I had the pleasure of interviewing Grammy-nominated Susan Aquila about her experiences as an electric violinist, classical musician, and vocalist. Along with her original album Miss Conduct being nominated for 5 Grammy awards, Aquila has a long list of accomplishments as a performer. She has appeared in concert and recordings with names as big as Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Kanye West, John Mayer, The Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and the list goes on. She has studied at Rice University and The Julliard School, and has performed recitals at the White House for both George Bush and Bill Clinton. Her list of amazing accomplishments spans a wide range of genres and skill sets, and I personally find her work to be incredibly inspiring. The opportunity to interview her for my page is truly an honor, and I hope you enjoy!
Photo Credit: Leiby Art World
I read in another interview that you started playing the violin in 3rd grade. At what point did you realize that you were going to pursue life as a performer?
I knew way before the 3rd grade. The first time I saw live music, I knew that was what I had to do! I was probably in kindergarten. The violin was the first opportunity I had, so I ran with it.
You have been very successful on both the classical side of music and as a rock star violinist. How do you balance the two worlds?
It is definitely not easy. I’ve had to learn how to balance preparing for concerts and shows. Classical and Rock music are different disciplines. I have to make sure that I keep up my chops in both, as well as keeping up my vocal chops. I carefully schedule my practice time to make sure that I am rotating music and technical exercises so that everything is at my fingertips.
If you could go back in time to give yourself advice when you were first starting out as a performer, what would you say?
Looking back, I wish that I had more faith in myself and my abilities. There were a lot of things that I didn’t fight for as an artist because I was influenced by authority figures who I thought knew more than I did. One should trust that deep down, he knows how he wants to deliver a song. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t listen to constructive criticism. Just don’t lose yourself in the process.
Do you have any advice for my readers on how to deal with performance anxiety? This is a topic that is discussed a lot amongst people who are striving to become professional musicians, and it is the focus of a few of my own posts. I always find it incredibly helpful to hear how successful musicians have dealt with it throughout their careers.
Performance anxiety... yuck!! That is a tough one! For me, I have to make sure that I am super prepared so that everything is stored in my muscle memory. This way, no matter how nervous I get, my body will do what it has learned. There is no other way around it. You are going to be nervous. Just accept it and ride it out.
Do you admire any famous violinists that have influenced or shaped your own performance in any way?
Classically, I love Henryk Szeryng and Jascha Heifetz for their technical mastery and soulful performances. For Rock music, I am most influenced by guitarists. Jimi Hendrix is my all time favorite but I love Jimmy Page and Eddie Van Halen.
If you are interested in listening to any of these artists, here are some YouTube videos you might enjoy
Henryk Szeryng - Beethoven Violin Concerto
Jascha Heifetz - Saint Säens Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso
Jimi Hendrix - Foxy Lady (Live)
Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin) - Whole Lotta Love
Eddie Van Halen - Guitar Solo
I have a segment on my blog that suggests some of my favorite pieces of music to my readers, and it often changes from week to week. Do you have any certain song or piece that you always find yourself listening to?
OMG! I listen to everything! I am musically schizophrenic. I don’t have one favorite piece. I usually get obsessed with something and listen to it over and over nonstop and then I move on. I love everything from Ozzie Osbourne, Nirvana, Led Zepplin and Metallica to Bach, Mahler and Mozart.
How did you develop yourself as a solo performer? What would you say are the first few steps in making a living as a soloist?
It’s a very long process. Once I decided that I wanted to have a solo career, I threw myself into it 100 percent. It takes over your whole life. It is a constant process of getting new music, recording, searching for performance opportunities and finding funding, not to mention trying to keep up with your social media. It costs a lot of money to get a project up and running. I started with small steps. I worked first on my music and working technically so that I had a good product.
Here is a fun one. If you were on a deserted island and you could only bring 3 things with you, what would you bring and why?
Well, I cant function without chocolate so I would have to have a lifetime supply of chocolate cake. I would have to have my violin because I’ve never had to survive without it and I don’t think I could. And I would have to have my dog Daisy... the best dog ever. :)
Do you have a favorite person or organization to work with? My favorite person that I love to work with is my musical partner, Rob Tomaro. An excellent song writer, guitarist and all around great musician, his passion for music makes him so much fun to be around. I also just started working with Lincoln Claar of Knight Stalker Records. He has brought new life to my project. He is so passionate about this music and he is just as much a workaholic as Rob and me. He is patient and has a great sense of humor. I think it’s going to be an amazing year working with him!
I want to extend a huge thank you to Susan Aquila for answering my questions and appearing on my page! For more information about Susan, here are her social media platforms:
As always, thanks for reading --