Our March Spotlight is on Aphrodite Mitsopoulou, one of our past NVMTA Presidents who currently plans the NVMTA Lecture Series and is a DMA candidate at JMU.
Aphrodite Mitsopoulou was born in Greece and started her musical studies in the National Conservatory of Athens. In 2007, she received her Soloist’s Diploma from the Conservatory of Art and Technology obtaining the First Unanimously Excellent Award and the Highest Honors for Outstanding Performance. She earned her Master’s Degree in 2009 on a partial scholarship from the Boston Conservatory. Some of her notable teachers include Valery Sagaidachny, Janice Weber, Anna Ouspenskaya, Thomas Mastroianni, and Nancy Breth.
Having received a Green Card awarded to artists for extraordinary ability, Ms. Mitsopoulou has lived in the USA since 2010.
Ms. Mitsopoulou is currently pursuing her Doctoral of Musical Arts (DMA) Degree in Performance, Pedagogy and Literature at James Madison University under the direction of Dr. Dobner. In 2022 she was awarded the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi for her academic profile. Ms. Mitsopoulou is also a graduate assistant at the Keyboard Skills Classes, a collaborative pianist at J.M.U. , and an assistant to the Accompanying coordinator.
What do you like most about playing your instrument?
“Playing the piano is a metaphysical experience for me. That’s how experiencing the universe must feel like; like floating in space; experiencing different dimensions/shapes/ colors. I feel that there is no gravity when I play the piano. It’s magical. This happens–if I know the piece well! Because if I don’t -it’s just a torture! (for me and everyone in this universe and beyond! :)”
What music do you like to listen to?
“Classical! -So predictable-I know… But also I am required to! I am currently taking a course at JMU (a Classical period seminar) –where we are required to listen to many **many sonatas and at different points of the semester, we take quizzes where, after we listen to small excerpts, we have to identify–the composer–the sonata (By K or Hob number, or Opus number etc.) -key and movement. It’s very hard! So I need to listen to the movements over and over until they become really familiar! “
How do you like to spend your time when you aren’t practicing or teaching?
“I have no time for anything else! I am trying to complete my last year of coursework in JMU and I practice or study constantly. When I will have free time again –(in a few months hopefully!) I will enjoy spending time with my kind-hearted and patient fiancé, I will see my wonderful friends–many of them are from NVMTA! I will travel to Greece to see my family and friends and I will swim a lot in the turquoise waters of the Aegean sea!!”
What music projects are you working on now?
“Recitals for JMU! Competitions with one of my singers- for the Aria Competition- recitals with some of them, and solo recitals both at JMU and in Washington DC. I am practicing some fantastic solo repertoire: Beethoven 32 Variations in C minor/ Forest Scenes by Schumann/ Gavotte and Variations by Rameau and Black Earth by Fazil Say.”
What have you learned by participating in NVMTA programs?
“I feel I have grown and changed so much both as a performer and as a teacher. NVMTA is one of the most competitive associations in the country in regards to high standards of excellence both of students and teachers. It makes me always want to prepare my students to that level. It is so beneficial to be exposed to teaching of such a high caliber.”
What is your best advice to new members?
“Participate in the NVMTA events! Meet teachers and ask them how they teach. Observe their lessons! Take lessons from our amazing teachers in our association! That’s the only way to keep developing and continue growing!”
What are some ways you have participated in NVMTA:
- Attended in-person NVMTA meetings,
- Attended NVMTA zoom meetings (general meetings, TAT, or LATTE),
- Entered students in an NVMTA event,
- Entered students in an NVMTA competition,
- Participated on an NVMTA committee at any level,
- Received an NVMTA scholarship,
- Certified as NCTM with MTNA
“Since becoming a member of NVMTA, I have always held leadership positions (co-chair of District Auditions, of Baroque Festival and many other positions). But my most challenging position was when I became President of NVMTA during the pandemic. It was a difficult experience not knowing what was safe for our members and making decisions for our students, teachers, and events. Through this experience I got to know some wonderful people that are the light of the association: Rene Johnson, Silva Blasquez, Kate Moore, Jeri Bennet, Yi Shan, and so many others that were so inspirational and helped me so much in such a hard period and still do. I will never forget their kindness and their service, and I will never forget what all our volunteers do for our association. It’s always really touching to me.
My favorite events are always either the NVMTA lecture series or the TAT that our wonderful Nancy Breth presents. I love learning from so many different educational styles and such inspirational educators. I feel so thankful that we have these series in our Association and I am always looking forward to discovering something new that I didn’t know!”
What is a musical goal (or musical goals) you have?
“I want to do so many things!
- To complete my DMA!
- To give countless recitals with music I love!
- To write a book about Greek music!
- To record some of the music that I never had the time to do so far!
- To meet wonderful students that we will both learn from each other!!
- To create a lecture recital series!
- To give concerts in different parts of the world!
- To collaborate with some amazing musicians!!
- To keep learning and becoming a better musician every day!!
So many dreams. So little time!
What is one (or more) of your most proud moments in your career?
“I will mention three touching moments of my career but I feel there are so many more that were significant and meaningful. We are so fortunate to be musicians and educators.
My student K. was just admitted to Hamilton University in NY. This is a very selective Liberal Arts College and we were discussing how she managed to receive an acceptance letter. ” I really think it was my piano video.” K. told me. It was a part of her application to submit a video with her piano playing from high school until her graduation. ” Why do you think this K.?” I asked. ” Because when they sent me my acceptance letter, there was a post-it note on the top of the letter saying “I really loved your video.” and a signature of one of the professors. We work so hard with our students and it’s so touching to see them succeed. I am so proud of all my students and I love them very deeply, irrespective of their successes.
Many years ago a mom of a student told me: “I want you to know that you are changing peoples’ lives.” Still I cry when I think of this sentence. It’s so powerful to know that we have such a great impact on our students’ and on their families’ lives. It was a moment of realization of this great responsibility.
Another moment I will never forget is when a young boy, about 15 years old, approached me after my concert with tears in his eyes and said ” I have never listened to classical music before. I will now listen to it forever.” I felt so touched–and at the same time I had a weird thought..” one more innocent child…in captivity of classical music for eternity…how lucky and miserable at the same time!”
Looking back, is there anything you’d do differently in your profession if given a chance?
“Hmmm that’s an interesting question because we are who we are because of the choices we made and the experiences we had. So in that respect no. But maybe.. I would have wasted less time with teachers who were negative, and had not the skillset or the flexibility that I needed. Maybe I would believe less in authority and “expertise” and I would trust what I listen and if what I feel sounds, and feels right. Trusting myself more and being kinder to myself and more forgiving would be good. I would have given less space to toxicity. But I feel that meeting some wrong teachers/mentors/colleagues also helped me to become a better teacher, hopefully more understanding of each student’s individuality and unique potential.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the members of NVMTA (educational experience, honors, personal interests, hobbies etc.)
“Last year I was awarded from the Honor Society of Pi Kappa Phi for my academic profile. When I arrived in the award ceremony I saw in Greek letters the motto: “Φιλοσοφία Κρατείτω Φωτών “. In English, it is translated: ” Let the love of learning rule humanity”. I feel that this is the most significant principle that I try to instill to my students. If you love learning you will never grow old, you will never get tired or lose your interest in life because there is always something new to learn!”
What are some ideas you have for NVMTA and its members and students?
“I would like our Lecture series to travel beyond our Association-to travel beyond NV and USA. I would love it if they would become a world Lecture series where Trifonov and Argerich and Barenboim would join us and have a discussion with us about music! Wouldn’t that be amazing??”
If you have completed the requirements for NCTM, what has it meant to you in your career? Any advice for others who might want to become certified?
“I feel I learned a lot from the process. Many aspects of the way you teach are closely observed. The different stages of the certification make you think a lot about the way you teach. There were also financial benefits from the certification but I feel that was the least important. You should definitely invest the time to become an NCTM certified teacher!”
Thank you to Aphrodite for your service to NVMTA. We appreciate your enthusiasm for life and your support for the members of NVMTA. Congratulations on being the April Spotlight member!