“Notes to a Young Musician”

The problem with being ‘unknown’ and the steps towards success and happiness in your career… and life!

Hello to all and welcome back for my second installment on Hello Stage! I hope you all enjoyed my first entry as much as I enjoyed writing it.

It’s 9:53 a.m. and the title of this post, “Notes to a Young Musician”, is inspired by last night’s dream and a little bit of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. I don’t know about many of you, but I frequently have dreams where I am reliving a past event in my life and trying to make sense of it post factum. I’ve often thought, “If only I knew A or B was coming my way, perhaps I would have been more prepared to deal with it”. Unfortunately, life never truly presents its plans until its due time and we come to find its opportunities and challenges facing us tête-à-tête. Whether that’s the beauty or bitterness of Life would be determined by ones own perspective, I suppose.

This is a very personal blog entry for me. Personal in that I’m going to share with you a bit of my own story in regards to challenging career and life moments. In 2011, I got struck by a viral infection that planted itself in my neurological system for nearly 20 months. It was the most difficult time of my life and very few people would know the extent of my suffering as I, generally, prefer to keep such personal information to myself. Though, the worst part was probably that the onset of this illness came within the first few days of the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. Being a young musician at this festival, with its many wonderful artists and gorgeous alpine setting, made me feel really honored and excited to be a part of it. Needless to say, I’m sure one could imagine my disappointment at having to run to the doctors’ offices and hospitals every day to get answers about my then present condition, versus playing chamber music and attending concerts. What a nightmare!

My condition also began compromising the career I was starting to build. I had just started to receive more attention for my performances and my new relationships with management agencies were paving a path for me with various opportunities. It was a time the gods seemed to have thrown a glance my way for a moment, all but to take it as quickly as it came – performances were cancelled, representation was lost and plans for nearly two years went down the drain. Within a brief period of time, I went from being a young musician on the rise to becoming one of the ‘unknown’.

To state that this was a traumatic period would certainly be an understatement - to find oneself at that starting point of one’s career, for the second time, was very trying. Many things had to be re-evaluated and re-structured in my life and, knowing that I would continue to pursue being a musician if I were to recover, I set out to draft a plan of action in order to get that train moving again. Which direction did I want to go in? Did I want to be a soloist again? Could I be a soloist again? My questions and ponderings were infinite and could only be resolved through actions – not words.

I first realized that one of the most important things to do as an ‘unknown’ was to identify where one’s personality and talents will shine through best. Are you happiest working within a large group, small group or mostly on your own? Do you enjoy cycling through different repertoire rather frequently or not? Do you prefer to give or receive direction? Knowing oneself at this phase is crucial in not getting the career that you want, but the one that will make you happy.

Then, it’s time to map out how you’re going to make your intentions a reality. With whom do you need to study, audition, and connect with in order to move forward in the right direction? The group of “who” is so important that they will probably make or break your career - seriously. Building a team of the right people and seeking out the right mentors will save you a lot of time and energy (and maybe money, too!) that would, otherwise, be proven fruitless.

For me, my greatest mentors have been Boris Kuschnir and Ana Chumachenco and for very different reasons. I went to study with Professor Kuschnir in Vienna for numerous reasons, but mainly because he was an active chamber musician and an authority on violin technique. Knowing that I lacked experience in chamber music and having noticed certain technical issues, I knew that Professor Kuschnir would be right member of my team because he offered me the solutions to problems I was battling with during that period. Ana Chumachenco was so important to me for emotional, psychological support in the wake of my illness and offered me constructive advice on what to do during and after my recovery. She offered me advice on specific conductors to audition for, agents to be in contact with and, simply, just how to cope with life’s difficult moments. The importance of both of their guidance during the beginning and re-beginning points of my career was invaluable and I am thankful for it everyday.

Competitions? I’ve thought about participating in some but my intuition has had me steer clear of them for quite some time now. The main reason being that, I believe, a competitive environment requires a specific personality, not one that necessarily reflects a strong artistic or musical character, in order to fair well in that arena. With that said, I do think it is a possibility to achieve greater exposure on a larger platform and can lead to a plethora of opportunities. It’s luck of the draw and the ruling of the powers that be, so approach them without expectation and just focus upon it as chance to learn and improve.

As far as myself, I am trying to follow my own advice and that of my mentors in the process of rebuilding what time has taken and creating an even more exciting and bright future. I still notice the remnants of the damage my illness left me with years ago (although I’m the only one who notices them nowadays), but it has not detoured me whatsoever – in fact, I’m even more determined than before.

I know many of you are perhaps in a similar situation and I wish you all the luck in manifesting your dreams and meeting your present and future goals.

Don’t forget:

If you are passionate about what you do and wish to share that with the world, then failure is out the window and success is at your door.

Until next time,


Violinist Christopher Coritsidis is an international performing artist and social activist based in New York City. When off-stage, he enjoys French literature (and wine!), out-stocking the best donut shops in every city, and...blogging! Follow Christopher on Instagram and of course, on HELLO STAGE!
Author: Christopher Coritsidis
Comments [1]
Bernhard Kerres - 2015-02-27 11:56
Christopher, thanks so much for sharing your personal story with us. It is really inspiring!
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