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Student Spotlight: Jose Reyes Kapoudjian – Violinist, Instructor, and Concertmaster of FIU Symphony

Jose Reyes Kapoudjian is a graduate student, adjunct professor, and concertmaster with a deep passion for “the strings.” Some may even consider him a violin prodigy. CARTA News was able to connect with Jose to get to know more about his journey with the violin and musical symphony, as well as how he is adapting to remote work.

When did you start playing the violin? Did you always have a passion for it?
I started playing the violin when I was six years old. From the very first time that my mother took me to watch a solo violin concert – I think it was the Tchaikovsky violin concerto played by the great Bulgarian violinist, Stoika Milanova – it seemed fascinating. The fact that a “stick with hairs” could produce sounds by being rubbed against the “strings of a wooden box” gave me goosebumps (the good ones) right there, on the spot. I could not believe that such a small “device” or “magical box” (how I would call it) could produce that wide variety of beautiful and impressive emotions: passionate, sad, happy, pretentious, elegant, powerful, bright, dark, etc.

Why did you choose your major?
For me, playing the violin or making music is an immediate way of connecting and engaging with the community, while contributing to a better place to be in. I chose my major because I had a commitment to myself of working on my craft. After arduous auditions, I was awarded a very generous Teaching Assistantship from the FIU School of Music to come and study under the tutelage of Maestro Misha Vitenson, artist-in-residence and first violin of the Amernet String Quartet. For me, it was another beginning.

Did you always want to pursue a career in the music industry?
Yes, since I was eight years old, I always dreamed of playing solo concerts with an orchestra and winning an audition to a prestigious orchestra. I also always loved the “stage energy:” being on stage and connecting to an audience while performing a piece conveys a powerful message that keeps traveling throughout time.

Tell us more about being the concertmaster of the FIU Symphony.
The job of a concertmaster is the most coveted position within the Symphony Orchestra, as you must lead the strings section. You have to show up to rehearsals knowing the piece to the extent where you are able to show the string sections how to approach it. You must have a clear concept of the musical idea the conductor has for the piece that the orchestra is preparing at that moment. Specifically, with the FIU Symphony Orchestra, the work is very detailed, and the repertoire we study has a very wide variety of periods and styles.

How has your major helped you in teaching as an adjunct professor? What classes do you teach?
My major has made me understand the nature and complexity of music by exploring tuning systems, a wide range of repertoire, and interacting with very important figures of the music and arts field. Furthermore, I worked as an assistant to the music appreciation course taught by the great double bass player, Luis Gomez Imbert. This experience finally allowed me to access every angle of music. Also, the constant interaction with audiences through playing concerts helped me tremendously to enhance my skills as a spokesman. This had a huge positive impact on my teaching skills. As part of my activities in life, I now teach one of the sections of music appreciation (MUL 1010).

 

In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, how have you been managing your schedule as a professor, student and concertmaster?
Given that we are now under an extended quarantine, I had to find a better way to balance in order to make my class structure work. My approach now is an online course. When it comes to rehearsing with the orchestra, the live rehearsals are postponed until the pandemic is over. However, I have been engaging in orchestral excerpts for the upcoming rehearsals.

What kind of impact do you hope to make with the tools given to you?
I am looking forward to engaging with the community by creating accessible information for different audiences: beginner, intermediate, and advanced string players. I want to initiate a series of masterclasses, online lessons, and music appreciation courses.
In addition to this, I would like to proceed with the creation of a foundation that will provide music lessons for children with low resources and at-risk situations. I think that they can benefit from it tremendously. I am sure that this would also contribute to having a society with sensitized people, who are not only able to appreciate and have an awareness of the arts and music but also have more emotional intelligence. I think that we should all have access to this information. The arts contribute to having a more thoughtful and intelligent society.

What piece of advice would you give freshmen who are deciding what career path to follow?
I want to start my advice by telling them that they will not find the “magic pill” from their teachers; they have to put in incredible amounts of quality and thorough work. That is the key.
Also, following and looking up to a role model in the field will always help. Never forget that we all have to be thoughtful to people, engage with our colleagues, and have professional values and approaches at every level.

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