Musician Spotlight—Meet Cornel Zotta
Cornel Zotta is principal second violinist for the Philharmonic, and he has been a member of the orchestra since the fall of 1988. Cornel has also performed with the Mansfield Symphony and the Wooster Symphony, and he has played with the Canton Symphony and the Players Guild of Canton on occasion.
He is an adjunct professor of violin at Walsh University in North Canton, and he also maintains a private studio where he teaches 25 to 30 students.
Cornel is originally from Brasov, Romania, a town famous for Bran Castle, also known as Dracula’s Castle. During his childhood years, Cornel was not fully aware of the nature of the Romanian government at that time. He recalls growing up in what seemed like a “normal society,” he said, “going to school, having friends and spending time with them, celebrating different events with family members, traveling around the country, and having dreams about the future.”
He started violin lessons at the age of six and later enrolled in a music school in Brasov. After attending the College of Music in his hometown, he earned his master's degree at the National Academy of Music in Bucharest and joined several Romanian folk groups and the Brasov Opera Company.
As an adult, Cornel became aware of the adversity caused by the Communist regime and how it negatively impacted his everyday life and overall life for the entire country.
"In the '80s,* we felt that we lived in the Dark Ages—no electricity, no hot water, no heat even in the winter, no food, and so on," he said. "I remember playing in the pit with my hat and winter coat on, and on stage you could see the steam coming out from the singers' mouths during the performance. It went on like this for years."
Through his travels as a musician, Cornel made the decision to defect to the United States. With a Romanian Orthodox church in Canton as a sponsor, he quietly left Romania, leaving in secret as a way to protect his family. "I was too afraid of the repercussions they could suffer if they knew I wasn't coming back," he said. And at the age of 30, he arrived at the Akron-Canton Airport. He remembers clearly the time was 6:00 p.m., and the date was June 19, 1985.
He was able to stay in touch with family by exchanging letters. Eight years after arriving in the States, and after becoming a U. S. citizen, Cornel went back to Romania to visit family.
Here in his adopted home, he did not encounter too much of a culture shock, as quite a bit of American pop culture was commonplace in Romania. Cornel grew up reading books like Tom Sawyer, and American movies were available. "My generation listened to the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Uriah Heep anytime we could get our hands on such recordings," he said.
His interests and hobbies come and go, and his current interest is reading Romanian literature when he can find it. "Fortunately, my Kindle can store more books than I could carry in a suitcase," he said.
Cornel lives in Canton with his wife, Karen, and their daughter, Anna. Anna also plays violin with the Philharmonic as well as being on staff with the Canton Symphony.
*The revolution in Romania occurred in December of 1989.