get to hear all sorts of accordion music, from entertainment to classical and contemporary, and all types of performances .
When reviewing a CD, I try to present the performer and the programme he/she performs with a brief overall comment on the impression it left on me, without having too much length. My aim is for the review to be concise, to the point, and avoid boring a reader with unnecessary details. When reviewing a CD, I listen for the performers technical ability, sound clarity and control, their understanding for different styles and epochs, musicality, etc ..
I also try to be as positive as possible, knowing how fragile the egos of musicians can be. If I come across a CD that I feel is not up to standard, I just don't review it. Luckily, I don't get such recordings often and I enjoy very much the excitement of hearing all these new recordings.
Reviewing CD's has made me realize how the standard of accordion playing in the world has lifted up.
Q. While living in Australia you have toured several Asian and Pacific countries. Could you tell us about each of these and what activities you have been engaged in during your tours.
A. First of all, I have visited New Zealand on many occasions. In 1992 I was flown to NZ for 2 weeks to train some of NZ's top students and give workshops. Later the same year I was invited as a Guest Artist to the Alan Jones Memorial Schoolarship Night after which I did a concert tour of NZ's North Island performing in Auckland, Rotorua, Hamilton, Wellington. In 1993 and 1995 I went back to NZ as a Guest Artist at the South Pacific Accordion Championships held in June each year.
In 1993, I did a concert tour of China, together with Friedrich Lips and Viacheslav Semionov. We performed in the far west of China - Urumuqie City and in Beijing, giving numerous workshops, masterclasses, etc .
In 1994 I was invited to my Yugoslav home town of Kragujevac to take part in their International Accordion Summer School and Festival and give masterclasses.
Future plans include accepting concert invitations to China, New Zealand and the USA but my heavy teaching schedule in Australia makes it difficult to have more than one concert tour each year. However, I love travelling and performing and I will take every opportunity that I can fit into my professional schedule, to make future concert tours.
Q. Is there any interesting experiences or other comment you would like to make about your visits to these other countries?
A. During the China trip, I was absolutely impressed with how keen the Chinese pupils were to learn new accordion skills.
Q. Could you tell us about your teaching in Australia and about any of your students?
A. I teach in Australia full time, and I have my own Music Centre. Pupils I teach are mainly youngsters and some of them are quite talented and promising.
Q. I understand you have recently married. Tell us about your husband and does he have any musical interests?
A. Steve and I were married in 1995. Steve also loves music and plays as a hobby, many musical instruments: banjo, trumpet, clarinet, and even plays in a Dixieland Jazz Band. His work is also to do with music as he is in the piano business (repairs, sales, etc).
Since our marriage, Steve has undertaken accordion repair courses with visiting experts and is now highly trained to repair accordions. Best of all, he is very supportive of all my accordion activities and my work with the Australian Accordion Teachers Association.
Q. We would like to hear your comments about the differences in the accordion world in Europe and Australia and the Pacific and Asia? You may also like to comment on similarities.
A. In Eastern and Western Europe, accordion is regarded and recognised as a classical instrument as well as folk instrument, taught at the Music Academies and Conservatoriums. In Australia, it is regarded more as an entertainment instrument only. In regards to classical music on the accordion, Australia is quite a young country, and has a lot of catching up to do, in terms of accordion repertoire, performing standard, etc .
However, with the advent of modern communications, recordings, international artists travelling to Australia, international contestants, the levels have every reason to continue improving.
Q. What are your immediate and long term aims for your musical career?
A. As a teacher and performer, I would like to continue contributing towards the lifting of the standard of the accordion in Australia in general. A major part of my work in that area is with the Australian Accordion Teachers Association. Some of the organizations goals include courses/seminars to bring up the standard of accordion teaching and performing in Australia, bringing world recognized accordion soloists, ensembles and orchestras to Australia, and having them make workshops and masterclasses, etc .
Q. Would you comment on the position and the directions you see the accordion moving in the future? What part do you see it having as a solo instrument and in use with other instruments?
A. For my own type of bellows instrument, the piano accordion, there are some exciting future developments. In recent years, there have been many more national and international competitions with piano accordion classes and that is now encouraging the piano accordion back into the mainstream of European accordion competitions from which it has been absent in recent years. As part of assisting that, the AATA is proud to be a part sponsor (along with the New Zealand Accordion Association) of the first prize for the new International Piano Accordion class being held for the first time at the 2001 Coupe Mondiale in London.
The first prize will be a free trip for the competition winner from their homeland to Australia and New Zealand to perform concerts at our two competitions (held one week apart) at the end of May/beginning of June, as well as to make other concerts on the way to/from Australia and New Zealand. This travel concert tour prize is being awarded for the first three years of this new class, to help establish it and create for piano accordionists a major international competition class with a valuable first prize.
I would like to thank the National Accordion Organisation of Great Britain for their part in hosting this first event and cite it as a wonderful example of how modern communication and international cooperation is helping create exciting new possibilities for today's accordionists. You will be able to see the rules which will be published after the 30th April on the internet site of the National Accordion Organisation of Great Britain. http://www.accordions.com/nao
As I can see it, the international accordion standard in general is progressing with great speed: whole new generations of young and excellent accordionists, ensembles, orchestras are developing. The accordion repertoire is broadening, teaching standards improving and modern low cost communications, especially the internet, are changing the world of the accordion very quickly, all for the better.
Some have called this "the age of knowledge" and I believe that the spread of knowledge within the accordion world in the next few years will be breathtaking and something wonderful for us all - a most exciting time.