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Perfect pitch

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  • | 6:25 a.m. January 10, 2014
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Executive: Jim Gburek, executive vice president and Florida president of IberiaBank, Naples

Diversion: Playing the piano

How he got started: Gburek was raised in the predominantly Polish neighborhoods of East Buffalo in Upstate New York, and when he was 9 years old he started playing the accordion, a popular folk instrument. “My cousin owned a music store and sold accordions,” he says. Gburek played the accordion for five years before switching to the piano at age 14. “I have perfect pitch,” he says.

Supportive parents: Gburek's parents supported his musical inclinations and he attended Oberlin College on a music scholarship. “They were really good at letting me pursue my passion,” he says.

Concert pianist: Gburek continued his music studies, attending State University of New York at Stony Brook and earning a master's degree there. His ambition was to become a concert pianist, but limited opportunities to perform forced him into teaching at the University of North Carolina School for the Arts in Winston-Salem. “The supply [of concert pianists] greatly outstrips the demand,” says the banker.

What he plays: Gburek's favorite classical composers are the romantics such as Frederic Chopin. On the jazz side, he's a fan of Oscar Peterson. He owns a Steinway Baby Grand, which barely fit into the elevator of his condo building in Naples when he moved to the area. Gburek also brings out the accordion for popular polkas, entertaining bank employees at the company Christmas party and fellow parishioners at a church festival recently.

Banking career: By his early 30s, Gburek reached a crossroads in his career. “I wasn't having a playing career,” he concluded. He wanted to earn a better living than teaching to support his family with five children and decided to follow banking friends' advice and earn an M.B.A. from Wake Forest University. “I was always good at math,” Gburek says, noting there is a strong correlation between math and music.

From music to banking: Gburek acknowledges that switching from teaching music to university students to starting a new career in banking in the midlife was a challenge. “It was a gamble, there's no question about it,” he says. Plus, Gburek initially was ill at ease with the social aspects of banking. “I really was an introvert,” he says. But he rose through the ranks at Wachovia Bank for two decades, reaching senior positions with the North Carolina bank before joining IberiaBank.

Back to music: As a banker, Gburek plays for his own account and at parties when friends urge him. But in August, he gave free recitals for clients and prospects on Marco Island and in Naples. Leading up to the recitals he practiced three to four hours a day. The recitals generated plenty of goodwill and news for IberiaBank, bringing bankers and clients together in a casual setting. “I couldn't have envisioned marrying the two careers,” he says. “That's something I didn't see coming.”


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