Tampa Bay Times

A step back from fame, never music

A piano prodigy chose family over a life of touring.

- BY KRISTEN HARE Times Staff Writer

In January, Zola Shaulis Kollock sat at the grand piano in her home music studio. Nearby, on a laptop screen, was the man who leads the St. Petersburg Opera Company and the Tampa Bay Symphony.

Mark Sforzini sat at a piano, too. But this wasn’t a lesson. Mrs. Kollock called it a piano sharing.

Piano was a secondary instrument for Sforzini, one he’d always wanted to work on again. Mrs. Kollock encouraged him.

She was a fan and a renowned concert pianist. For nearly her whole life, music was both Mrs. Kollock’s refuge and where she captivated the world.

She died of natural causes on March 25. She was 78.

•••

Pianist, 7, solos with Philadelph­ia Orchestra

By the Associated Press, April 23, 1950

A wisp of a child in a peach colored organdy dress stepped calmly onto the stage of the Acad

emy of Music today as soloist with one of the world’s greatest orchestras.

Zola Mae Shaulis, only 7, played faultlessl­y through the first movement (allegro) of the difficult Mozart “Concerto in A Major” accompanie­d by the Philadelph­ia Orchestra.

Then, to the applause of an audience of 3,000 and the orchestra of more than 100, she walked a dozen steps to the wings — exactly the same journey that pianists Paderewski, Josef Hofmann and Arthur Rubinstein covered in half a dozen strides after other, similar concerts.

•••

Jane Shaulis, now retired from a career with New York’s Metropolit­an Opera, likes to say she grew up with a bruised right side. She and her big sister played duets for years, and their mother left it to Zola to get her to focus.

An elbow to the ribs usually did it.

The sisters found friendship, though, in their life on the road, playing concerts while missing school. Jane, two years younger, eventually quit the piano and started singing.

For her sister, the piano was always an escape.

“Mother would say after dinner, ‘Okay, somebody go wash the dishes, somebody go practice,’ and Zola would run to the piano, and I would run to the kitchen.”

•••

Zola Shaulis Kollock wins Naumburg Piano Competitio­n

The Daily American, Somerset, Penn., Feb. 8, 1971

Zola Shaulis Kollock of Stockton, Calif., formerly of Somerset area, has won the Naumburg Piano Competitio­n in New York City, Jan. 15.

...She was the only female to reach the finals composed of the best pianists age 18-30. She again competed against two whom she displaced for first place in the Rio De Janeiro Internatio­nal Competitio­n last year when she was named the winner …

She will make a concert tour in Germany starting March 24, at which time she will record Bach’s Goldberg Variations and other classical selections. She will be accompanie­d by her husband, a professor at the University of Pacific, and their two-year-old daughter, Mila.

•••

Mila Turtle doesn’t remember much from those early years in Europe, where her mother became a protégé of legendary pianist Arthur Rubinstein, recorded an album and delighted audiences.

After her family returned to Ringwood, N.J., Turtle remembers drifting to sleep as her mother practiced.

In 1974, Mrs. Kollock performed in her solo debut at Carnegie Hall. Mrs. Kollock and her sister performed together a few more times before the pianist decided to retire from concertizi­ng.

She’d realized that the life of a concert pianist was a lonely one, she told her sister.

Turtle learned to play by ear, but didn’t aspire to make piano her life. Her mother understood. Turtle later played the bass in a punk band.

Mrs. Kollock still played profession­ally now and then and built a management company, Conductors Internatio­nal. Each Christmas Eve, she welcomed family, friends and neighbors into her living room, passing out maracas, noisemaker­s and antler-horn headbands. Everyone got to make music.

The world-renowned concert pianist also started a marching kazoo band. They had two parades a year.

•••

After snacks of peanut butter and crackers or fruit and yogurt, Mrs. Kollock insisted her grandchild­ren wash their hands. Then, seated at her grand piano, she quizzed them with flashcards to learn their notes. The power to play comes from the arms, she showed them, not the hands.

Later, she bought Zoë and Owen Turtle their first ukuleles, worked with Zoë when she picked up the violin at 6 and with Owen on piano. Her grandkids and neighbor kids she worked with performed with her at Christmas Eve. Mrs. Kollock helped her granddaugh­ter pick songs when she started street performing in high school.

Zoë, now 24, teaches music.

The world knew her Nana as a musician, but the family knew her as a listener and collector of stories. She’d stop anyone to talk and had a way of getting people to open up.

She also kept an eclectic assortment of instrument­s, from melodica to nose flute to the theremin, which creates sound from vibrations.

Mrs. Kollock kept paper affirmatio­ns in a jar and on sticky notes around her home. She practiced Tai Chi. And she played the piano every day, not for thousands or awards or acclaim anymore. Just for herself. And for the music.

 ?? Photos courtesy of Mila Turtle ?? Zola Shaulis started playing piano at age 3. When she was 7, the conductor of the Philadelph­ia Orchestra described her as having “a marvelous talent, one that very few possess.”
Photos courtesy of Mila Turtle Zola Shaulis started playing piano at age 3. When she was 7, the conductor of the Philadelph­ia Orchestra described her as having “a marvelous talent, one that very few possess.”
 ??  ?? Zola Kollock, left, with her husband, daughter and her family. Mrs. Kollock was always the last to leave a party, her daughter said, and an ardent list maker, her granddaugh­ter said.
Zola Kollock, left, with her husband, daughter and her family. Mrs. Kollock was always the last to leave a party, her daughter said, and an ardent list maker, her granddaugh­ter said.
 ??  ?? Zola Mae Shaulis Kollock was called “one of the most interestin­g pianistic personalit­ies of the day” by the legendary pianist Arthur Rubinstein.
Zola Mae Shaulis Kollock was called “one of the most interestin­g pianistic personalit­ies of the day” by the legendary pianist Arthur Rubinstein.
 ??  ?? Mrs. Kollock and her family lived in Spain while she performed in Europe. There, she met Arthur Rubinstein, right, who helped her career in the United States.
Mrs. Kollock and her family lived in Spain while she performed in Europe. There, she met Arthur Rubinstein, right, who helped her career in the United States.
 ?? Photos courtesy of Mila Turtle ?? Mrs. Kollock and her sister, Jane Shaulis, grew up playing together and appeared on television shows.
Photos courtesy of Mila Turtle Mrs. Kollock and her sister, Jane Shaulis, grew up playing together and appeared on television shows.

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