Pianist plays lounges at night, preschools during day
By Nicole Janok
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
For Palm Beach Gardens resident Bob Voca, life is about one thing: music.
For most of his life, the Croatian native has studied and performed the piano around the world.
Bob Voca makes sure Lake Worth tot Gage Milligan, 2, has a steady grip on a hanging bar while Milligan's playmates from West Palm Beach's Palm Beach Preschool play aboard Voca's Ladybug Tumble and Music Bus, which Voca uses to teach kids gymnastics and music.
A classically trained musician, Voca, 61, spent much of his career on Mediterranean cruise ships and hotels throughout Europe. In fact, while playing in one of Croatia's ritziest hotels, Voca met his second wife of 17 years â€” a South Florida resident named Diane. For the past 18 years, Voca has called Palm Beach County home and held a rotating schedule of local piano performances. He plays at Nordstrom's at the Mall at Wellington Green and McCarthy's Restaurant & Pub and Cafe Heidelberg in Tequesta.
In the past two months, music has ataken on a new role in Voca's life â€” he is the proud owner of Lady Bug Tumble and Music Bus, a traveling classroom that teaches preschoolers gymnastics and music.
Several days a week, Voca drives the big red bus, which he decorated himself, to local preschools where he uses over-sized musical notes and a xylophone to teach basic percussion skills.
"It's pretty neat," he said.
Complete with a trampoline and mini roller coaster, the 30-minute sessions are split between tumbling and music. Another instructor teaches tumbling.
"They love the bus," he said. "It's beautiful."
Voca came up with the idea after seeing other businesses that had a similar idea.
"I said, 'That's very neat, and I can do it during the day.'" And with a little administrative help from his wife, Voca wants to keep the Lady Bug running for a while. "I wouldn't want to become a millionaire with this bus," he said. "I don't want to get bigger; it's not a big plan to get bigger." Because that would interfere with his true passion: Playing for his local fans.
It's really all he's ever known. At 7 years old, Voca started music lessons after his uncle noticed his talent.
"My father didn't really care," he said. "So my uncle put me in private lessons... and I loved it so much."
His sister, Elvira Voca, also is musically talented â€” she's a well-known singer in Croatia who regularly performs on television, he said. Voca continued studying music throughout his primary and secondary education. He then went on to study at the Music Conservatory for Piano and Solfeggio in Salzburg, Austria, home of one of his favorite composers, Mozart. While he worked as a musician in Croatia, Voca had three sons, Oliver, 21, Daniel, 23, and Kresimir, 24, who all live in Germany near their mother. Voca visits his sons and his sister two or three times a year.
Although Voca prefers classical and jazz music, he said he doesn't let his preferences get in the way of a performance.
"You have to open your eyes and see what's around you and play what people want to hear," he said.
While traveling and studying, Voca realized he had another gift: Learning languages. He currently speaks five â€” Russian, Croatian, German, English and Italian.