MANHATTAN – Playing music is not only a way to relax and unwind for 1st Lt. Kristoffer Nagy but a passion he's carried most of his life.
Nagy, , executive officer, Company F, 701st Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, had the opportunity to play his double bass with the Kansas State University Orchestra at a Sept. 17 performance at McCain Auditorium.
"Coming out here and playing with these young students is great," Nagy said. "It's a lot of pressure because I feel like I'm opening a bridge between these young musical students and the Soldiers of Fort Riley."
Many of the students in the orchestra aren't from military communities and have had limited contact with Soldiers in the community. Seeing and getting to know Soldiers like 27-year-old Nagy, seemed to help the students realize they're alike in many ways and share many of the same interests.
Nagy, who has been playing music for 16 years, started playing as a boy.
"Through an elementary music program, I started playing the cello," he said. "When I moved into middle school, I had grown taller and was able to start playing the bass. It just sort of took off from there. It was natural to me, and it just felt right."
During his sophomore year at Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel, Calif., Nagy said he decided to study music in college and thought a career in music was an interesting choice. He played freelance performances, taught private lessons and ended up graduating from the University of Southern California with a Master of Arts degree in music education.
Although his love for music was strong, Nagy said he was always interested in the military. Two of his cousins served, and after attending a benefit concert hosted by the Wounded Warrior Project and seeing the friendship and camaraderie among veterans, his path seemed clear.
"I made my living teaching music, playing and giving private lessons," Nagy said, "but I always wanted to be in the military, and I decided to go forward with that idea before I got too old."
The Army has kept Nagy busy, and he deployed with the "Dragon" Brigade soon after arriving at Fort Riley.
"When I joined the Army, I went cold turkey from playing for about three years because of training and a deployment," Nagy said. "I knew I wanted to play again, so during the deployment, I started looking for groups around the local community. After emailing professors at K-State, I was invited to play and practice with the K-State Orchestra."
Playing with the orchestra is a way for him to relax, have fun and keep his musical skills fresh, he said.
During a recent performance, Nagy, alongside the members of the orchestra, presented "An Evening of Classical Favorites," featuring works from Ludwig van Beethoven, Camille Saint-Saens, Giaccomo Rossini and Bedrich Smetana.
"Playing with these young musicians has been great for me," Nagy said. "I look forward to keeping this relationship alive and possibly opening a door for Soldiers on Fort Riley who are musicians as well. Hopefully these students can take something away from our experience together."