As with many random events that transpire and shape our lives, becoming a professional musician was something that "just kind of happened" for Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) violinist Alexandros Sakarellos.
"I started playing violin when I was young, or at least people think seven or eight years old is young – but for violin they usually start even before that, like four or three years old," Sakarellos said. "I wasn't planning on being a professional musician. It kind of happened to me. After finishing high school, I saw a job and thought I could earn some pocket money if I won, then I did win and realized it was something I like doing. It wasn't really a personal ambition or quest."
Born in Athens, Greece, into a musical household, the violin was thrust onto Sakarellos by his parents. His mother, who studied music at the university level, and father, an amateur guitarist, had already started his sister on piano. For Alexandros, they chose violin.
"I didn't choose it," he said of the instrument. "My sister started playing piano before me, so they figured I would do something different. I'm really glad it happened. It's wonderful now. I couldn't think of a better scenario for my life's companion."
In Greece, Sakarellos received his early training at the Athens Conservatoire, the oldest music school in modern Greece. His early performances as a soloist and recitalist earned Sakarellos a position as concertmaster of the city of Athens Symphony Orchestra, as well as a first violinist spot with the Athens State Orchestra.
In 2005, Sakarellos moved to New York City where he studied at the Manhattan School of Music with former New York Philharmonic concertmaster and acclaimed soloist Glenn Dicterow.
"When I studied in New York, I wasn't planning on staying there," Sakarellos said. "But, then again, it happened to me."
While in New York, Sakarellos performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. He also had concertmaster, or leading first violin, appearances under renowned artists Kurt Masur and Pinchas Zuckerman. In addition, he has appeared at the Festivals of Ravello, in Italy; Miyazaki in Japan; and Bellerive in Switzerland and Santo Domingo. In 2009, he was invited by the Athens Epidaurus Festival to give the Greek premier of several works by awarded American-Greek composer George Tsontakis. In March, Sakarellos had the opportunity to tour in China with the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra.
Prior to joining the DSO in 2014, Sakarellos played for two years in the first violin section of the San Francisco Opera.
"I like it very much. It kind of happened," he said of how he came to live in Birmingham. "At the time, I was playing a violin that was loaned to me."
As the owner of the violin was concerned for his instrument's safety, he suggested Sakarellos move to Birmingham.
Outside of music, Sakarellos said he enjoys cooking and skiing, and travels to Athens about once year to visit family. Still much of his day – between seven and eight hours – is typically spent practicing, rehearsing or performing.
"A rehearsal is about two-and-a-half hours, or a double is five hours. Then there are concerts," he said. "It sounds like we aren't working much, but musicians have to keep themselves in shape in the way that an athlete would. We always have to prepare for the next week."
Photo: Detroit Symphony Orchestra