Highlighting Adjunct Faculty

with Peter Kozma, M.Mus. Adjunct Faculty, Music

Photo of Peter Kozma

University of San Diego’s diverse population in our students is something that we can proudly stand behind with nearly 750 (8.8%) undergrad and graduate students coming from 75 different countries (source: 2016 Fall International Student Census). It is also a beautiful diversity within the teaching population as well as approximately 2% of faculty members are international, not including those US citizens born in other countries (source: USD Institutional Research and Planning). At any given campus event I have conversations with colleagues from France, Columbia, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Canada, and on and on. I get such a rush from having that international educational community with whom we share our students’ learning experience.

One such colleague who has made his home in the US with his wife and daughter is an adjunct professor in the Music Department’s opera workshop. I had a chance to ask him to share his story with us and it is my pleasure to introduce you to Peter Kozma.

Peter Kozma, born in Hungary, received his training at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest and the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently teaching opera at USD for the second semester as well as running Opera NEO, a summer opera festival and workshop designed to cultivate a new generation of young opera singers, instrumentalists, and ultimately professionals within the context of creating innovative interpretations of opera.

He took a moment between meetings, classes, and national recruitment auditions to answer some questions about teaching the craft about which he is so passionate.

Ryan Scimger: Can you tell me about your background and approach to teaching the performing arts?

Peter: I inherited my love for classical music and theater from my father, who was consequently also a big opera fan. I was equally excited about being a musician since I was 6 years old and being involved in theater for almost as long. I went on to receive degrees both as a musician and as a theater professional. In my everyday life and work I always try to be the best musician I can be who understands theater and the best stage performer who understands music.

Both theater and music are collaborative art forms. Creating art is constant decision-making and collaboration. It is important to teach and model that you should talk about your own ideas with confidence and listen to others with open mind and curiosity. 

RS: Have you found a way to reach your students that helps them to open up?

 Peter: Every time they are given an opportunity to express themselves in words, music or movement they agree to open up and share something about themselves. Teaching performing arts is most rewarding because you have incredible opportunities to learn about the students through their artistic endeavors in class and performances.

I was fortunate to have many great mentors, including my voice teachers, later stage director and conductor colleagues. I received great mentorship as an artist - I am not so sure about mentorship as a teacher. However, as my father was a teacher, I was very much influenced by his example.

RS: Between the Opera NEO festival where you interact with passionate students, audience, donors, and the University of San Diego’s Opera Workshop where your students have broader academic commitments than exclusively their singing, how do you engage students, especially those that are less-motivated?

Peter: I believe in the magic of performing arts and I believe in the universally human nature of theater and music. I am always happy to share my passion with anyone who lets me talk about it: prospective donors, audience members, friends, students, and colleagues. I believe that passion is contagious. Also, if I am having fun, and some of the students are also having fun, I think eventually people tend to want to join the group.

Students have the permission and the obligation to be open minded and make personal choices. I believe that creating art is a vehicle to be the most "me” I can be and you shouldn’t do it to please someone else.

RS: It sounds as though you approach life as you approach teaching.

 Peter: To me, good teaching is to talk about & introduce students to ideas, thoughts that excite me and I am passionately in love with. I guess I have the luxury not to teach anything I don’t care about. Someone else will do a better job at those things.

RS: When you’re not talking about your passion in opera, where might we find you?

 Peter: In front of my laptop most of the day working on a million aspects of running an opera company. Otherwise in the dog park with my dog, cooking in the kitchen, doing homework with my daughter. During the summer months in the rehearsal room or in the orchestra pit.

RS: So, in other words, always doing something you are passionate about. What are some attributes that you think make a great professor?

Knowledge that is based on great education, experience, successes, and failures.  Empathy and passion that is contagious.

Indeed, I can testify that Peter’s empathy and passion is contagious and we are privileged to have him in our educational community and in San Diego’s arts scene at large. My gratitude to Peter Kozma for considering the nuances of his teaching pedagogy in a craft that can easily be seen as arcane and instead, with his viewpoints and commitment, it becomes vital, relevant, dynamic, and accessible.