I met Zak Grafilo at a very important crossroads in my musical life. I had just spent several years learning from a violin teacher who in many ways was my ideal mentor. He spent a lot of time working with me to fix and unlearning past mistakes while helping me realize my artistic potential. Then, he passed away suddenly.
Finding a new violin teacher just before my senior year of high school—a time when I was supposed to be finding direction in my life and perhaps jumping into the world of being a professional musician—was daunting. Thankfully, I got a recommendation to meet Zak and I was immediately sold. In a period that felt chaotic and uncertain, Zak brought a remarkable sense of calm and stability. He was able to organize all the bits of knowledge I had picked up, and re-engage me in the process of learning the violin.
In our interview with him this week, it becomes clear that Zak brings that steadiness and clarity to all of his ventures. We discuss his work as first violinist for the Alexander String Quartet, and in particular his work rearranging other classical music works for the ensemble. This is a surprisingly rare concept in the classical music world, where string quartet arrangements of pop songs are a ubiquitous part of the culture.
You’ll find Zak emphasizes that he is not a composer, but do not doubt the intricacies of his work: he is often taking much beloved standards from very different instrumentations and bringing them to life for string quartet, sometimes with other soloists and/or ensembles.
I cannot wait till we can safely go outside again, so I can beg Zak for some free tickets for Alexander String Quartet!
Thanks for listening,