Virtual Author Visit: Ankie Foell

Thursday, September 23rd

7:00p CT

Join us for the Crowdcast livestream here!


About the Book

An Indelible Journey tells the story of Ankie Foell, born of Dutch parents in a small Sumatran village in the former Dutch East Indies. She takes us through a childhood in the tropics, interrupted by three and a half years in a Japanese concentration camp, followed by a challenging transition and adolescence in the Netherlands, with another painful separation from her parents. Never feeling completely at home in the Netherlands, she emigrated to the United States, where she found her niche and career as a concert pianist and pedagogue and the opportunity to live and perform throughout the world, even in her birth country, now known as Indonesia. Woven through this story is Ankie's reflection and introspective analysis of how her life and identity have been influenced by her many journeys through Europe, Asian and North America, and particularly her childhood in the tropics. She describes her life through the eyes of an artist, at times bemoaning that she would prefer to express her thoughts and feelings at the piano keyboard. The story reveals her strong affinity to nature, and a belief that there is a confluence of experiences and influences of music, nature, and the lives of children. Her intensive personal experiences, in the world of nature, abandoned or impoverished children and music, hep the the reader understand this belief.

About the Author

Ankie Foell, youngest of five children and of Dutch parents, first saw the light on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.  She was only eight when WWII broke out in the Pacific region.  Consequently, she spent three and a half years in a Japanese concentration camp on Java along with her mother and four siblings, while her father had earlier been taken prisoner.  She quickly learned and understood not to complain, be patient, making the best of it during this dire situation of fear, hunger, and anxiety.  Decades later, Ankie believes that this experience was important in helping her cope with personal and societal issues, including the Covid-19 pandemic.  Moving after the war to the Netherlands was a cultural shock, but fortunately she could quickly get back to her beloved piano. Her first public appearance was at age thirteen when she won first prize at the Rotterdam Piano Youth Competition.  She received her diploma in piano performance and pedagogy from the Amsterdam Conservatory of the Muziek Lyceum and an advanced music degree from the UW music department in Madison, Wisconsin.  

Ankie often joined her husband, former UW-Madison professor Wesley Foell, in visiting and living in various European and Asian countries, where she performed and taught piano to talented youngsters, including Buddhist, Islamic and Hindu students. The exposure to these different cultures gives her a world view which also nurtured her love for the music of Debussy and Messiaen.  These composers wove into their music features such as Balinese and Javanese gamelan, the Hindu decitalas (rhythms from different provinces of India), Hindu raga melodies, and the mysticism of the Buddhist philosophy. 

Since the 1980s, the Foells have sponsored children through an international children’s charity program, SOS Children’s Villages International.  Ankie has been a long-time supporter of this program through her concerts and fund raising in the U.S., Asia and Europe, including bringing to Madison the Norwegian actress, Liv Ullmann, to help support and publicize SOS.  She loves the outdoors and throughout her life has been an avid hiker and mountaineer, including treks in Nepal.  Ankie frequently manages to combine this avocation with visiting a local SOS children’s village. She is a strong believer in the adage, Children are our future. And also in the words of Alphonse de Lamartine, ”Music is the literature of the heart; it commences where speech ends.”