An Englishman sponsors Croatian pianist
PLAYING TO A FULL HOUSE
BY SIMON MCGEE
12:00 - 30 June 2003
A Gifted young pianist traveled more than 1,500 miles to thank the Notts man
who changed her life.
Peter Hallam is paying thousands of pounds a year so Croatian Duda Vukalovic
can study at the Moscow Conservatoire, the world's top music school. And 18-
year-old Duda thanked the retired businessman by giving a private recital in
the living room of his Burton Joyce home.
Mr Hallam, the former managing director of Hy-Ram engineering in Mansfield,
once had ambitions to be a concert pianist himself.
So when he heard Duda play at the home of a colleague during a business trip to
Croatia three years ago, he knew she was something special.
"She played for us on an old, rickety, almost-upright piano, the only piece of
furniture in her bedroom other than her bed," he said.
"And she was incredible. Her runs up and down the keyboard were fast, they were
even in tone and tempo and her musicality was obvious."
Duda, already recognized as a prodigious talent in her country, began playing
at eight and by the age of 14 had performed a piano concerto with the national
But her ambition of studying at the Moscow Conservatoire seemed an impossible
dream as her family were of modest means living in a tenement block.
But Mr Hallam was so impressed by Duda that he returned home determined to help.
"Some people buy horses or yachts," he said.
"I decided to support Duda because music is my love and I thought it was such a
pity that she wouldn't have a chance if she'd stayed in Croatia.
"I've got my own family, I'm happy and we can handle the cost.
"It's a nice thing to be in a position to do and it certainly makes me feel
good to be able to help her. "She's a smashing girl and almost like a daughter to me."
Duda has spent the last two years at the Conservatoire's preparatory school
thanks to Peter. He picks up all her tuition, boarding, and travel fees, which
he modestly said came to "a few thousand a year".
After her recital for Mr Hallam and 30 guests, who were treated to Chopin,
Mozart and Liszt, Duda said: "Peter's a great guy because there are lots of
people who have money but don't do anything with it.
"I wouldn't be where I am without him.
"I want to play music and prove myself as a pianist."
Duda, who plays the piano for six hours a day and can speakCroatian, Russian,
German and English, added:
"I've been lucky and I'm really thankful that people like him exist."
Duda, from the city of Varazdin, has one year left of the school before going
to the Conservatoire, where Tchaikovsky was once a teacher and Rachmaninov a
student. She expects to study there for five years, but refuses to be drawn on what she
will do afterwards.
"I could say I want to play in Carnegie Hall but that's silly," she said.
"I don't know where I'll be in five years' time so there's no point worrying