İlhan & Afifet Usmanbaş
“Darüşşafaka is the closest one to us at this stage of our lives…”
Atifet Usmanbaş was born in 1923, Prof. Dr. İlhan Usmanbaş was born in 1921… Mrs. Usmanbaş, following her passion for opera in 1940’s, took part in many operas for 32 years. Quitting opera at the height of her career, Mrs. Usmanbaş passes her knowledge on the future generations.
While considering to be an engineer, Mr. Usmanbaş followed his passion for music and is appraised not only in Turkey but also around the world for his compositions...His compositions were awarded many times and Prof. Dr. Usmanbaş was given the title “State Artist”, and continued to educate young generations until 2011. Because of their belief in the importance of education, Mr. And Mrs. Usmanbaş, who are married for 66 years, chose to become both will and residence benefactors of Darüşşafaka.
Mrs. Usmanbaş, who was born in 1923 in İstanbul starts telling: “since the day I was born, I sang and danced through all my plays. To me, life was to sing and to dance. That was my ideal even when I was four or five. One day, I told my mom “I wish for a school where everything is about singing.” Well, the school I wished for existed in real life, and it was the conservatory...This is a restless feeling and you follow it to where it leads. “Mrs. Usmanbaş who started İstanbul Municipality Conservatory’s Chant Department in 1940, becomes a student of Alice Rosenthal. At the end of the first three months, she sings in a student concert and skips a grade. Between years 1942-1943, she attended Ankara State Conservatory, Department of Chant-Opera: “It was really hard to pass the boarding school exam but I did. Thereby I went to Ankara. I started with tiny roles right away. My teachers noticed the passion within me. I continuously played the head role in my senior year.” After five years of her conservatory education, she graduated in 1948. Mrs. Usmanbaş made it to stage for the first time in 1942: “My first role was in my senior year, a very important role “Micaela” in Carmen. It is very hard. When I was a student I used to sing and dance as “Esmeralda” in Satılmış Nişanlı.” Mrs. Usmanbaş, who acted in 28 different roles between years 1948 to 1974, was appointed as the chant pedagogue in İstanbul State Opera.
Mrs. Usmanbaş who left opera at the height of her career and started working in Mimar Sinan University, Department of Chant and Opera as a faculty member says “Professorship is of course very nice...I always showed everything with my voice to children...For instance when I asked a student to sing an opera aria, I used to describe, even act out the character’s aspects to my student. That is why I had great students: the late Zehra Yıldız, Gülay Sözgen, Ahmet Öncül, Sema Tüzün, Ruhsal Öcal, Nilgün Akkerman, Ulya Tekrin Bruks, Sevil Yarar, Zafer Erdaş, Gökhan Ürben…”
A life dedicated to music: Prof. Dr. İlhan Usmanbaş
İlhan Usmanbaş was born in İstanbul in 1921. His parents move to Ayvalık when he was about two years old because his father, who was a lawyer, chose to work on legal issues in Ayvalık where the echoes of the population exchange were one of the loudest. We grasp the effect of this choice on the great composer from his words: “In those years Ayvalık was a very lively city, a republic on its own. Everybody brought something from different places. Some from Crete, some from Macedonia, some from Mitillini, some from İstanbul...It was a marvellous, nourishing, very beautiful soup of cultures...Of course, growing up in such an environment affected me tremendously.” After completing primary and secondary schools in Ayvalık, Mr. Usmanbaş gets engaged with music via the cello his brother Orhan Usmanbaş brought as a present from İstanbul where he used to study: “My brother brought a cello from İstanbul for me. He showed me how to play a little. Then I started to practice on my own. When I started Galatasaray High Scool, we had a cello teacher. That’s how a practiced and advanced more.”
The story of finding his lifetime companion of 66 years
After high school, Mr. Usmanbaş continued to İstanbul University Faculty of Literature Department of Philosophy, while at the same time taking cello lessons from Sezai Asal and harmony lessons from Cemal Reşit Rey at İstanbul Municipality State Conservatory. This is where he met his lifetime companion of 68 years, Atifet Usmanbaş: “Atifet was a chant student in İstanbul Municipality Conservatory. I couldn’t attract her attention but she attracted my attention immediately. With great coincidence, I went to Ankara State Conservatory as a boarding student a year before she arrived. So we continued to see each other. We both graduated in 1948, got engaged the same year, then we got married right away.”
Became the headmaster of the school he attended
İlhan Usmanbaş, who used to study in Ankara State Conservatory in 1942, became the headmaster there in 1964, and was appointed as the headmaster to Istanbul State Conservatory in 1974. In the Conservatory which later became a part of Mimar Sinan University, he worked as the head of the Composition Main Art Branch until 1999. Then he gave composition and modern music classes in Istanbul University State Conservatory and in Center for Advanced Studies in Music of İTÜ. He left his faculty membership in Bilgi University in 2011. Usmanbaş, who is 93, retires himself from teaching. When we ask about his students, he smiles and says: “they are so big now that I cannot name them. Everyone became a professor. Betin Güneş, who is a conductor in Germany, composer and teacher Özkan Manav, Mehmet Nemutlu who writes like an intellectual philosophy professor...”
“If the music you composed is good, you get your reward”
İlhan Usmanbaş, who got Fromm Music Award (USA)in 1954, Koussewitzky Award (ABD) in 1958, Wieniawsky Award (Poland) in 1967, Ballet Music Award (Switzerland) in 1969, was awarded with the “state artist” title in 1971. At the same time he has Sevda-Cenap And Music Foundation Golden Medal, International Istanbul Music Festival Lifetime Achievement Award, and Bogazici University Honorary Ph.D. :”I believe that some achievements are common in the world. The world has a musical history that reached upto this day. If the music you composed is good, you get your reward.”
“We also had a Darüşşafaka education of some sort”
When we ask why they chose Darüşşafaka, Mrs. Usmanbaş replies: “Both of us have worked for years to educate the future generations of our country and we always observed that our nation really needs to be educated. One day, there was a gentleman on television, I was watching him in awe when he said “I am from Darüşşafaka.” I met a very elegant and intellectual lady in a meeting and she said she was from Darüşşafaka. These are the kind of people that Turkey needs. Me and my husband thought deeply about it. Who raised these beautiful, wise, intellectual people? Darüşşafaka. That is why we chose Darüşşafaka. On another note, as the boarding students in conservatory, we also had a Darüşşafaka education of some sort. Otherwise none of our parents would have the courage to send us to Ankara for education during all those years.”
“If, one day, we cannot take care of ourselves, our place is ready...”
Although they have their own apartment in Maltepe Residence, Mr. and Mrs. Usmanbaş continue to live in their home, saying that they are doing it to guarantee their elder years. At this point Mrs. Usmanbaş says “we saw Maltepe Residence. Darüşşafaka offers a very good service to the benefactors who choose to live there, you can see it once you take a step inside. However, staying there is a new form of life. We don’t yet want to have another routine. However, if one day, we cannot take care of ourselves, our place is ready...That is a huge comfort for us...In any problem we have, we call the residences and they find a solution immediately. Darüşşafaka is the closest one to us at this stage of our lives.”