Finding a new home through music
“My parents were looking for me,” he says with gleaming eyes, as though reliving the story as he spoke it. “That is when they heard the music and found me there, mimicking playing the violin.”
It is from that moment his life took a direction that would lead him all over the world to grow his passion. The journey started in Serbia, then to Moscow, the U.S. and more places than one could imagine.
Dr. Andrej Kurti, who teaches private lessons to violin and viola students in the School of Creating and Performing Arts, lays his memories out for all those who enter his third-floor office in ‘Old CAPA.’
Covering the long walls are posters of almost every place Kurti has performed, some with text in Eastern European languages, others in English. Some of his shelves hold music books bent back from use and pictures depicting happy memories.
After receiving his doctoral degree, he was on the hunt for a job doing what he loved. It is during this time he had his first interview at Northwestern and fell in love.
“I came here because of the mascot,” he jokes. The real reason Kurti signed his name the night that he was interviewed 14 years ago was because he “felt a good connection.”
He enjoyed the humor and instant connection with the staff in CAPA. Kurti believes the reason staff get along so well is because of NSU President Dr. Chris Maggio and everyone else at the top of the administration ladder.
“It’s a top-down effect,” he says. “What you see is what you get, and I enjoy that.”
The comradery is not the only thing Kurti enjoys about life in Natchitoches; he says life here is similar to that of his hometown in Serbia, although it is different in some ways.
“It’s home,” he says of Natchitoches.
Kurti pointed out that life in Serbia did not require a car, whereas he needs one to get around both in Natchitoches and in the U.S.
“I needed people to drive me to the grocery store when I first arrived,” he admits.
Kurti had difficulty learning English and would often need people to help him translate; this is evident during his lessons when the word he’s looking for escapes his mind.
Although he occasionally has trouble explaining his thoughts in English, he needs no help when it comes to teaching his students technical skills and helping them to develop musical expression.
It is through Kurti’s hard work and dedication that he was awarded both tenure and the title of full professor.
One could think that by offering tenure that teachers often stop caring and just do whatever they want. It is a stereotype many students have come to believe.
Kurti believes this stereotype does not apply to him. He explains that some responsibilities have changed, or even increased, from when he started here 14 years ago, but that the title has not changed him.
“I don’t think I would work any harder or different now than I did 10 years ago,” he says. “Except I’m 10 years more experienced.”
Besides teaching private lessons, Kurti helps the department decide on faculty promotions, serves on the faculty senate and on the music business committee and helps music graduate students.
“I just get busier,” he says.
Kurti says he lives a double life of sorts: professor and performer.
“I teach during the day and then go back to practicing later on for upcoming concerts and recordings,” he says.
However, this double job has little effect on his passion for teaching and for the NSU community.
“I always tell my students when they walk in on the first day, ‘Whatever I tell you is for your own good,’” he laughs. “We are in the same car and on the same team.”
To Kurti, it is important to be just like family to his students because “Love conquers all.” That love, he says, enables him to balance his responsibilities along with his wife’s responsibilities, who is also a violin and viola teacher at NSU.
“[My students’] success is my happiness,” Kurti says. “I want them to come out of Northwestern and be solid in their life.”
This is evident as he teaches. He wants them to perform well and explains carefully how to play through a section of music, offering praise and criticism along the way.
“I need to be smart to understand my students – to see their strengths and weaknesses,” he says.
“Strengths will always be strengths. But when we take weaknesses and turn them into strengths, that’s when we’re improving the most.”