Teaching and Performing in Taiwan


Irena Kofman, DMA, FAU Director of Keyboard Studies

Teaching and Performing in Taiwan

FAU Director of Keyboard Studies Wins Prestigious Fulbright Award

In 1991, Irena Kofman, DMA, arrived in the U.S. from Russia with little to her name and no job. “It was very challenging,” she said and a bit of a shock. Despite her success in Russia, where “becoming a musician was considered one of the most prestigious careers,” that’s not necessarily the case in the U.S., she said.

Yet, she found success. More than 30 years later, Kofman has performed in more than 20 countries and four continents. She is a distinguished faculty member of the Cremona International Academy in Italy and director of keyboard studies and associate professor in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters. Most recently, she earned a Fulbright Global Scholar Award to teach and perform at University of Taipei in Taipei, Taiwan.

Her success, she claims, was due to her education and hard work. With the support and encouragement of her parents, Kofman began playing the piano at age 5. Neither parent had musical experience themselves, though they loved music, she said. Her father was a university professor and mathematician, and her mother was a doctor.

Kofman demonstrated a talent at a young age, winning competitions and attending a prestigious children’s music academy. When it came time to decide on a career, it was a natural choice to continue with music, she said. “I believe that we like to do what we do well.” Eventually, she earned a master’s degree in piano performance and pedagogy from the Russian Conservatory.

After graduating and working as a faculty at the Voronezh State Academy of Arts , she came to the U.S. and found a job as a collaborative pianist at Montclair State University in New Jersey. In 1993, her family moved to Florida where she started teaching piano as an adjunct faculty member at FAU. A decade later, she decided to shift her focus more toward teaching and earned a doctorate in piano performance and pedagogy from the University of Miami in 2001. By 2014, she became a full-time professor at FAU.

Through her Fulbright award, Kofman hopes to promote an exchange program with FAU and the University of Taipei for students and faculty. “Classical music needs new ears, new markets and new musicians in order to flourish and grow in popularity,” she said. “Fortunately, new research indicates that classical music has grown in popularity. And this is particularly true in Taiwan, where Western classical music has become extremely popular, especially among young people.”

While teaching six months in Taiwan, Kofman “will be able to share the knowledge I have received in the former Soviet Union and here in the United States,” she said. “I will be able to represent the values that have made me the musician I am today – freedom, creativity, diligence, openness, and collaboration – with my students and others I meet in Taiwan.”

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