1Please provide us with a brief bio of yourself and your background.
Born in Berlin, I was quickly recognized as an artist of extraordinary ability after winning the Berlin Youth Competition at age ten. I gave my recital debuts in Berlin, Moscow and St. Petersburg at age eleven.
A year later, I debuted in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall as a soloist with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra and was invited the following year by conductor Gerd Albrecht to perform at the “Violinists of the 21st Century” concert at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall, which was televised globally by Deutsche Welle TV. The Berliner Morgenpost wrote, “Yonan's playing is characterized by clarity, technical mastery and passionate vitality”.
2What led you to become a talent/artist/influencer/performer/current profession?
My earliest inspiration was my father, an Assyrian Christian, who played for me as a child, Assyrian songs. Later my mother introduced me to the recordings of the great violinists David Oistrakh and Yehudi Menuhin, as well as Klezmer music. She instilled in me also the love for classical music. For Menuhin I performed at age 10 in Berlin, when I had just won 1st prize at the Berlin youth music competition. A great inspiration was also all my wonderful violins, and chamber music professors such as Abraham Jaffé, Almita & Roland Vamos, Werner Scholz, Ruggiero Ricci among others.
3Tell us more about your studio/company/academy.
In Chicago I founded in 2002, the Fine Arts Music Society and Festival, an interdisciplinary chamber music series in the historic Fine Arts Building Chicago and the FAMS Festival in Brown County Indiana, which I directed for 14 years.
In 2009, I was appointed as head of Strings at Columbia College Chicago and at North Park University as Head of Strings, where I also directed the Chamber Orchestra. In addition, I taught talented musicians at Midwest Young Artists Conservatory.
In 2017 I founded in my hometown Berlin DIALOGOS Concerts with the renowned Greek actor and singer Kostas Papanastasiou.
In the same year, I founded the International Uckermark Music-and arts festival, which presents concerts, literature and art in a cross-cultural environment.
4What skills have you learned that will help you in your result and/or performance?
Apart from strong analytical skills, I use my musical intuition and curiosity. I teach those skills also in my teaching method for strings.
5What is your own definition of an impressive performance/show/masterpiece?
Not an easy question. I would say, when my performance is one with my audience and myself, when it is in the flow or "in the zone", as I like to call it, when it breathes, then I know it was a truly moving performance. And that is for me the most important thing.
6What is your creative or ideation process like?
In my creative process I first explore the piece, then I do the creative work, which in classical music includes also a lot of technical groundwork. Once that is mastered, I think a lot about phrasing, articulation and choreography of a piece.
7What has been the best performance of your career so far?
There have been so many, but of course in my memory some performances stood out more than others, for example my debut at the Berlin Philharmonic Hall with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra at age 12, or my Carnegie Hall Debut much later in 2016.
A very special occasion was for me the premiere of Ilya Levinson´s Assyrian Violin Concerto "Gounkha" - in Memory of the victims of the Assyrian Genocide 2014-2017, which is dedicated to me and which I premiered in Chicago in 2015 with the Highland Park Strings.
8Describe the worst performance you have seen. What would you change about it?
I am not sure I understand the question correctly-my worst performance was probably after my grandmother’s funeral, when I had to catch a flight to Chicago and was 12 hours delayed with no sleep before the concert. Somehow, I still managed to get through.
If it comes to other artist´s performances, I try not to be too judgmental. Everybody has their highs and lows. If there is really nothing good to say about a performance, and that includes also student´s performances, I rather say nothing.
9Congratulations! As the winner of LIT Talent Awards, what does it mean to you, or your team, to receive this honor?
The LIT Award holds a special place in my heart, as it honors a recording, which I did together with my wonderful piano partner Elena Matteucci in Rome, shortly before the pandemic. The live concert was professionally recorded and produced by Italian Producer, Leonardo Cinieri Lombroso and finished during the pandemic, so we are all very happy that this recording got the LIT Platinum Award.
10How has winning an international awards help promote you and/or your masterpiece?
In my music career on stage and in the recording studio, I have won many international awards, such as the International Alexander & Buono String Competition in Carnegie Hall, New York or the International Sigall Music Competition, in Chile.
Several of my recordings have been honored with five Global Music Awards.
Preparing for an award is of course always a great incentive to work even harder and to stimulate my creative process.
11What are the challenges, for your winning entry, that you faced?
I can´t recall any challenges for our entry.
12What advise you will give to those who are in the same industry and/or are interested with your craft?
My advice-especially to young string instrumentalists would be to keep not only practicing your instrument, but to listen also to a lot of different genres and styles. These days it is also important to get accustomed to recording technology and to develop some business skills.
13Who inspired you in your life, and why?
My inspiration are my parents. My mother, an academic and orientalist, who instilled in me her love for music and the arts and nature and my father, a teacher and human right activist, for having taught me to let my violin be heard also for the less fortunate in benefit concerts, hospitals and senior citizen homes. The love of the violin was very much inspired by one of my first violin teachers in Berlin, Mr. Abraham Jaffé-a phenomenal pedagogue, especially for young violinists.
14Who do you admire and what did he/she do that motivated you?
As a younger self, I really admired Yehudi Menuhin, the great violinist, conductor, writer and human rights activist. He still embodies for me a true artistic personality. The great violinist Ruggiero Ricci, my mentor for over 25 years, was also a tremendous inspiration.
15Who would you most like to collaborate with?
A very good question, as there are so many wonderful musicians out there.
If a dream came true-probably with the great pianist Martha Argerich, who often performed with my long-time mentor Ruggiero Ricci.
16Who are the three people/agencies/studios/academies/companies you would like to nominate, to participate in LIT Talent Awards?
I would like to nominate my long-time piano partner in Chicago, Susan Merdinger, my pianist in Rome Elena Matteucci and Ukrainian cellist Nazar Dzhuryn, who resides in Chicago.
17What is the key that made you succeed? Any parting words of wisdom?
Consistency, diligence and believing in ones abilities, even in the face of adversity.
18What is your upcoming masterpiece, that you’re currently preparing, about?
Currently planning a new recording project for Violin and Organ with composer, organist and Franciscan fryer Vaughn Vale, to be recorded this summer in Vatican City. Also, I am in the process a recording of all the Bach Cello Suites on the Viola-the Bach and Beyond Project, which I started during the pandemic. It will be released later this year on the Sheridan Music Studio label.
19If you could change anything about the entire industry, what would it be?
More direct accessibility without the many concert agencies as go-betweens.
20Do you have anything else you would like to add for the interview?
As a closing statement I would like to encourage all musicians and artists to speak up for peace and civil rights-both things not to be taken for granted as we, unfortunately, currently see.