Skip to main content

About Carthage

5 Minutes with Wael Farouk

Take a peek inside Prof. Farouk’s office on Instagram!

Click the arrows to move to the next photo.

View this post on Instagram

See what our faculty members surround themselves with every day. Explore Professor Wael Farouk’s office! #facultyfriday

A post shared by Carthage College (@carthagecollege) on

Department: Music
Title: Assistant Professor, Director of Keyboard Studies
Best Office Artifact: Mother’s artwork

Professor Wael Farouk understands the value of hard work, dedication and overcoming obstacles. He is a professor of music, the director of the keyboard program, and oversees the Carthage Arts Academy. Born in Cairo, Egypt, with a genetic condition that affected his hands, Prof. Farouk struggled as a child with everyday things most people take for granted, such as grasping a door handle or holding a spoon.

With the help of his parents and a toy piano, Prof. Farouk worked to overcome those obstacles, and by the age of 12, he was studying music at the Cairo conservatory learning primarily from Russian teachers. To date, he has played on five continents and in venues that include White Hall in St. Petersburg, Schumann’s house in Leipzig, and Carnegie Hall in New York. He has created a repertoire of 70 concertos and 60 solo pieces.

As a professor, he seeks to empower his students with good practice habits and artistic voices. We sat down with Prof. Farouk to discuss the challenges he faced, the power of hard work, and the opportunities music provides.

How did you get into playing the piano?
I was born with very short ligaments and fingers, so I couldn’t use my hands for anything a 3-year-old would usually do. My dad took me to a physician when I was 3 to see if there was anything that could be done to help me. I was given a rubber ball to exercise my hands and strengthen my fingers. I kept dropping the ball. For my third birthday, my dad gave me a toy piano, so I could hammer away on that. It worked and I didn’t drop it — because I never had to carry it. I continued playing for the next few years until I went to the Cairo conservatory.

You have a lot of performing experience. How has that influenced your teaching at Carthage?
I was very lucky to have great teachers who were experienced performers. My official debut was when I played with the Cairo Symphony at age 12. Since then, I’ve been very fortunate to have so many opportunities to perform. Performance is the ultimate goal of our teaching, but we also teach the students so they become better musicians and eventually become their own teachers. We teach them about preparation — not just for musical juries, but for professional engagements, which is different than preparing for a recital, or a concerto, or a competition. They are two sides of the same coin.

 

• • •

“I make my students realize who they are and what music is about. It doesn’t matter what discipline they’re in. The most important thing is to try to inspire a student and to show what music can do for them. If they are inspired, there is little need to push them.”

• • •

 

How do you push students to grow as musicians?
I make my students realize who they are and what music is about. I also make them realize what is expected of a professional musician. It doesn’t matter what discipline they’re in. The most important thing is to try to inspire a student and to show what music can do for them. If they are inspired, there is little need to push them; they just need to know how to practice and realize they have to practice. It is a very lonely profession and requires a lot of hours in the practice room. They need to know how to balance that because piano students don’t play with an ensemble three times a week, so they are often isolated. One of the best ways to counter this isolation is assigning chamber music, so pianists will work with classmates as fellow musicians.

The other thing I want them to learn is that while the piano repertoire is immensely large, it’s still a small part of the musical canon. One of my Chinese students never heard chamber music in China before she came here, and when we played our first trio concert, she was blown away. She said it made her realize it’s what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. She has been playing chamber music ever since, and it has opened her musical palette and enabled her to play much better in her solo pieces after working with other musicians.

 

• • •

“I tell my students, ‘Once you play for people, you are a professional. It doesn’t matter if it is a senior home, a departmental, studio, or seminar. Once you play for someone other than yourself, people want to view you in a professional way.’”

• • •

 

How do you help bridge the gap between student and professional musician?
We have to train them as professionals. Once a student graduates, they are not automatically a professional — even after getting a master’s or doctorate. They are not given any tool that qualifies them as a professional, it is a state of mind. It is how they practice and approach their work. I tell my students, “Once you play for people, you are a professional. It doesn’t matter if it is a senior home, a departmental, studio, or seminar. Once you play for someone other than yourself, people want to view you in a professional way.” It’s a little more complicated than that because then they have to live a life of dedication. They have to allow constant practice time, go to concerts, hear good performances, participate in master classes, constantly hear good recordings, and develop the way to practice correctly. Practicing too much doesn’t mean anything. Practicing effectively is what’s most important; length is still important but relative. My ultimate goal as a teacher is to show my students how they can teach themselves. They’re only with a teacher for a few years and on their own after that. Even with lessons, we only have 45 minutes to an hour and a half, and for the rest of the week, they are on their own.

What’s your favorite aspect of teaching?
I enjoy seeing how dedicated my students are to their craft and music. Of course, I enjoy seeing them do well, but I also like to see them realize the value of hard work. Without that, they are not going to win. Talent is irrelevant. I’ve known many talented musicians who didn’t think they needed to work as hard and they went absolutely nowhere. Character is much more important.

What are some hobbies you have outside of teaching?
I love chess and ping pong. I almost do ping pong as well as I play the piano. I love languages and movies, but my greatest hobby is spending time with my children and my wife. I have an almost-2-year-old son and a 4-year-old daughter.

What advice do you have for students studying music at Carthage?
Love what you do and work hard for it. It is not an easy business. Be supportive of yourself and your colleagues. It is not an easy life. It is a very competitive field, but know that what you sow, you will reap. Any seeds that you plant will grow and you will see their fruit in time. Like anything worth doing, it takes time. Do it well and have faith in yourself and the value of work.

— Interview by William Dowell ’22

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2019), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has been named a top producer of Fulbright Fellows three years running. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • Our athletes rank up some impressive stats. So does our fitness center. The N. E. Tarble Athletic and Recreation Center (better known as the TARC), is home to a 16-lane swimming pool, 200-meter indoor track, two racquetball courts, an indoor rock climbing wall, and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center.

    • Carthage fields 24 NCAA Division III sports, including basketball, football, lacrosse, volleyball, and water polo. Our varsity teams play in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin — regularly taking home hardware from one of the nation’s toughest Division III conferences.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $20,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …

    Previous
    Next