Evoking Emotion: The Measure of a Successful Musician
"In the most basic sense, I feel like my music is bringing love to the world," says Tom Zalmanov, a student at Tel Aviv University’s Buchmann-Mehta School of Music and a recipient of the Diana Mary Steyer Scholarship for Excellence in Music Performance.
Zalmanov avows that playing piano has always been a big part of his identity. A child prodigy, he has been playing since age 5 and, by age 8, was performing in concerts and on TV in Israel and abroad.
Today, his undergraduate studies at TAU focus on performance, alongside music history and theory. He says that individualized study with piano Professor Emanuel Krasovsky is the most valuable part of his academic learning; in fact, Zalmanov chose TAU specifically to work with him.
Despite his many career accomplishments on paper, Zalmanov believes that eliciting emotion is the most important measure of success.
"There is such great music that has already been written and when I perform it, I am the vessel that delivers it to the audience, making the world a more beautiful place,” he says. “There is no greater pleasure than coming offstage and being thanked by even just one member of the audience who has felt a moment of joy or a deep emotion. It makes it all worth it.
The Power of Music
"The Steyer Scholarship gives me peace of mind, allowing me to fully invest myself in learning performance arts," continues Zalmanov. The scholarship was especially meaningful when coronavirus restrictions eliminated work opportunities for performing artists, as venues were shut down, he adds.
Receiving a scholarship that supports young musicians and the field of music is heartwarming for him because it shows that other people believe in the power of music the way he does, he adds.
Helen Steyer, who launched the Steyer Scholarship Fund for Excellence in Music Performance at TAU with her brother Tommy Steyer in 2017, shares Zalmanov’s passion for music: “If a young person possesses the gift of making music, they can bring incredible beauty into the world, especially during troubled and difficult times.” The Steyers established the Music Fund in memory of their late mother, Diana Mary, a talented musician.
Tom Zalmanov practicing. Photo: Yoram Reshef
She continues: “Tom's resume sounds like that of an experienced professional. His dedication, hard work and ambition to reach even higher levels will no doubt bring great success. We are proud that a student with his qualifications was chosen for the Steyer Scholarship.” Helen says.
The scholarship, which provides Zalmanov with support for the duration of his bachelor’s degree, requires recipients to give back to their communities. For a period, Zalmanov performed weekly at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center–Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. "It feels very good to make people who are in a difficult situation feel better," he says.
Indeed, the idea of giving back to the community is a pillar of the Steyers’ values.
“Having parents who survived a horror like the Holocaust, we were raised with the idea of being grateful, appreciating everything we had and making sure other people got the help they needed,” says Helen. “Growing up in Venezuela, Tommy and I saw extreme poverty, hunger and despair, so we were very aware of suffering and socioeconomic marginalization, even as young children.
“Our parents made it clear to us that everyone has an obligation to help others, especially those who are ‘voiceless’: the hungry, poor, disabled, uneducated and others who might be considered invisible,” she explains.
Helen and Tommy Steyer during a visit to TAU. Photo: Michal Kidron
The Steyer siblings are longtime, second-generation supporters of TAU and have served as Governors since 1990. TAU awarded them both honorary doctorates in 2012. Their father Stanley, for whom TAU’s Stanley Steyer School of Health Professions is named, received an honorary doctorate in 1993.
“We hope that when someone is helped by our gift, they will remember it and in turn help others. This creates a ripple effect,” says Helen. “It is a beautiful way of continuing the legacy of our parents.”
For Zalmanov, who is nearing graduation, his time at TAU is far from over. He plans to pursue a master's degree at the Buchmann-Mehta School. His long-term dream is to build his career as a musician, performing on stage and teaching music, he says. "All I want is to make a living doing what I love and to continue to move people."
By Lindsey Zemler