Smith romances ULV with professional talent

Cody Smith, a freshman at ULV, has been playing piano since he was five years old. Cody has competed successfully in numerous regional piano competitions. His favorite composers include Beethoven, Liszt and Prokofrev. / photo by Christian Velazco
Cody Smith, a freshman at ULV, has been playing piano since he was five years old. Cody has competed successfully in numerous regional piano competitions. His favorite composers include Beethoven, Liszt and Prokofrev. / photo by Christian Velazco

by Gloria Diaz
Arts & Entertainment Editor

This fall the University of La Verne welcomed freshman Cody Smith to the music department. And in a few short months he has taken ULV piano performance to a higher level.

Born and raised in Long Beach, Smith was introduced to the piano at 5, by his mother who signed him up for piano lessons with local teacher Becky Mauss. He trained with Mauss until sixth grade when he switched teachers and focus to jazz piano ­ but Smith said he was not too interested in that.

Smith, 18, has entered some competitions like the Southwestern Youth Music Festival, where he ranked high among other competitors. His other competitions include, a concerto competition at Orange County High School of the Arts.

Since coming to ULV, Smith has only performed in student recitals, but he hopes to compete in the summer.

“I am in awe when I watch him,” said Sarah Morales, sophomore, liberal studies major. “He has a really great talent at such a young age.”

Last summer Smith competed in an open Chopin concerto contest, where he did not place, but he said he was satisfied with his performance.

To further his knowledge in piano, Smith attended Orange County High School of the Arts, which requires an audition for admission. For the first two years, the program was at Los Alamitos High School, but then it moved to a seven-story Santa Ana building.

Smith said that it “was a unique experience, but it was fun.”

While at OCHSA, Smith met Timothy Durkovic, an adjunct professor of music at ULV, who taught chamber music at OCHSA. Smith started taking piano lessons with Durkovic when he was in 11th grade.

“I completely fell in love with him as a teacher,” Smith said. “He is so good, and he has helped so much.”

Smith said Durkovic was a major influence in his decision to come to ULV. They had discussed other colleges, but ULV seemed like the best choice, he said.

“I didn’t feel like I was ready to leave his guidance; I felt I still had more to learn from him,” Smith said.

Smith prefers romantic and Twentieth Century music. Romantic music has many different melodies and harmonies to which the audience can listen, and it uses all of the keyboard.

“It’s got a very big sound that an orchestra would have; I just love that aspect of romantic music,” Smith said.

Twentieth century music, he said, is very rhythmic, which is what he likes and listens for the most.

His favorite composer is Franz Liszt, who is a romantic composer. Smith compares Liszt to a modern day “rock star god.” Liszt would perform with 3-4 different pianos in different positions. Liszt would play a different piece on each piano to give the audience various perspectives of his performance.

“His music is very large and hard; it is so beautiful,” Smith said. “I just love his music so much.”

Smith’s musical influences are Beethoven, who Smith considers to be a musical genius, Prokofiev, a 20th century composer that produced percussive rhythmic music, and Chopin, who Smith describes as a standard classical pianist.

“(Beethoven) knew how to create tension, and he knew how to release that tension and make it sound good,” he said.

Upon graduation from ULV, Smith hopes to attend University of Southern California and study with Kevin Fitzgerald, who performed at ULV last month. He is Durkovic’s teacher; Durkovic recommended Fitzgerald as a possible teacher in the future.

“At this point I am not sure if I want to continue with performance playing, but I know music is going to play a big part in my life,” Smith said.

“When you see him perform you don’t see Cody anymore because you feel the music in the way he portrays the piano piece,” Dayita Datta, senior music major said. “He expresses the beauty of the piece.”

Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.

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