Adam’s corner


A Tribute to My Teacher
on the Anniversary of His Death

José Feghali
(March 28th, 1961 - December 9th, 2014)

Adam Golka and José Feghali

- Concert Pianist
- Teacher
- Recording Engineer/Producer
- Microsoft .Net Developer
- Coordinator of Internet Technologies at TCU School of Music
- Airplane pilot (at one time licensed)
- Motorcycle/Scooter Rider
- Storm Spotter
(which meant canceled piano lessons at any sign of severe weather, in order to ride around in his Jeep reporting through Amateur Radio about weather conditions, and even, once, directing traffic downtown during the disastrous 2000 Fort Worth tornado) well as TRULY TERRIFYING and BEWILDERING expert on the subject of:

(other recording engineers were generally intimidated)
-DAT recorders
-MP3 recorders
-LP players
-Hard drives
-SD cards
-HD video cameras
-Every version of every sound editing software
(his beloved dog was named “Sadie” for those who get the reference)
(Macs were only acceptable insofar as Windows was installed)
-FTP sites
-Remote Servers
(how many times were his dear ones bailed out of their PC troubles?)
(at a time boasting his own at-home dark room)
-Remote-controlled airplanes
(2001: A Space Odyssey and Apocalypse Now were among his favorites)
-IRS forms
(always prepared his own tax returns)
(once when discussing poisonous Texas spiders he casually mentioned that he had
recently found a Black Widow while working in his garage, and dealt with the danger
by squashing it using his work gloves
(legend claims that he fixed his own car on the shoulder of I-30 and arrived, with tshirt and jeans covered in grease, as the Dallas Symphony was playing the overture before his concerto performance)
-Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, and Physics in general
(I still pity the fool who made the mistake of trying to show off his/her scientific knowledge to José. God knows he was merciless towards smart-asses and I am still haunted by the quintessential, tooth-displaying victory grin, resulting from a crushed intellectual opponent.)
Am I forgetting something? Unfortunately... yes. Much.

One year has passed since the death of one of the most enchanting and inspiring people I have been fortunate to know. I was 13 when I met José Feghali. I played Schumann’s Carnaval for José (N.B. pronounced “Zhosay,” like Zhivago, and not “Hosay” as often heard), and left the lesson drunken with concepts like “poetry,” “poignancy,” “hopelessness,” and “abandon,” and from his demonstrations perceived a magical world of imagination in sound that had somehow eluded me prior to this day. I insisted to my mother that this man ought to be my new teacher, and my wish came true. For two years we made the Texas-sized, weekly commute from Houston to Fort Worth, and at fifteen I moved alone to Fort Worth to devote myself more deliberately to my endlessly-stimulating studies with him. At this stage José became not only my mentor but my father away from home.

I remained in Fort Worth until the age of 21, and my work with José was constant. I cannot not possibly tally up the hours or quantify the dedication he showed in helping me. He listened to me into late hours of the night, he drove long distances to attend my nearby concerto rehearsals, and he would stop at nothing in trying to help me connect to that part of myself which can experience the timeless beauty, for instance, of the second movement of Mozart’s K. 488 or Schumann’s Des Abends. The superficiality of many professional musicians ignited a Promethean fury in him, and helping his students avoid shallow musical paths was one of his passions. He guided me through the rough beginning of my dabblings in the scary world of professional music-making. He talked me through my break-ups. And, of course... he helped with ALL my computer problems.

His psycho-pedagogical tactics were brilliant, albeit bizarre and even hilarious at times. I'll never forget his mind games to help me amass repertoire. At age 13: “You haven't learned the Goldberg Variations, the Hammerklavier, and all the Chopin etudes?! And you've only played ONE Rachmaninoff concerto?!?!?! Embarrassing!!!” I really thought it was. Not to mention the shame I felt at not knowing his references to Goethe, Kubrick, or a well-known line from Hamlet.

José's ethics were a huge part of his sense of self, and often he was ruthless in his judgments of himself and others. He bragged of twice deserting competition juries on grounds of corrupt judging mates. I will never forget my first lesson after winning an international competition prize. I played a newly-learned Prokofiev Sonata, and he terminated the lesson halfway through my playing of the first movement. “If you think you can get away with this sort of musicianship just because you are now a prizewinner, you are wrong.”

Adam Golka and José Feghali

In 2008, I moved to the east coast to continue my studies. He always encouraged me to seek out great artists and new pedagogues, and he gave me the final push I needed to transplant myself from Fort Worth to Baltimore and eventually New York.

Though we began to see each other less frequently, in 2011 José produced my first recording, and we spent many precious hours together on postproduction in the ensuing years. By then, “Mr. Feghali” had become “Maestrali,” my retaliation for the relentlessly abused pet-name “Maestrolka,” his hybrid of Maestro and Golka. The delirious late-night sound-editing sessions sent us backsliding into tasteless, tasteless pun-offs via text message:

JF: “I think our Golkan become a reality here... we should be Adam-mant about it!”
AG: “ ‘Ghali, I’m glad I José a good producer!”

You wouldn't believe the laughing fits this embarrassing humor sent him into...

José did all the editing and mastering of my recording himself, and in October 2014, I was happy to hand him the final, commercially-released product over lunch while visiting Fort Worth. I don't know what possessed me to ask him for a lesson that weekend - like good, old times - the first lesson in six years. I played Chopin’s Second Concerto for him in his TCU studio. He was in a good mood and had some excellent observations on my playing and how to develop my interpretation of the piece. Due to a TCU football game (the world stops for football), we could not find parking near the campus, so we instead parked at his house and drove his scooter to school. I was afraid for my life on the back seat as he zoomed through the freeway like a bat-out-of-hell; he laughed ferociously as I admitted to my total fear and panic. He drove me back to my car after the lesson where we said our usual “goodbyes” and “see-you-soons”.

From the time I met José, he spoke frequently about his dream to record Schumann works (his favorite composer), and to release a recording as pianist, engineer, producer, mastering engineer, graphic designer, and even to print the discs at home. Sadly for us, this never reached fruition.

There has been, understandably, much speculation and discussion about the circumstances leading up to José’s death last year. Now that a year has passed, please help me to put the darkness in its proper place, and let us first and foremost remember the beauty, passion, knowledge, and joy that José brought to our lives, and his many, many own moments of laughter and ecstasy.

I encourage you to take a few quiet minutes - with good-quality headphones or speakers, in case José is watching! - and celebrate the magical light of his musical gifts by listening to these recordings:

Chopin Fantasy in F Minor (1985)


Ravel Valses Nobles et Sentimentales (1993)


Villa-Lobos Alma Brasileira (1993)


Debussy Clair de Lune (2010)


Schumann Arabesque (2013)

José Feghali