FeaturedFebruary 2021Interviews

Being Greek and Working in America

Dr. Eftihia Arkoudis, Adj. Flute Prof. at Frostburg State Univ. and a TJ Low Flutes Artist, is an award-winning performer and a founding member of BETA Quartet. As an orchestral and chamber musician she has performed in the United States and in prestigious venues of Greece, Turkey, Austria, and Germany.

What made you decide to study in the USA instead of Europe?

I hold artistic diplomas from the Athens Conservatory in Greece and the Prayner Konservatorium of Vienna, in Austria. My teachers are Danae Kioupouroglou, principal flutists of the Athens State Orchestra Urs Rüttimann and Panagiotis Drakos, and composer and professor at the Tiroler Landeskonservatorium in Innsbruck, Reza Najfar. I also hold a bachelor's in science, specializing in Food Technology, from the Technological Institute of Athens. I was born in New York and my mother’s family was in the US, so it was in the back of my head to explore living in America someday. When I made the decision to pursue music as a career, at the age of 21, I began researching this plan further. I was fascinated by the versatility American artists showcased and I got the impression that everyone's respective field has a professional community to creatively connect with other artists, learn, and build a network. I was excited at the idea to experience that world. But the cost was so prohibitive, and I loved my life in Europe, so I kept on giving up on the 'dream.' I needed a full scholarship. In 2011, I won a trip to New York through the company Mentos and when I was walking on Brooklyn Bridge it hit me: "I'm coming back! This is where I'll be!" Three years later I found myself studying for my MM at West Virginia University with Nina Assimakopoulos on a graduate assistantship. My dream came true! Talk about manifesting!

Tell us about USA Flute Life vs. Greek Flute Life

The American flute life is a prosperous foundation to initiate unique connections, collaborations, and be an entrepreneur. There are hundreds of flute clubs, conventions, shops, conferences, competitions, festivals, etc. There is something for everyone and therefore, more career doors to knock on. Those kinds of professional communities do not exist in Greece yet. Hopefully, this will change in the near future. American flute life feels like a world where NEW opportunities are constantly sprouting. You can plant an idea, nurture it, and watch it grow. There is plenty of room to think outside the box, create a niche, promote an original idea, explore, and find other intellectual minds that vibe with you on that same spectrum. Studying and working at West Virginia University, gave me the opportunity not only to study flute performance, but also Music Business & Technology, African Dancing & Drumming, Fife & Drumming, Vocal lessons, Flute Pedagogy, and Electronic Music Composition. The chance to feed my creative curiosity on that level was a golden opportunity for me that I could have not found in Greece. What is unique, but not surprising about the Greek flute life, is that musicians are immersed into the idea of integrating arts. Due to our ancient history with drama and literature, Greek flutists will often present flute music with poetry, acting, dancing, or other artists. It is not unusual, in fact, it is part of our culture to collaborate and incorporate more dramatic forms of expression in our interpretations. I often miss the accessibility of classical music to the public, going to the opera house every Friday, the ability to travel with train or a cheap airplane ticket to another European country just to perform for the weekend, live music in every corner of the city, people being loud and obnoxious, and dancing on the streets.

What have been your greatest professional victories?

The truth is, I am ‘attached’ to all my victories, even the small ones. They were hard to obtain and I was happy to accomplish them standing on my own two feet and having lovely people supporting my craziness. Just to mention a few though, I would say eventually making a living as a freelance orchestral and chamber musician in Vienna, when I lived in Austria, graduating with an MM and DMA in the US on scholarships and grants, finding a job at an American University, while still pursuing my doctorate, joining the Trevor James family, winning competitions and recording new works by living composers as a soloist or with the wonderful BETA Quartet. I left my country for a better future and so far, it has worked out.

Where are you teaching? How has this been during covid?

I am a flute instructor and lecturer at Frostburg State University where I teach undergraduate flute majors and minors, and History of Rock. I also teach as an associate instructor of flute and piano through West Virginia University’s Community Music Program, and I run my own studio teaching tiny flutists and pianists with or without physical and learning disabilities. Despite all the challenges, I have to admit I have found joy in teaching virtually during the pandemic. By no chance do I prefer it over face-to-face instruction, but I am still grateful for the chance to teach off-campus, and keep my students, their families and I safe. All my students, young or older, have stuck with me through all of this and keep on pushing me to be the best I can for them.

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on organizing the 3rd Frostburg Flutes Virtual Guest Artist Series and putting together a fun workshop for the tiny musicians of Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids organization. I am also in the process of expanding my virtual studio and hoping to enter two competitions that have somehow survived cancellation. I do have a couple of new works and commissions waiting for me to premiere, but honestly, I was waiting for better days. Now, I am considering virtual performances. I am looking forward to recording BETA Quartet’s sophomore album this summer.

What has been your greatest professional challenge?

Finishing the last year of my doctorate. Working three jobs, preparing for my doctoral comprehensive exams, performing every other week in another state, conducting research and writing my thesis, commuting to teach at FSU, and all of that, while experiencing hardships in my personal life. It felt too much all the time and I thought of postponing graduation. I was experiencing a complete burn-out, including insomnia and some occasional panic attacks. I kept on going with a smile and walked on that stage as Dr. Arkoudis because of fabulous family members and friends…and an exceptional psychologist. I was determined to heal on my own terms, so although 2020 was tough, it did not feel worse than 2019. The standstill of the pandemic gave me the time I needed to go on an ascending spiritual journey I had been postponing for no good reason.

Can you give us 5 quirky, secret, fun, (don't think too much about this) hobbies or passions? I am a bookworm, I make little rhymes and sing what I want to say to others, my secret passion is songwriting, I dance in my room, on the street, in the car, and wait for it… I actually read the tarot cards.

What 3 things would you offer as advice for a young flutist?

Character is destiny! Create a vision, make a plan, pursue, fail, get back up, repeat. Above all, get back up. Success comes from the culmination of achievements, which are the result of getting back up after rejections. In the process, do not compare your path with someone else’s. There are many ways to reach the same destination and along the way you may discover your destination has changed. THAT IS OKAY. If you receive a critique by a professional in the field regarding your playing, take it as it resonates. Hold on to the comment that inspires you to make improvements. Artists are the most versatile creatures I know!

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