For Aleksander Vezuli, life is music. Music is life. It's the reason he strove to come to America.

Vezuli, 65, currently a Newburgh resident, was born in Albania, where the political climate did not promote, encourage or permit the breadth of his musical interests.

"I wanted to get a break in the music industry in the U.S. To work in the music business. To get my own compositions aired on radio or TV or performed because in the community country (where I lived) I was censored."

The young Vezuli began writing music at age 15, had his own hard rock band at 17 and went on to study music theory and composition at the University of Arts in his native land. He got a master's degree in music journalism and would go on to write chamber music as well as pieces for symphony orchestra, for film and for TV.

But the culture was changing and his options were closing. As he describes it, cultural edicts made it impossible to produce work - or even to dabble - in modern themes and genres. "Everything else was going backwards not forward - literature, art. I went to college in 1973 and I was writing more classical, that was allowed." Composers could work in styles along the lines of those "up to the 20th century, but not modern," Vezuli says.

Because of his penchant for Western-style music and for holding "Western opinions," after his graduation he was deported to live in an "isolated village far from my hometown," he says. In this tiny, primitive community, some four hours by train from his hometown, he was given a job teaching art, giving accordion and singing lessons in a middle school.  "In the second year of my deportation, I got to go home for brief periods."

"This was my saddest period of all time."

But he didn't give up. "I was an underground composer," he says. And he worked to gain entrance to the U.S., where he felt he'd have the freedom of expression he sought.  Eventually, "as a political refugee" Vezuli found a temporary home in Belgium, but did not pass muster for political asylum. He went to France, and then to the United States in 1996, where he was ultimately welcomed. It took five years to get a green card and more than another five for citizenship to be finalized.

Vezuli has had compositions published in numerous countries and performed around the world. Among them: In 2002, a work for children, "The Elephant at the Dentist," was broadcast in Belgium. One year later, the Chamber Symphony Players of the Berkshires (Hudson, NY) played his 2 Symphonic Dances. In 2007, he published his first album "Warmin' Up The Globe" with original English songs.

"I was always dreaming to come here," says Vezuli. He tells his entire story in his autobiography,  "Confession of an Albanian Composer," which he's currently translating into English.

 

What's the greatest lesson you've learned in life so far?

Seize the moment. It will not come again.

What's your fondest memory?

When I won the first national award in my birth country for my song "Don't Rush."

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Don't worry so much. The destiny is already written. What must be done, will be done. However, try to do the best as you can in every aspect of life.

Tell us a risk you took that was worth taking.

Left my country, and without knowing my future, came to the United States where now I feel very happy, raised my two beautiful children who made me proud finishing their college as honor students.

What are you looking forward to?

To get a break in the music industry scoring for film, producing songs, writing classical music, etc.

What have you done or thought recently that surprised you?

I was chosen to be the artistic director of the Grand Montgomery Chamber Music Series.

What gives you strength?

My wife.

What don’t you waste your time on?

I don't waste much time for fun. I just work. Even my own daughter always says: "Daddy doesn't know how to have fun."

What’s your comfort food?

Before I was diagnosed with leukemia (now leukemia survivor) every sweet thing was my comfort. Fighting my illness, my taste changed. Spinach pie is now my comfort food.

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