Transatlantic Music Project Ambassadors: Violin-Piano Duo Daskalakis and Spiri Perform at German House
Violin-Piano Duo Daskalakis and Spiri
What is it like to be a professional musician and play classical music in the 21st century? The violin-piano duo Ariadne Daskalakis and Anthony Spiri, both performers and professors at Cologne Academy of Music and Dance who began their US tour with a concert at the German House on April 26, are working examples of what it means to be in the field of classical music these days. Both born in the United States, Spiri and Daskalakis are finely trained musicians steeped in the classical musical environment of Europe. For their cocnert at the German House, they put together a program highlighting the sonata master works of the 18th century Viennese School with works by Bach, Beethoven, Schubert and-continuing in the tradition of his predecessors- Webern.
In the course of their careers, Ariadne Daskalakis and Anthony Spiri have travelled around the world, performed with various renowned ensembles and won several international prizes. Daskalakis, born in Boston, began her musical career at the New England Conservatory Prep School, and holds degrees from both Harvard University and Hochschule der Künste Berlin. Anthony Spiri was educated in Cleveland and Boston before his musical path led him to Europe as well, where he received a degree from the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria. Now, both live and work in Germany as professors at one of the most elite musical institutions in Germany.
As scores of German-American transplants can attest to, the world has grown rapidly closer and more immediate to the point of making the word transatlantic seem somewhat outmoded. At the same time, for students of the classical tradition, there is undoubtedly still something vital about “being there.” Says violinist Daskalakis, living and teaching where the music comes from, “you absorb subtle influences from the environment- you're living and breathing it.”
It is obvious that this career path is one built first and foremost upon discipline, as well as the flexibility to adjust to new surroundings that are most conducive to improving one's craft. Daskalakis and Spiri both point to their goals as musicians as the guiding principles that led them to places like Boston, Berlin, or Salzburg. Classical music training is obtainable in the United States and in Europe, even at the elite level, says Spiri, but the bottom line remains that “it's a borderline thing in the United States. Here highly-trained classical artists are being pushed out to the margins.”
Both maintain that having the opportunity to experience both the European and American side of the classical music landscape is crucial to the successful musician's development- even if he or she doesn't remain there for the length of his or her career. Not only is it rewarding and enriching for budding musicians, it's a necessary step in establishing a sustainable classical music career. "Classical music is not a commercial object. It's never going to pay for itself,” says Spiri. The lifestyle is therefore reminiscent of the classical masters' own contemporary environment: touring, relocating, starting anew. “People who have problems travelling will definitely have problems as a musician. It's not for those with weak nerves.”
A combination of determination, talent and sheer luck, landed both Spiri and Daskalakis in Cologne, but both place great value on the ability to have played and exchanged with musicians both at home and abroad. “Your life as a young musician is a series of selection rounds,” says Daskalakis, and “you are inspired by illustrious faculty and playing with other people.”
This is the thought behind the Transatlantic Music Project, an exchange of young musicians between The Juilliard School and the Cologne Academy of Music and Dance, which launched the first successful exchange in Cologne last year. Managed on the Juilliard side by Professor of Violin Lewis Kaplan, the object of the Transatlantic Music Project is to bring outstanding, hand-picked students from both institutions to Cologne and New York for one week of master classes and public chamber music performances. Students from Cologne will visit New York in October 2012, with a concert at the German House on October 16.
Both Spiri and Daskalakis are enthusiastic about the project's potential to support what they view as such an integral part of becoming a successful professional classical musician. It was not so long ago that they began the transatlantic project in their own careers, one they continue to develop as they bring classical music to a US audience in their own performances.