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Rafailia Kapsokavadi. (Photo by Fotis Kaliampakos)
NEW YORK – Gifted violinist Rafailia Kapsokavadi, a Thessaloniki native with roots in Corfu on her father’s side, spoke with The National Herald about her life and career so far. She shares the challenging and rewarding aspects, her favorite pieces, and how much internationally renowned violinist and conductor Leonidas Kavakos inspires her journey in classical music.
TNH: Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up and study?
Rafailia Kapsokavadi: I grew up in northern Greece, Thessaloniki, and my dad’s side of the family lives in Corfu. My grandfather is a musician, pianist, and conductor in the Philharmonic in Corfu and therefore, growing up, music has always been an integral part in my daily life, or even the very center of my daily routine. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I started playing the flute when I was five and then by the age of six I started playing the violin which really captured my attention and interest. The rest unfolded quite smoothly.
I started my music studies in state conservatory of Thessaloniki until the age of 17 when I received my violin diploma along with the music harmony degree. I came to the U.S. to study classical music on a scholarship in North Carolina and shortly after I came to New York to pursue my master’s degree in the Mannes Conservatory of Music and concluded my studies in May 2022 while also attending studio classes in the Juilliard School with my professor. It was perhaps the greatest and most life-changing step in my career. The school shaped my identity as a musician and made me aware of so many things that I was ignorant of at the time.
TNH: Did you always want to pursue a career in music?
RK: In the early years I was trying to figure out what I was interested in doing and music has always been a part of my life. Soon after high school I knew that I wanted to pursue music as a career. It’s a very competitive and tough profession and path which I was willing to take on. From competitions to master classes, recitals around the U.S. and Europe and auditions, I realized that this is the life I want to live and try to achieve something great ultimately.
TNH: What has been the most challenging aspect of pursuing a career in music?
RK: Pursuing a career in music is definitely not easy. Especially classical music. I find it immensely fulfilling working together with other enthusiastic musicians in order to produce music that is magnified in its beauty by my own mutual passion and love for the art. That itself can be challenging along with auditioning for orchestras, Broadway and off-Broadway shows, being able to travel to places and different cities by yourself is undoubtedly extremely tough. You need to be able to practice wherever you are on a daily basis. The musician’s life is as tough as being a professional athlete. One needs to have stamina, love for what you’re doing and perseverance.
TNH: What is the most rewarding aspect?
RK: The feeling of performing on any stage in the world is the best and most rewarding feeling of being a musician and making a living from that. It can be a stressful, very nerve-wracking experience because nerves can never go away, no matter how prepared one is. It’s such an exhilarating feeling that it’s hard to put it in words. People clap for you, they engage deeply with the music, and it “touches” their heart in many different ways. Listening to classical music is very much an introspective experience that targets people’s psyche, including the performer’s. The outcome of each concert experience is different, as the energy between audience and performer constantly changes. Performing is the most rewarding aspect of being a musician.
TNH: Who has been the most influential or inspiring person for you as a musician?
RK: Leonidas Kavakos is without a doubt my most influential and inspiring person as a musician. His concerts always bring a sheer smile and inspiration to my eyes and ears. His great musicianship and approach to music is simply impeccable. He’s an amazing conductor as well as being a violinist. His advice and wisdom are threads that I am beyond inspired by.
TNH: What are some of your favorite pieces to play on violin?
RK: My most favorite pieces to perform are Beethoven violin Sonatas which I enjoy performing regularly with pianists around New York for different recitals and masterclasses, Brahms Violin Concerto, Saint-Saens concerto and much more. I often play contemporary music such as Jessie Montgomery’s Rhapsody No. 1 and some more modern music. I also love Mozart and his concerti that are less romantic with another approach and flavor.
TNH: Do you have any upcoming concerts or future projects we can look forward to?
RK: My next upcoming concert is March 26 with the Riverside Orchestra which is based on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. This program is very exciting and versatile because we’re performing French pieces and thus the title ‘Paris in Chelsea.’ We’re performing Ravel, Gershwin, and Beethoven. Except for orchestra concerts, I’m excited to collaborate with other artists for their new songs (singles) that I will be featured in and many other various projects and recordings. Another upcoming orchestra is with the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra (NASO), based on the Upper West Side, on April 14. In this orchestra cycle we’re thrilled to have Felipe Tristán in his NASO debut as well as Arturo O’Farrell, an eight-time Grammy Award-winner. We will be performing the World Premier of his piece Fractured Nation.
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