Love of liberal arts drives music professor

Peter Kairoff is not just a university music professor. He is the director of the Venice Program at Casa Artom, as well as a concert pianist and a recording artist. His research includes finding artists whose music has never been recorded and making it available for the world. He has also covered many of the great musicians of the past. He came to the university in 1988, and yes, his music is available on iTunes.

Photo courtesy of Peter Kairoff

What is your role on campus?

I have two or three main focuses in my work here. Of course, as a music professor, I teach music courses.

I love to introduce young students to classical music in introductory classes as well as more advanced lessons for the music majors.

One of my great loves is Music 101, where I just introduce students to the great composers of the past and watch their appreciation grow for all the great music that I love so much. Also, I’m a performing concert pianist. I travel the world. I just got back from China.

The other thing that I do is be the overall director of the Venice Program.

I oversee the budget and make sure the house is in good shape and help hand out scholarships for students going abroad.

What did you do in China? How was the experience?

It was a great experience. Wake Forest is interested in being better known in China, because it’s such an enormously important country, and some of our core students from China are such excellent students and we’d love to have more of them. Some of our very best music students actually come from China.

Having students from such a different background and such an important culture enriches the campus.

What is your favorite part of Venice?

I love Italy very much, and I love the lifestyle there. I love that there is art and history everywhere you go.

When you’re just walking down the street, you don’t even need to go to a museum, it’s all right there. And it’s just so different from anywhere else. There are no cars, the streets are filled with water and it looks and feels like it did in the 1500s, so it’s like a time machine. It can transport you back in time. It’s very atmospheric, very beautiful.

Why did you choose Wake?

Well, I feel at home in a place that emphasizes the liberals arts. I like the fact that it is not just a straight music conservatory. The kids I teach are also interested in the sciences and literature and I have a general interest in those things myself, so I like being around other people, other professors and other students that are interested in lots of things. I like the interdisciplinary aspect of it all.

I hear you can play almost any song on the piano. Is that true?

I don’t know if I can play any song but I do enjoy, when I’m teaching the history of music, to be able to demonstrate the great pieces of Brahms and Beethoven and so on. It makes it easier to explain what’s going on inside of a piece of music to be able to demonstrate it, to say, here look at this part.

Do you have any advice for freshmen just starting out ?

Be open minded to any class that comes your way because you may discover a lifelong passion that you never knew about before.

And along those same lines, go to a classical concert once.

It may just open your eyes and ears to a whole new world.