An agreeable start

Phil violinist turned childhood pursuit into career

Alexandra Tsilibes, photography by Ellie Bogue

Alexandra Tsilibes, photography by Ellie Bogue

Alexandra Tsilibes was first attracted to playing violin in the way that many kids find early hobbies – through her older siblings. With a sister who played violin and a brother playing cello through the Suzuki program, Tsilibes began her musical journey at the age of 5 in her hometown of Rochester, N.Y.

“It just seemed like the thing to do,” she says. “I was an agreeable child, and I figured if that’s what they’re doing, I should probably do it, too.”

By fourth grade, as other children in her elementary school were being given the option to choose a musical instrument to play, Tsilibes realized she was already ahead of the game. Although she says now that she always had a love of classical music, partially thanks to her mother’s love of opera and her own Baroque training in Suzuki, her influences were numerous.

“I had an older brother and sister, so I was exposed to a lot of their music including the Who and the Police. I was a big Police fan. But we’d listen to the Metropolitan Opera performances on the radio, and my father being from Greece had a lot of Greek music playing. We had a lot of old phonograph records so I listened to a lot of different music.”

A pivotal experience came when a series of family activities left young Alexandra with nowhere to go for the summer, and the family sent her to what is now the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan. At first somewhat traumatized and homesick, she ultimately came to appreciate the fact that she was surrounded by people from all over the world who were invested in arts and music and thought, “Wouldn’t that be a great way to spend one’s life?”

Ultimately her road took her to the Eastman School of Music in her hometown. Her parents allowed her to get the full college experience by living in the dorms, though Tsilibes concedes that music student dorms are “pretty tame.” Her first year there was a bit of a tryout since Tsilibes had already been accepted to Princeton, an offer she deferred for one year to decide how she wanted to spend her life. Music won, and Princeton lost a potential student.

The Eastman was followed by graduate studies in Stony Brook, N.Y., where she met fellow student and future husband Akira Murotani. After she finished her studies, she considered freelancing in nearby New York City but instead headed to Detroit, where she played and studied at Wayne State University. It was her husband’s career which first brought the couple to Indiana (via South Bend), but they both found positions playing for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic in the early 2000s, Tsilibes securing a permanent position in 2003. Their daughter, Ellie, arrived two years later and has chosen piano as her instrument.

Although she considered other paths through the years, Tsilibes is happy for the decision she’s made and the path she has chosen.

“I am very glad that I became a musician. I can’t imagine what my world would have been like without music.”

First appeared in the November 2014 issue of Fort Wayne Monthly.

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