10 Questions with Elyse Dalabakis

Our new Marketing Administrator, Elyse Dalabakis, talks about her background in the USA and moving to NZ, her experience as an active violist and performance scholar, juggling her busy lifestyle and what she enjoys most about her new role with the New Zealand String Quartet.

1. You’ve been in NZ since 2014 – where did you grow up?

I grew up in sunny Sarasota, Florida – known for having the most beautiful beach in the USA and home to Florida’s longest continuously performing orchestra, the Sarasota Orchestra (SO). For 12 years, I participated in the Sarasota Youth Orchestra programme (SYO) and also took part in their chamber music programme, which provided coaching from players of the Sarasota Orchestra. In 2008 I was appointed Principal Viola of the Sarasota Youth Philharmonic and performed with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall – such an incredible and unforgettable experience! The experiences I gained in Sarasota were pivotal in my decision to pursue viola performance at a professional level.

2. What attracted you to this part of the world?

My grandparents, actually! They visited New Zealand in 2001 and brought back thousands of photos – yes, thousands – which sparked my initial interest. Later, when I was searching for graduate school programmes I discovered Professor Donald Maurice and the New Zealand String Quartet taught at Victoria University. The arts hub that is Wellington is what really sealed the deal for me – New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, NZSQ, Royal New Zealand Ballet, and NZ Opera to name a few… all in one place!

3. You finished your MMus at VUW and have started your PhD there - what’s your PhD topic?

My PhD focuses on Dimitris Dragatakis (1914 – 2001) and his works for solo viola and chamber music. I aim to publish and record one or more of Dragatakis’s works in addition to writing a dissertation which will discuss his life, analyse selected works, and offer a performance guide. Greek music and culture is something I’m passionate about, as you can probably tell by my last name – I’m Greek-American.

4. You’re also an active violist – where might we find you performing in New Zealand?

I regularly perform with Orchestra Wellington and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, but you can also find me performing in freelance engagements around NZ - from CubaDupa and national tours to composer read-throughs, collaborations and performing in regional orchestras and small ensembles - music has taken me all over New Zealand.

5. In what ways have you been involved with the NZSQ since moving here in 2014?

My first introduction to NZSQ was during my time at Florida State University when I participated in a masterclass held by the Penderecki String Quartet, long-time collaborators and friends of NZSQ. While they were coaching my quartet, they asked us what we were all considering pursuing after graduating with our BMus. I mentioned I was considering moving to New Zealand at the time for further study – of course, they said how wonderful the NZSQ is and how much they have enjoyed working with them. Since moving to NZ, I have been fortunate to study with NZSQ as a student at Victoria University and as an Adam Summer School student. I also participated in the Troubadour Quartet Internship Programme - a collaboration between the Adam Chamber Music Festival, New Zealand String Quartet, and Chamber Music New Zealand. We were artists in the 2017 Adam Chamber Music Festival, received coaching from the NZSQ and Goldner String Quartet, and performed along side our mentors and other ACMF artists – another unforgettable experience!

6. What do you enjoy about your new role as Marketing Administrator with the NZSQ?

My new role is awesome! What I enjoy the most is the fact that this position combines a little of all my passions into one: chamber music, performance, arts management, and music education. Since we have a small administration team in the office – only 3, including myself – the role is quite varied. On any given day you can find me in the office either creating content for our Q-notes newsletter, devising a media plan, maintaining the website, liaising with other arts organisations or the quartet members, writing reports, or brainstorming ideas with Christine and Suzanne…

7. This position with the NZSQ is not your only music administration role, is it?

I’m also currently the Supervisor for the Ministry of Education’s Raroa Music Centre in Johnsonville, a weekend music programme aimed at children under 12 that serves 300+ families in the Greater Wellington Region. Most recently I was the Congress Manager for the 44th International Viola Congress, a role in which I worked closely with Gillian Ansell and Donald Maurice, the co-hosts of the event.

8. How do you juggle your many roles as a musician and administrator?

Time management and self-motivation play a huge part in juggling my working life, as well as being aware of and listening to my body – something being an instrumental performer has taught me. I think understanding your strengths, weaknesses, boundaries, and limitations are imperative to managing a busy lifestyle. Oh, and coffee of course – Wellington coffee will never let you down!

9. What’s your most memorable performance by the New Zealand String Quartet?

I think every performance of the NZSQ I’ve attended is memorable, but a performance that stands out in my mind was their collaboration in October 2015 with cellist Greg Sauer, who was one of my previous professors at Florida State University. The concert represented my undergraduate and postgraduate worlds colliding and it was fantastic to see such awesome musicians playing together! Here’s a snap I took of them during the concert. In hindsight, I guess taking this photo foreshadowed my new role here as Marketing Administrator.

10. What upcoming projects or concerts are you looking forward to the most?

Hmm… I think I would have to say I am looking forward to the national tour the most. There’s some great repertoire, especially for viola – speaking of which, have you seen Gill’s new Amati?! – but I won’t give too much away now… you’ll have to check out the official announcement for yourself!

See more on Elyse's personal website