By Peri Sualp…..
Recently I was with the person who changed my life in so many ways … Demetra George Mustafaoğlu. Music changed her life and now mine and that is what we share.
I am so happy to have her in my life as my mentor and my teacher. Our journey together started 5 years ago and during this time I have been so lucky to get to know her better and have her as my number one role model.
The story of her life and achievements cannot fit into this article but I think at least you’ll have an idea. Here are some questions and answers from our very own Diva…
Q: Who inspired you when you were young and why?
A: Barbra Streisand because I loved her music and she had an ethnic background and she was fun and funny and she’s still singing.
Q: How did you start your music career, what made you decide?
A: My music career began one cold and snowy morning when I was 12 years old and my mom, the church organist, called me away from Sunday school classes to sing in the choir when only my grandmother and the bass showed up. A foot of snow had fallen so people were afraid to go out but we made it and I sang the church liturgy that day.
Q: What did you want to be when you were a child?
A: I had planned to be a school teacher until I was 15 when a tour of Fiddler on the Roof Broadway tour came through Oklahoma. The music, energy and dancing hooked me at that moment and I went home afterwards and informed mom I would go into musical theatre! The next year I was hired for chorus to sing and dance at 16. The directors thought I was 18 and I didn’t even drive yet. Mom would drop me several blocks from the theatre so no one would see me without a car. I was the baby of the company! At 17 the following year I sang the very difficult role of Maria in West Side Story and my death scene brought great reviews and a standing ovation from the audience.
Q: What is your favourite song to sing and why?
A: My favourite song to sing in opera is the aria Chi I’ll bel SOGNO di Doretta by Puccini from LA RONDINE. The melody is beautiful and has lots of high notes. My favourite Broadway piece is Don’t Cry for Me Argentina that I sing with the symphony because it allows great acting to sell it and I give it all I have.
Q: Who is your number one supporter?
A: My greatest supporter has been my husband. After my mom passed away my husband took over and he supported me in my performing and in auditioning and attaining the goals I had. When you have children you need that extra support if you are a performer because you need that extra backup and so he was always there for me and I also supported him in his business, then together we were able to contribute to our American community and share Turkish culture wherever we went in the United States. Mehmet and I have hosted a lot of events for Turkish American culture.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your mother?
A: Mom was brilliant. She helped dad at the drycleaners, did some of his accounting, played the organ at church, organized the band jobs, held office in her ladies’ organization and taught me time steps and songs for my first audition. My girlfriends all loved her too and whenever I won some contest or competition she would get right in with us and celebrate like a girl! I miss her dearly. She had a good ear and a keen eye. She always had good musical advice and I really learned how to select a program from her guidance.
Q: What is your biggest achievement?
A: Awards and honours are wonderful but I really think my biggest achievement I share with my husband Mehmet and that was raising two wonderful successful young women Devran and Deniz and they’ve given us grand babies too and continued working and we’re a very close family.
Q: You have a lot of awards and success, who do you owe this to?
A: I owe the awards and honours to teachers and family who supported me. You never accomplish goals alone. My voice teacher Nina Hinson from Texas and educated in Oklahoma became part of our extended family and we even hosted her at our place in Istanbul.
Q: Do you play any instruments?
A: I play the piano, guitar & bouzouki as my family had an ethnic dance band so while everyone was dating in high school I was off with the family performing at weddings, baptisms and conventions.
Q: If you weren’t a singer what would you be?
A: I wanted to be a teacher until I was 15 and discovered theatre, but I really enjoyed medicine and I am doctor mom at home so I would HAVE probably enjoyed being a doctor or a nurse practitioner. I would also have loved being a chef because I love cooking especially pastry cooking not beef and meat or kebab!
Q: What’s the one thing you like about Cyprus?
A: Well first off, the people. People make a place, that’s very important. Here people are super kind, wonderfully warm, classy and gentle. Second, I love the food and since my roots are Mediterranean I mean it when I say this is the best cuisine ever!
Q: What’s the one thing that you don’t like about Cyprus?
A: Oh! The holes in the roads! Hahah!!
Q: What are you doing in your free time except for singing?
A: I play tennis! Both of our daughters played tennis and when we lived in Los Angeles and we had a tennis court in the backyard which was wonderful because we had lots of tennis gatherings and the girls had company over and they would practice at our house and so I became a tennis player. I was a good tennis player! My county club picked me two years in a row for outstanding tennis player and I was given a hat that was autographed and belonged to the world champion Pete Sampras and then a tennis ball that was autographed by Andre Agassi. So I really love it and we just finished doing our tennis court here and it’s gorgeous! Ready to get out and play.
Q: Let’s go to some fun questions. If you were a Disney princess what Disney princess would you be?
A: Probably Princess Jasmine because I like the Middle Eastern culture I think it’s cool and when the girls were growing up I even had an Aladdin birthday party for them.
Q: If you were an animal what animal would you be?
A: The American Bald Eagle or a Falcon, same family because they have keen vision, great hunters/survivors and can fly above the crowd and all the mess in the world!
Thank you so much Demetra George Mustafaoglu for giving your time for this interview, which does not cover all of your amazing achievements, some of which are shown below :
Dr. Demetra George Mustafaoglu is a two time Grammy List Nominee for her cd “Demetra George Sings Love Arias”, a former Miss Oklahoma to Miss America, talent and swimsuit winner, San Francisco Opera Winner, recipient of the US State Department’s Cultural Diplomacy Award, awarded by ENMODA International magazine as Best Opera Singer and just recently selected by Turk of America Magazine as an Outstanding Artist for sharing art cross culture. She resides in Catalkoy, North Cyprus half the year and gives of her art to raise money for North Cyprus charities.