I love music. I studied piano, and I have been a music teacher for kids in a primary school. But I wanted to become a journalist, so I continued my studies in writing, history, and law and found a job in a newspaper.
They assigned me to the courts and crimes desk. (Which I didn’t like so much.) When I wasn’t reporting about trials and killings, I used to volunteer to cover cultural events.
One of those occasions was the International violin contest Pablo Sarasate, organized by the Navarre’s Government, under the artistic direction of Vladimir Spivakov, the conductor of the Moscow Virtuosi, one of the greatest violinist I ever heard live.
In 1995, I had to interview the finalists, and one of them was the young Armenian from Libano Ara Makilian.
He told me to meet him in his hotel an hour before his final rehearsal. I asked my roommate if she knew where that place was, and she gave me directions to a new building close to our house. When I arrived, I found no sign of the hotel. What to do.? I called a taxi and finally arrived at the correct address 20 minutes late. It was at the other extreme of the city.
Makilian was disappointed and getting ready to leave for the theatre. But he was a nice guy, and we rearranged the interview for after his performance in the theatre.
It was a fascinating conversation. Ara told me how he learned to play the violin as a small child in Beirut, in the basement, while there were bombings over the city. His father taught him and encouraged him to play all the time so that he wouldn’t be scared of the explosions.
He had amazing stories about how he emerged from that basements as a promising violinist with chances to study at the best music schools of Europe.
He had a rock star’s appearance, more than a classic orchestra player: long hair, dark beard, informal clothes.
When he arrived at the contest, nobody took him seriously because of how he looked.
But Ara was the best. He won that year. And after that, he managed to succeed in his career, always maintaining his peculiar style.
Until recently, he has been the concertmaster at the Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid (resident Orchestra of the Royal Opera of Madrid).
Always is looking for new ways of making music. I’m glad to have witnessed one of the first steps of his career.