A Life Dedicated to Art

A man of art dedicated his life to art, achieved success in every field and added value to every field he laboured…

We have listened to a kind of successful story while we thought if only the music notation of Numan Pekdemir could be told. Prior to the Turkish-Greek Friendship Concert, we wrote the inspiring details of his artistic life spanning over 40 years with the Bodrum Chamber Orchestra.

On a cold winter morning, we started our conversation in his warm house in Turgutreis by listening to the details of the Turkish-Greek Friendship Concert.

As the Bodrum Chamber Orchestra, we are planning to perform the Turkish-Greek Friendship Concert on 26 January at Herodot Culture Centre. 

At the concert to be led by the Greek conductor, Nikos Haliassas, the famous violinist Cihat Askin from Turkey, the mezzo soprano Inez Zikou from Greece, the bouzouki player Konstantinis Gedikis from Greece and the leading violinist Sema Korkut will be performing. 

In the concert programme, where Turkish and Greek composers’ songs will be performed; first the violin concerto of Ulvi Cemal Erkin and then the “Zorba” of Theodorakis will be rendered. 

What did you fit inside your life of art for over forty years that commenced in theIzmir State Symphony Orchestra? 

In 1976, I started working as a double bass player in Izmir State Symphony Orchestra. Before summarising my art life, I would like to mention the valuable people who influenced my life. My father Ali Haydar Pekdemir, my first teacher Izzet Kaya, my uncles; Murat Tengiza and Zeyyat Mandalinci, the former Minister of Trade, Izmir Conservatory Director Orhan Barlas, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra double bass players Curt Wallner and Heinz Fromme. I appreciate them and owe them all thanks. 

While working in Izmir State Symphony Orchestra, I invited the leading conductors and soloists of the world to Izmir. The foreign conductors, Iosif Conta, Veronika Dudarova and Cansug Kahidze conducted our orchestra. The leading artists of the world were our guests in the scope of events; the guitar players: Narciso Yepes, Alirio Diaz and Pepe Romero, the violinists: Igor Oistrachk, Oleg Kagan, Alexander Markov and Konstanty Kulka, the pianists: Grigory Sokolov, Lazar Berman and Evgeni Malinin, the pan flute master: Gheorge Zamfir. The tickets would deplete on the very first day at the AKM Cultural Centre; the concerts were full during the season. If we take the concerts, the Republic Concert and the ones held in Efes with the participation of Zamfir, into account, we perceive that we had achieved great success those days. No doubt, it was not only me, but also my friends who had actualised those.  

The year is 1998, the 75th year of the Republic. I rolled up my sleeves to organise a concert in the centre of Turgutreis. I mentioned my project to my close friend, Istemihan Talay, the former Minister of Culture. He was very impressed with the idea. I indicated that I wanted to have a bust built of Turgutreis in the village, Karabag, where Turgutreis was born, and I also told him that I wanted him to make the opening of the bust very much. He did not let me down and attended the concert. My father, who listened to the Beethoven's 5thSymphony, sitting next to the Minister of Culture, looked at me and said, “Fortunately, you had chosen this job in this way what a beautiful service you provide for your country”.

After my retirement in 2007, I founded the Bodrum Chamber Orchestra.

How was Bodrum Chamber Orchestra born?

I visited Mazlum Agan, the former mayor of Bodrum, told him about the project; he listened to me with great interest, gathered the council and took the decision.

Bodrum Municipality Chamber Orchestra gave its opening concert in Bodrum on the 16thof May 16, 2008 with the participation of the artists Gurer Aykal and Suna Kan. The people of Bodrum showed great interest, and still do. Later the concerts continued at Bodrum Castle with the participation of Idil Biret and other artists. 

In 2018, we celebrated the 10th year of our orchestra with a few events. We gave our previous concert at the Ancient Theatre on the 8thof September.

Do you have any other projects that you want to implement?

There are small chamber orchestras on the basis of the orchestras in our country. My goal now is to bring Bodrum Municipality Symphony Orchestra to Bodrum. On the 31stof March, Elections for the mayor will be held in Bodrum and country-wide. The mayor to be elected will be the mayor of all of us, no matter which politic view we have. My projects are prepared. In the first week of April I will go to visit the mayor in order to drink tea and give a briefing to him and the aldermen. 

Bodrum should be mentioned not only for the orchestra but also for the events to be held in the winter season as well. I believe that this orchestra is likely to take its place in world of art as Bodrum State Symphony Orchestra. Cultural institutions are a must in a town. Since Bodrum is one of the largest windows opening to the west, its cultural assets are at least as important as the infrastructure of the town. 

What was the role of your family while deciding on conservatory education?

My family has a predisposition to art. My father’s grandfather, Numan Pekdemir, used to be an imam at the Mosque of Karatoprak and a primary school teacher. He had taken music, mode and voice training classes at the Darulelhan, which is known as Istanbul Conservatory today. My father Ali Haydar Pekdemir was an intellectual man, who worked as an imam at Turgutreis Yali Mosque for about 35 years. When I graduated, I was awarded a scholarship from Indiana University. My late father said, “You went to the conservatory and I did not give you a dime. The state raised you and made you study. Come on, listen to me; stay and serve your hometown.” 

My mother haji Ismihan Pekdemir is 94 years old. She enjoys joining my concerts so much. 

My wife Huriye Candan Pekdemir is a retired teacher. As the old saying goes, “Getting a neighbourhood girl to marry is like drinking water from a tinned copper cup.” (It means; it is easy to get the permission from the parents to get married with the neighbour’s daughter) She was the neighbour’s daughter but we barely knew each other. Our fathers knew each other well. When we asked her father for permission to get married, he said, “If he is the son of the Teacher Ali, you got my permission.” My wife has always been my pillar of support during my art life.

We would like to hear a memory of yours that affected you during your professional life?

In 1987 Oleg Kagan is one of the best violinists in the world.We negotiated with Russia and made the necessary agreements. A few days before the concert, when Oleg Kagan was supposed to get on the plane, it had been foggy and started snowing heavily at the airport in Moscow. The concert was on Friday so on Thursday we were supposed to practice. On Friday morning we were rehearsing, Oleg was just getting on the plane. His flight was from Moscow to Istanbul and then to Izmir. However there was no available seat on the Izmir flight. I called the airline manager, I humorously said, “Get a man out of the plane and get our man on the plane as he has to perform at the concert tonight.” The plane would land at 7 pm but the concert was at 8:30! I would take him from Cigli and make sure we would be at the concert on time. Vecdi Gonul was the Governor of Izmir then. I explained to him all about the situation and asked him for a courier to go pass the traffic. I arrived at the airport but the flight was delayed; the plane would land at 08:30. I called the AKM Culture Centre and talked to the head violinist. I told him not to ask a single question and listen to the order, “Start the concert ten minutes late and you go near each player and make the preparation of the instruments, then announce that our guest will be late and perform after the break time due to the bad weather condition.” The concert hall is overstuffed with 1000 people. Kagan landed at 8:30. We went to the AKM quickly. He changed and he got on the stage without rehearsing. Fortunately, the audience strongly applauded at the end of the concert. 

Who is Numan Pekdemir?

Numan Pekdemir was born on 27 January 1951 in Turgutreis. In 1968, he passed the exams of Izmir State Conservatory and became the student of Curt Wallner in double bass section. In 1972, he transferred to Ankara State Conservatory. In 1976, he started to work as a double bass player in Izmir State Symphony Orchestra. In 1986, he was appointed as the Deputy Director of the Izmir State Symphony Orchestra and in 1987 as the Director of the Orchestra   and continued this task until 1999. In 2000, he was appointed as the Artist-Manager to Antalya State Symphony Orchestra. 

For the concert programmes of Izmir and Antalya State Symphony Orchestras; open air concerts are held with the participation of worldwide important conductors, soloists and artists in Efes, Aspendos, Bodrum, Çeşme, Turgutreis and Izmir Republic Square, he brought together tens of thousands of people with art. 

Numan Pekdemir, who worked as the Deputy General Manager of the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism from 2004 to 2007, has performed in almost two thousand concerts. 

Since 2007, he has performed many successful events in the country with the Bodrum Chamber Orchestra, which he founded, in addition to his South Korea tour.