One Musician’s Global Mixology

Mihai Craioveanu | Professor of Music

Almost any instrument has the capacity to express a variety of musical genres: classical, jazz, folk, blues, Latin, pop. It’s a musician’s choices of style and repertoire that let the variation out. For instance, take the violin — or should we say fiddle? To differentiate them, don’t look; just give a good listen.

At the “Violin vs. Fiddle Gala Concert” at Hope College in 2019, in both a classical set and a fiddling set one virtuoso performer revealed the versatility of the violin. Professor Mihai Craioveanu was that fiddler, violinist, musician.

As all three, Craioveanu has been the impetus behind annual events in the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, like the standing-room-only “Violin vs. Fiddle” concert, that blend musical traditions, styles and performers from around the world. He does it, he says, “to give audiences a kind of synthesis of what it means to travel around the globe onstage.”

Since the Jack H. Miller Center opened in 2016, Craioveanu has brought a world of music to Hope by conceptualizing, organizing and then harmonizing for concerts funded by grants from the Hope College Patrons of the Arts, Cultural Affairs and Netherland-America Foundation. Each eclectic event features an unusual mix of people, instruments and repertoire. He started with “East Meets West on a Tango” in 2016; moved on to “Bach to Broadway” in 2017 and “French Connection: 300 Years of French Music from Baroque to Jazz” in 2018; and for 2019’s “Violin vs Fiddle Gala” created a program of pieces inspired by jazz, tango, bluegrass and the folk tunes of several cultures.

This year’s concert on March 23, “Playing the Violin on the Silk Road,” will feature music from China, Japan, Armenia, the Middle East, Greece and Italy. “The ancient Silk Road was a land and maritime trading route that started in China and then spread throughout the world,” Craioveanu explains. “The music will feature the musical traditions from most of the countries that the Silk Road touched.”

As musical director, he enlists renowned musicians to collaborate with him on instruments as diverse as the music requires: accordion, bandoneon, mandolin, guitar, piano, string bass, bouzouki, erhu, koto. He’s delighted that Masayo Ishigure, whom he describes as “perhaps the best living koto player in the world,” will be among the guest artists participating in the Silk Road concert.

Directing the musicians as they rehearse the diverse pieces together for the first time is exhilarating, he says. “We do our due diligence in our home studios and then we rehearse together here. They arrive at Hope one or two days before the concert. That teamwork, that click has to happen in 24 hours — no more than 48, that’s for sure.”

“Playing Violin on the Silk Road” will begin at 7:30 p.m. on March 23 at the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts on the Hope College campus. Admission is free.

Author: Eva Dean Folkert ’83

Eva Dean Folkert '83 writes extensively about Hope people, research, sports and news.

Photography: Steven Herppich