Between Taurus and Orchestra

15. 12. 2020

Zoltán Bókai, an employee of Rail Cargo Hungaria, manages both locomotives and an orchestra. In an interview, he tells how his two passions complement each other. 

His home is in two worlds, but that's the way he's balanced:

Zoltán Bókai has been working as a locomotive driver at Rail Cargo Hungaria since 2018 again, after a break of a few years. In addition to the railroad, he also loves music: the most beautiful melodies in the Budapest Operetta Theater and the National Theater in Pécs (Fünfkirchen) are usually performed under his direction.

Where did your two passions get their start?

Even as a little boy I used to draw locomotives or organs when we were supposed to represent at school what profession we would like to take up as adults. Both goals were big and unattainable for me, but at the same time very attractive.

Over time, both dreams came true.

Yes, I consider myself very lucky. As a member of a family of railroad workers, the world of railroads fascinated me at a very early age. My grandfather and also my father were train drivers, so the railroad world was always very close to me. I remember that I was motivated to learn Russian when my father took me along on his locomotive. I first worked for the railroad as a locomotive driver trainee in 1987.

How did music find its way into your life?

Music has always been part of my life. I was very small when it was discovered that I had an absolute ear. So a career as a musician was an obvious choice. As a young boy I played the violin and piano, and in the military after graduating from high school I learned to play the trombone. A milestone was the foundation of the band "Zsűri" with my friends in 1993. In the following ten years we played almost a thousand independent concerts as well as gigs as an accompanying band of famous Hungarian musicians and singers. A new world opened up for me when I was invited to be the pianist for the musical "Somewhere in Europe" at the National Theater in Pécs in 2002. Since then, theater music has played a crucial role for me.

You joined Rail Cargo Hungaria two years ago. How do you like it here?

I became part of a very competent team that always sticks together. I especially like the fact that theater rehearsal and performance dates are always taken into account when scheduling duties. My time is limited, but with good planning, both tasks can be easily combined. I have only ever experienced helpfulness from the bosses and colleagues, and I would like to repay them with excellent performances.

What do the two jobs mean to you?

Working as a train driver is like therapy for me: When I want to leave the worries of everyday life behind me, I get on the train. It's easy for me to switch off here. On the other hand, the symphonic sounds bring joy to the noise of everyday life and are a good balance.

Are there similarities between driving a locomotive and conducting an orchestra?

Yes, the importance of acting with foresight. And the sense of timing. Regardless of whether it's a melody in a music book or the target braking of a train, you have to have an eye on when which process starts and when it ends. Clarity and security have priority in both cases.


A portrait of Zoltán Bókai:

Zoltán Bókai - train driver, conductor, musician and sound engineer - was born in Dombóvár, Hungary. After completing his secondary education at the Pécs Secondary School of Art, he studied art at the University of Pécs. Today he is the conductor, art director and music director of the National Theater in Pécs and the Railwaymen's Wind Orchestra in Pécs. He is also the conductor of the Budapest Operetta Theater. He joined the Rail Cargo Hungaria team in 2018 as a locomotive driver.