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July 05, 2023

Music in My Life: Vincent Meklis, Violin

Tell us about your family.

Neither of my parents are musicians, but I’ve always been blessed to have had their support in my musical endeavors. I have an older sister who, though now an engineer, played piano through high school. We performed together several times growing up, including on a tour to China with the Chicago Consort in 2005. She and my brother-in-law have two boys, ages 3 and 1, who are so much fun.

When did you start playing the violin? 

The violin was my first instrument, which I began studying just before I turned five years old. Oddly enough, my interest in the violin initially had nothing to do with its music. From before I can remember, my sister and I played with a set of building blocks, where each block had a letter of the alphabet on one side and an object that began with that letter on the reverse. On the back of the “V” was Violin, and, knowing my first initial, I asked my parents if I could play the violin. When I was in my earliest stages, I thought of playing the violin as a sort of puzzle, where each physical element had to fit together in the right way in order for it all to come together and work properly. Later on, I came to love the music that I was playing, as well as many other pieces that were beyond my abilities at the time, and the motivation to grow as a violinist and musician became primarily driven by my enthusiasm for those great works.

What do you enjoy about being part of the ISO? I love the variety of music we play, which changes each week. A great juxtaposition we recently had was Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 followed by a tribute to Aretha Franklin, both of which were among the most enjoyable performances I’ve played here. Another very special recent performance was of my favorite symphony, Beethoven’s “Pastoral,” which was also a tremendous pleasure to perform with my colleagues.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not performing?

I enjoy reading, cooking, and baking, particularly bread. With my mom’s side of the family being of Sicilian descent and my dad’s side being Greek, my family takes food very seriously! I find—and many of my colleagues would agree—there are interesting parallels between cooking and music- making, including the fact that both have very strong technical and expressive aspects to them.

Any advice for someone considering a career in the orchestra?

Listen as widely as possible both to performers on the professional stage as well as to their own peer groups. Likewise, play for many people working in the field to get their feedback on your playing as well as their perspective on various facets of what this career path entails. Learn as much as you can about the range of opportunities, challenges, rigorously competitive audition processes, etc. Finally, alongside your intense musical studies, don’t neglect other intellectual pursuits. Your overall well-being (and indeed your music itself) is very likely to suffer if there is no sharpening and expansion of your mind in other areas.

What do you want our audience members to know about the ISO?

We have a strong sense of camaraderie as an ensemble, both as a team to bring music to our stage and also at a personal level. We have a great time when we get together outside of work, such as at our parties welcoming new members. It’s a joy and a privilege to work with such great artists who I also count as dear friends.