Letter Success is a seed that lies dormant until you fertilize it with vision, faith, patience, dedication and courage. Only then will you realize your true potential. You will reap benefits through strength, wisdom, immeasurable opportunities and fulfillment of dreams once thought impossible. Monica
From The Founder
Greetings to My Readers, It gives me great pleasure to introduce our May/June 2010 issue of Exceptional People Magazine. Without you, my vision would not be possible. Exceptional People Magazine continues to have an extraordinary impact on people throughout the world, offering readers an opportunity to take a journey into the souls of the most talented, compassionate, heroic and dedicated individuals. My mission is to inspire global change through renewed vision and hope. Each of us has valuable attributes. Life is about sharing your gifts in a way that benefits others. In this issue we have featured outstanding individuals who are using their extraordinary gifts and talents to impact the lives of people around the globe -- individuals like Levente Egry whose music has inspired people from all backgrounds or William R. Patterson, a successful entrepreneur who shares his expertise with countless others. Other notables include Osprey Orielle Lake whose art is changing the way we view nature and Dr. Carnell Cooper who is a mentor and hero to young victims of violence. I encourage you to discover your true passion, cultivate it and use it in a way that serves others. I promise to continue to deliver a magazine that will enlighten, educate and entertain you. That's Exceptional People Magazine. Thank you for allowing me to inspire you.
Renowned Pianist and Composer
Musically Brilliant. Classical Perfection. Debonair.
It is through the numerous sacrifices of his parents that Egry has achieved such success. He is a man who appreciates life, great music and his ability to have a positive affect on people through music.
– it has the power to heal, to invoke happiness, to stir emotions and bring people together. It transcends all backgrounds. Through his romantic classical arrangements, Levente Egry celebrates life and attempts to bring harmony into the lives of people around the world. His endeavor in this regard is succeeding. A legend in his own right, Egry has not only helped transform the lives of his fans but also the music of the artists for whom he has produced and composed songs. He consistently works to perfect his craft. “I’m living for the music,” he states. Egry’s extraordinary abilities as a pop artist, classical composer and musician have earned him accolades and many awards, as well as gold, platinum and diamond selling albums. His list of accomplishments includes performing as a pianist at Theatre Madach, in Budapest, Hungary and founding the successful award-winning pop group, Hip Hop Boyz. After hosting a classical concert series for the Hungarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2000, he set his sights on the United States to write and produce music for international superstars Anastacia and Tarkan. Upon his return to Hungary, Egry produced several pop projects followed by his debut album in 2006, Sentimental Piano Concert. He also co-founded the Artofonic Chamber Orchestra for the same project. The Hip Hop Boyz was not just a popular band among fans but they used their extraordinary talents and fame to make a difference in the lives of young kids. Through the establishment of a dance school, kids not only had the opportunity to develop their talents, but also learn the value and importance of physical education, as well as living a healthy, drug-free lifestyle.
“My parents sacrificed so much for me. Instead of purchasing a family car, they bought me a piano and paid for my tuition. They tolerated extended hours of daily practicing, that sometimes drove me crazy. As a child, it was difficult for me to see how much they loved me but I realize it today. I can only imagine their sacrifices to raise a child who wanted to become a musician,” explains Egry. As a pop artist, Egry has opened for some of the most popular bands and artists, including Michael Jackson, the Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and others. A pianist, composer, performer and producer, this dashing Hungarian sensation is the total package that embodies extraordinary talent, skills, humbleness and honesty. If you open the package, you’ll find that there is a story about the man behind the music that will touch your heart. His childhood somewhat parallels that of Michael Jackson’s. He grew up under the rigid rules of his father, his childhood taken from him so that he would become a musical prodigy. “It was not until adulthood when I realized that without all of my father’s efforts and intense pressure, I would not have become the artist and man I am today. I understand why he did what he did to me,” explains Egry. From such childhood difficulties comes an impeccable gentleman who creates music that resonates with people from all backgrounds. Perhaps he will return to America to delight audiences with his eclectic style of classical arrangements and rich melodic tones. His music is a true reflection of what’s deeply rooted in his soul. The Founder of Exceptional People Magazine was delighted to have Egry share his story. He has graciously chosen to reveal his background so that others may know the man behind the music.
Monica: Over the years you have achieved amazing success as a composer and musician. What was life like as a young child growing up in Hungary? Levente: As a child, I never experienced the effects of the Iron Curtain except hearing from my parents about that mysterious western world or classmates returning from abroad with fantastic things like illegally-copied tapes of music from Europe and canned Coca Cola. I lived in my own world, practicing music all the time. What I missed out on was real information about the outside world, artists and music that I learned of only through others. Monica: Was becoming a classical musician your career choice or your fatherâ€™s decision? Levente: As a matter of fact, it was my decision. When I was five years old, I found my daddy's old instruments in a big wardrobe. I learned to play the accordion, the violin and even the drums. At that stage, my parents' role was to respond by enrolling me in a school where I studied classical music. In the beginning, I enjoyed it very much. I proceeded at an advanced level, even skipped one or two grades. My teachers treated me as a child prodigy and that confirmed my father's commitment. As a result, he set strict rules for practicing those long and enduring hours. According to his belief, this was the secret to success. Monica: You were forced to sacrifice your childhood, spending countless hours practicing at the piano. What effect did your childhood experiences have on you emotionally? Levente: Well, this is an "evergreen" question. Had I been more interested in the playground and football, I would have been there. The decision was in my hands when I chose my dad's accordion instead of toy cars as my main object of leisure time. In the back of my mind I was curious about taking the chance to go to the playground, but I continued playing the piano. Nevertheless, I had difficult moments, the holidays or a sunny Sunday when practicing six to eight hours was real torture. Although my father forced me to practice, I received my reward when I won almost every piano competition during that time. 6 | Exceptional People Magazine | May-June 2010
Monica: Your father was very well-educated and a successful engineer. Did he ever explain why he forced you to endure emotional and physical pain to pursue a musical career? Levente: We have had disagreements and misunderstandings for 20 years. I did not understand the point in practicing then in order to reap future rewards and he did not understand what I did not understand. For a kid, perfect happiness means living for the moment, so it was incomprehensible for me to grasp how I could be happy then by working on being happy in the distant future. It came to me much later when I understood the point of reaching for great goals, the thrill of expectation, the glory of hard work. My dad's only mistake was that he tried to make me understand it too early. Maybe a different argument would have worked better. Monica: Has your father told you recently that he is proud of you and your accomplishments? Levente: My father and I are so much alike. He is distant in many ways but I know that is he proud of me and my accomplishments. Heâ€™s told me so and I know that his wish for me is to be successful in every endeavor. I would like to ask him what he would do differently if he had the opportunity to change things but I dare not ask. We have a classic father and son relationship that resembles that of the early 20th century. Monica: You have forgiven him for taking away your childhood and the two of you have reconciled. At what point in your life did you decide let go of the emotional pain that you experienced? Levente: My protective conscience has closed many things from my childhood. I have only a few memories of it. I had no idea what I missed as a kid because I never knew what an average kid's life was like. Sometimes I envied my mates going out and hanging around together. Maybe that is why I was a rebellious kid with extremely bad behavior, an unmanageable kid, even.
people As a teenager, I remember never wanting to be a grownup. I felt stuck in that period of life. My father finally gave up fighting with me when I applied for the jazz faculty of the Franz Liszt Music Academy of Budapest. That was the moment he lost hope in me becoming a classical musician. My rebellious teen era had begun. I wanted to be a pop star so much, I behaved and dressed like a pop star. As a piano student in high school, I protested by performing classical music pieces according to my personality with improvisations and crossovers. Thanks to my unquestionable technical virtuosity, which I gained through practicing those long and enduring hours during my childhood, I had the advantage of performing absolutely freely and boisterously. Today I owe a lot of gratitude to my parents who really made even more sacrifices than I did. They surrendered their happiness, time and money so that I could fulfill my dreams. What they instilled in me was the gift of knowledge. I am so grateful to have received such a wonderful gift from them. Monica: What impact did your mother have on your life?
Levente: My mom was my defender and shield. She protected me from my father's Zeus-like anger when I misbehaved. She was so indulging, giving me pocket money in secret, helping me achieve my goals, although her overflowing love could reverse. I experienced that mostly as a teenager but also as an adult. She has always stood by me, understood what I wanted and did not want to see my sufferings. Mom made me feel that I was not alone, she would always be there for me. She knew how to show her love towards me. My father did not. I desperately wanted him to be proud of me. Monica: Have you ever used music as a way to unleash some of the painful memories from your childhood? Levente: Yes, of course. In my music there is happiness, sorrow, sweetness and bitterness. Those are present not only when I compose, but also when I improvise or just play random tunes on the piano. Music without emotions is like meat without salt. I always needed experience and to see life in order to gain emotions and motivation that I can turn into the language of music. My conscious recognizes the reasons for struggle, pain and doubts. Strangely enough, the well-being, the calmness, is not very inspiring for me, as a creative person. However, one has to experience it for the moment just to feel the bright contrasts. This is like climbing Mount Everest: all that effort for a little time on the top! Monica: If it were not for your harsh upbringing, where do you think youâ€™d be today? Do you believe that you would have achieved your current level of success? Levente: This has always been a dilemma for me. Sometimes I think if I had not been exposed to pressure, I might be the greatest pianist. At the same time, I think that without all this hard work I could easily have lost all that so-called talent. I do not know. I believe it must be the way it is. It was I who found music, who became a jazz and pop musician and then producer due to parental pressure. Finally I understood my mission and now I am back on the path I chose as a 7-year-old kid. Monica: What effect has your childhood had upon your adult life? Levente: I am susceptible to depression. An uneasy childhood made me an uneasy adult. I was expected to perform to perfection, so I expect perfection from myself. I May-June 2010 | Exceptional People Magazine | 7
want to live up to the one hundred percent expectation set by myself, my parents and my teachers. You see, all my life I was above average attending high school, being a successful pop star selling countless copies of albums and so forth. So I created a picture of myself as someone different from the average person. And this must be the way it is. I am programmed to be deviant and most likely if I were a carpenter, I would feel the same way by seeking perfectionism in carving. Monica: What is your overall view of life today? Levente: What I see in the world is mental poverty, depression and stress. What I see is everyone in a hurry to get something without contemplating its benefit. It is a pity that money determines our state of happiness and the picture we create for ourselves. If I could prove a point, I would give everyone a medical certification with bad news concerning their health. Then I would wait for them to digest my diagnosis. After a couple of days, I would reveal the truth. I believe the outcome would be interesting: how would people, including myself, continue our lives after this little joke. The world is beautiful and we decide our life's pursuits but it must come from the inside. We must find mental peace. Just think of a shepherd's life. He can be filled with happiness although he does not do anything to pursue it. Monica: If you could relive your past, what would you change about it? Levente: In our minds, every decision we make is perfect at the moment we make it. Life is full of “what if’s” and “maybe’s” and if I were to look back, I’m sure I could discover things that I would change. I believe the decisions I made throughout my life were the best decisions at that time. In reality, I wouldn’t change anything because what I’ve learned has allowed me to view life from an amazing perspective and it has enabled me to learn a lot about myself, “the man behind the music.” 8 | Exceptional People Magazine | May-June 2010
Monica: Your music rekindles the romanticism that seems to have been lost through the years. Do you believe that romance plays an important role in relationships and happiness? Levente: We all remember the first date, the first kiss. Now we're walking home after the date, watching the sky with our hearts throbbing and there was nothing but the moment. This is the basic element of romanticism, the moment we had and understood and experienced as children. We tend to be unwilling to understand that we have nothing but the "now," the present. If we cannot experience the present, all we end up having is the promise of the future. Monica: You are no stranger to the world of Pop and Hip Hop. You created the successful group, Hip Hop Boyz but you trained to become a classical musician. You crossed over into an entirely different genre, while maintaining the same level of excellence. What motivated you to cross over from one genre to another? Levente: Well, this transformation was a bit subconscious. I must admit that hip hop as a genre in Hungary is completely different from what it is in the States. The Hungarians' pop music is highly influenced by the German pop industry, so the taste in music is behind by a good 15 years because of the Iron Curtain influence. While studying classical music, I was mesmerized by rock and roll. It was amazing how such a simple groove could make such a huge impact on me. After that I fell in love with R&B, then came jazz, soul, funk and hip hop. I understood the different genres and felt the connection between them. It was an amazing discovery and journey into the world of music. I switched from Bach inversions to be-bop and swing. Today I can see the integrity between a fusion of Bach and swing improvisation, a good 300 years of distinction, but all the same. Isn’t it beautiful? Monica: Classical music is an acquired taste for some people. To whom do you speak through your music?
people Levente: My music was composed for those with an acquired taste. It was created with maximum quality, just like making a classical production. My music is composed for non-classical music fans. I prefer composing popular romantic music that is widespread, has been listened to for the past 50-100 years and holds eternal values. I want to adjust it to the listening tendencies of today. The starting point was the type of music that I listened to. Monica: You have a style that is uniquely your own. Have any of the classical greats such as Verdi, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky or Mozart influenced the music that you create? Levente: Yes, of course. There are elemental, perpetual and timeless melodies in the classic repertoire that provide perfect beauty. It is amazing how Bach and Mozart and the others could compose such clear cut and
perfect melodies when writing the "Air" or the"Lacrimosa" and so on. Beauty is eternal. Some contemporary compositions give me no beauty, only doubt. A prepared performance on a piano is no more than pure exhibitionism for me. But when I play a Chopin piece, I can allow myself to find a better or a more interesting version for a melodic scale or just a changing-note. This is exciting. I think pianists should not insist on the written and printed notes that much. Great pianists like Franz Liszt did not care about the written notes. He played other composer's music in a way that he liked. I try to do the same in a humble way. Monica: I understand you are a perfectionist. What qualities do you seek in a potential orchestra member? Levente: For me, the most important thing is the human factor. Professional conflicts can be discussed and solved. But management problems and mistakes arising from personal issues are practically impossible. In those instances, there are only temporary solutions which return sooner or later in the form of stress or tension. However, it does not mean that I have no professional expectations, only that personality is more important for me. The members of the Artofonic Chamber Orchestra get on very well with each other, just like the artistic director and I. Behaviour influences the studio recordings, the morality and quality, and that is what I expect on tour, excellent musicians, great people. Who needs better company? Monica: Some say that being a perfectionist can make one lose touch with reality, but striving for excellence allows for a lifetime of improvement. Are you a perfectionist or do you aspire to achieve success by being a student of excellence? Levente: I know many kinds of perfectionism. Most of us imagine a rampaging crazy researcher who just could not invent what he or she wanted. We are the gauge of our own perfections. "There is no marvelous in being better than others. The real miracle shows in being more outstanding than the former ourselves," a Hindu proverbial says. Monica: Do you believe that excellence in all things is a requirement for success? Levente: No, I do not believe that. One has to be excellent only in one thing, and it is enough being average in others. May-June 2010 | Exceptional People Magazine | 9
Human values stand above all because success requires a complexity of accomplishments.
longs for. After a while, nothing is left but the memories and that little statuette.
Endurance and faith, are absolute and basic necessities for excellence and success.
Monica: Oftentimes people who have achieved great success tend to lose sight of the really important things in life. With all the success youâ€™ve had, how do you remain grounded and balanced?
Monica: Publilius Syrus once said, â€œDo not despise the bottom rungs in the ascent to greatness.â€? Sometimes our bottom rungs are the most painful, difficult and challenging to endure. Though your childhood may have been extremely unpleasant, do you appreciate what you experienced in becoming the person that you are today? Levente: I absolutely agree that the first step is the most difficult. However, the steps that follow are just as difficult. Every beginning is hard. What is required is a combination of persistence, faith and vocation to make others believe in you. Fortunately, I surround myself with successful people worldwide who have helped me take the first and most difficult steps in anything new I have desired to accomplish. American journalist Sharon Raiford Bush is one of them. She and I met in 2009 during which time she was researching music composers. We worked together on a marketing project and she's wanted me to tour the U.S. ever since. We found out that we have three main things in common: we both love good music, we've both worked with Michael Jackson, and we're composers. I write music. She writes literature. Once you reach a certain level of success, you have to work hard to keep it, make progress and create something new -- this is a real challenge. People say that it is easy for rich people; they have money and are able to do whatever they want to do. It is a mistake. Money equals extra stress and an issue to be solved and handled. The more money there is, the more problems to be solved. All I want to highlight is that it is easy to judge successful people as having an easy life because they are already successful. But what about the road leading to success? What a challenge it is to make a new film after receiving an Oscar. The more successful you are, the higher the expectations are and the risk of failure grows larger. Is an Oscar really a gift? Yes, this is what an artist 10 | Exceptional People Magazine | May-June 2010
Levente: I have seen people and friends changed and distorted by success, especially by easy and early success. I feel lucky because I have prepared to be a concert pianist all my life. My values cannot turn upside down, as I have been fighting for one goal since my childhood. In my case, success does not come easily. Even my career as a pop musician did not have an easy start. The other method to remain grounded is a need for maintaining and increasing quality. By doing so, hardly anyone can be self-confident. Perfection is beyond reach. My personal hero is Zoltan Kocsis, pianist, conductor, composer, performer of Bartok piano series and piano concertos by Rachmaninoff, who in spite of his international success is notoriously discontented. I would say that with the knowledge he possesses, I could be happy, but he is not happy. The more we see, the better we know that what we see is so little. Monica: What emotions within you inspire romantic music? Levente: The first tunes just came from nowhere. At that time, I was preoccupied by a completely different genre but somehow music emerged from inside me. I began to play these tunes on the piano, improvising. Then I realized that this is more than a passing fancy. I have to cast it into a higher form. I liked the idea of compressing the romantic melodies into a modern, present-day format. This is a recurring thought that comes back every ten years. At age 20, I composed two piano concertos and an opera. I remember writing the scores till dawn every day. I loved it! Those compositions were embryonic pieces, unconscious creations. Their main role was practice and preparation for the future.
people At age 30, I was contemplating the idea of becoming a concert pianist but somehow it remained just an idea. Now that I am 40, I feel the time has come to present myself because I have enough experience as a pianist. Monica: Are you truly happy with what you have been able to accomplish in your life? Levente: No, I am not satisfied at all. Many times I feel damned for having been born in this country. I miss all the opportunities that I was not given in Hungary. Western-Europe and the United States provide more opportunities and are given to developing creative talents. Hungary was a real do-it-yourself country. Your car has broken, fix it; your water pipes don't work, fix it yourself. There were no handymen or money to pay them. That is why I learned sound designing, arranging and mixing. Since I was not a good singer, I learned all the tricks, like pitch correcting and sound editing. This is how I became a full range producer. Monica: Other than music, what brings you happiness? What are some things you treasure most in life?
Levente: What brings me happiness is a good cigar, tasty coffee and a great chat. I like to give and receive a good word or a surprise. What I value the most beyond my family is friendship. I have only a few friends, but they are true friends. I owe a lot to them. They hold the mirror so I can see the real me. Without their support and help, I would be a sad and lonely person. At the time of my success as a pop star, I was surrounded by many people and differentiating the real friends was not easy. Sometimes I did not manage it. Today, my party mates have dropped out. Only my real friends have remained. Monica: You are a person who has studied classical music, jazz and opera, I can certainly appreciate your hard work and commitment. I know what it means to have a true passion for something. Do you allow time for other things in your life, other than the beautiful music that you create? Levente: Fancy you would ask me this, Monica. I am always told that I should relax, but it is easier said than done. This is like asking you to take time away from your role as CEO and publisher of this marvelous magazine to stop the presses, take time to relax and go for a holiday while the world goes about its business. This project is my fate. Allow me to share with you this intimate detail: In the past five years, I have been living like a hermit, a lifestyle I have chosen. I must admit that this creative and developing process, topped with a bit of gnawing depression, is not the healthiest way of life. I am aware of it but I cannot avoid it. I often daydream about sitting on a beach or taking a walk, visiting an exhibition or whatever, being in perfect harmony with myself, having the freedom to be loose and permitting myself to enjoy a vacation. Maybe this is my highest wish beyond the idea of performing my compositions on stage with my great, professional musicians. Monica: What has the essence of music taught you as an individual? Levente: Music has opened the world for me. It has given me a chance to head toward a noble creative life. By improving my own life, I am helping to make better lives for others. Music has taught me universal values, May-June 2010 | Exceptional People Magazine | 11
appreciation of our predecessors and has shown the importance of conjoining the past, present and future. Music and I are non-detachable. Without music, we are poor. Music can plunk a string that human language cannot. Music gives exclusive emotions and feelings. Though we may live in a world of alienation and devaluation, we still have a need for music that cures and brings forth happiness. Monica: What do you believe are the most important elements for becoming a successful musician? Levente: In this day and time, the degree of real knowledge does not really matter. There is a different measure for success. This basic package must contain persistence, belief, endurance, insistence, being open to criticism, acceptance and progress. In addition, one has to be open to the world, receive new things, be sensitive to diverse musical genres, ambitious to achieve perfection and live with open eyes and open ears. The list goes on. Monica: What does the future hold for you? You are currently single and have never been married. Do you foresee marriage in your future? Levente: I long for an average, happy life with a family of my own with kids. I must first find a partner who would understand me, know who I am, what I am doing and where I am going. I believe strongly in the institution of marriage. I believe in togetherness and I like the official celebration of the marriage and the wedding ceremony that follows it. Monica: Professionally, what do you aspire to achieve in the future? Levente: I wish to build upon everything I have achieved thus far. Many of my dreams have not changed since I was age 7, except that I can convey my wishes to the powers above in a better way. At age 12, I pretended to conduct the Star Wars soundtrack, imagining that I was standing in front of a 12 | Exceptional People Magazine | May-June 2010
200-member orchestra. So my aspirations are two-fold. I want to perform my first classic-crossover debut album to a packed American audience. I welcome an opportunity to provide the soundtrack for a major motion picture. Otherwise, I remain honored and humbled that my fans consider me to be one of the world's greatest pianists. Monica: Based your life experiences, what lessons can a person learn from you? Levente: If I had the ability to go back in time to meet my 20 or 30-year old self, I would teach myself lessons of a lifetime. Likewise, if I could have visited my future when I was 20, I would have taught myself to be more patient and self-disciplined, less demanding and I would have distanced myself from situations and waited until the problems were solved by the persons involved. These are all great lessons for everyone to learn. Monica: What legacy would you like to leave your family and fans? Levente: Life is about constant aspiration for happiness. For the moment if I can make just one person's life better through my lifelong mission, then I can speak honestly about a real legacy of my own. For the moment if only one person is moved positively or a relationship is improved or re-ignited because of the music I create, then my life on this planet had purpose. It had meaning. Precious time was not wasted. I would have fulfilled my destiny. Monica: What final thoughts would you like to leave your family, friends and fans? Levente: Cherish those who have touched your heart in some way and appreciate the sacrifices others have made for you. Appreciate the beauty that life has to offer. Live life through patience and time will present extraordinary opportunities you never thought possible. Patience is not only a virtue but it is necessary in our pursuit of happiness and fulfillment. Give of yourself and you will be richly rewarded.
Published on May 29, 2010
Empowering people around the globe. Living well, changing lives and fulfilling dreams by inspiring people to discover and live their life’s...