Acclaimed Greek Australian violinist and former Young South Australian of the Year (2008) Niki Vasilakis is regarded as being among the world’s most talented and exciting young soloists. She was recently recognised as one of the 10 most inspirational women to ‘watch for’ by The Advertiser, due to her musical talent as well as her extensive commitment to community work and volunteering.
“I feel so honoured to have been recognised for my work, although it has never been something that I do for recognition, but because I love people and want to see others around me thrive and find the thing that makes their heart sing,” says Vasilakis, in an exclusive interview with Neos Kosmos.
The world-class musician, whose road to success commenced at the tender age of four, has already won many awards as a young artist and has performed with the Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Tasmanian Orchestras as well Orchestra Victoria, The Queensland, Wellington, Guangzhou and Prague Symphony Orchestras.
“I was an overly-energetic little girl, therefore my parents decided to start me on an instrument to help ‘channel’ my energies,” she says. “Little did we all know at the time that music would pave the way and become my passion in life.”
Vasilakis went on to study at the Elder Conservatorium before moving to Sydney at the age of 16, where she continued her music studies at the Australian Institute of Music, and then at the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne.
Passionate and determined to gain knowledge and succeed, she travelled overseas, where she had the opportunity to meet and perform with some of the world’s greatest teachers in New York, London, Berlin and Paris.
Established as a leading young soloist and recording artist, Vasilakis performed her solo with the Sydney Symphony to an audience of more than 100,000 people in January 2004, and gave a recital for the Jaipur Royal family of Rajasthan in Jaipur’s City Palace. She was the winner of the String Final of the Symphony Australia Young Performers Award in 2003.
She considers herself “really lucky to have played with some of the world’s greatest musicians”, although she admits she has never been invited to perform in her homeland, Greece.
“The highlights of my career have come in various forms. Working with Steven Isserlis, one of the most respected cellists, was a highlight mainly because I learnt so much from that experience.”
Seeing her star rise above and beyond Australia from a young age, Niki Vasilakis, whose family comes from the picturesque Greek island of Ikaria, is a role model for the young people she helps through her community and volunteer work.
“My advice to them (young people) is to choose a career path they are passionate about which will be a great tool in staying motivated and rising above the crowd.
“In whatever you do, work hard, be eager to learn and find great mentors along the way,” she continues.
Currently, the mother of three is working on a self-funded project of sacred hymns – arranged for violin – which will be released later this year, but she admits her aspirations have changed tremendously since she became a mother.
“Something I have learnt – or rather am reminding myself continually – is that you can have it all. Just not all at the same time.
“Thus, at this point in my life, I am enjoying being creative in different ways and I am only taking work that fits around my family life, while fully enjoying not having a half-packed/unpacked suitcase permanently on my bedroom floor,” says Niki, who has always been committed to making a difference in young people’s lives through education, arts and of course, music.
For Vasilakis, music is powerful and her violin the “ultimate bridge” to connect with people of all ages and cultures.
Currently, she runs the concert series Cocktail Concerts with Niki Vasilakis at the Adelaide Festival Centre, where she is presenting three concerts with some of Australia’s finest musicians.
“The aim of these interactive concerts is to create an event which is a great way for people to try classical music and experience some of the most amazing works ever written,” Niki concludes.