Grammy-nominated Greek-American musician, Panagiotis Andreou opens up about his musical career, proud moments, and discusses his ethnic background.
Particularly impressive about Mr. Andreou’s talent is that he holds ten years of experience in baroque flute (alto and bass), six years of classical piano, and two years of classical clarinet.
“I went to the Musical High School of Athens,” remarks Mr. Andreou. “You are accepted there through an audition process and it’s a state school, where there is no tuition. At the school, I studied many different instruments and took musical courses in the genres of world, classical, as well as traditional Greek music such as byzantine and folklore. I also studied bouzouki, ‘floyera,’ which is a form of traditional flute, and vocal performance. I was also in the Byzantine choir, and I explored a plethora of world instruments such as the kena and the pan-pipe harmonica,” he adds. Growing up in Greece, Mr. Andreou came to the United States with a scholarship to study at the Berklee School of Music. He completed his Master’s degree at SUNY-Purchase, with a partial scholarship. “I came here with the ‘old world’ concept of studying music. Although Berklee offered music business and music technology majors, I did the traditional ‘performance’ major and I missed out on learning about the reality of the music business world.”
On his musical influences, Mr. Andreou shares that they “range from an array of world, pop, rock, and classical music. Although all of them have an impact on what I do, Afro-Cuban music (especially ‘timba,’ a contemporary style of Cuban salsa), Balkan music, and Southern Indian music have also shaped my musical style the most. In addition, Greek music is something that I have in my blood. It’s my identity and has helped me shape my musical style with the confidence that I have.”
Mr. Andreou has been performing professionally for the last seventeen years. “I have performed all over the world at such venues as the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, The Blue Note, and Iridium, to name a few,” he reveals.
Regarding his Greek heritage, Mr. Andreou notes “I was born in Athens in the municipality of Kallithea. My father is from the municipality of Western Mani, which is known as ‘Messiniaki Mani.’ My mother was born in Piraeus but her father is from Corfu, and her mother is from Syros with Asia Minor roots. I grew up feeling like a ‘Maniati’ since I spent a big part of my childhood there, therefore I totally identify with Mani and I’m extremely proud of it.”
He continues, “I was lucky to be born in a place where I could see the Akropolis from my balcony, to write and speak a language that has a consistent history of four thousand years, and finally be in a part of the world that is both geographically and socio-politically rich and historically significant.”
With regard to the hardest aspect of his profession, he notes the “entrepreneurship and the business aspect of it…It’s interesting to find your musical voice and to continue searching for it for that matter. It’s so hard to be a businessman at the same time, and as you probably know, nobody is going to do it for you. You have to do it yourself because you are a musician and usually if you choose the non-commercial path, even if you want somebody to do it for you, you’re propably not going to be able to afford it,” Mr. Andreou says.
Mr. Andreou is blessed to have had many proud moments in his career. He garnered a Grammy award nomination in 2009, as a founding member of the acclaimed salsa band Gonzalo Grau and La Clave Secreta with the album “Frutero Moderno.” “The whole recording cost around $2,000 and it competes with gigantic productions and artists of Sony Music,” Mr. Andreou further states; furthermore, last year Mr. Andreou won the “Best Latin Jazz Bassist of the Year” award from the prestigious Latin Jazz Corner.
“I have to say that my proudest accomplishment is the camaraderie and brotherhood that I have experienced along the way. I have brothers for life from all around the world, with whom I share deep musical and personal experiences with,” reveals Mr. Andreou.
Although Mr. Andreou loves many songs, and enjoys playing different styles of music, one of his favorite songs to play live is the Stelios Kazantzidis classic “Yirozw Ap’ Ti Nixta,” which translates into “Return from the Night.”
His dream collaboration would be to someday accompany Nikos Papazoglou or Eleni Vitali, and from the non-Greek artists such as Bobby McFerrin.
For Greek-American hopefuls who wish to pursue music, Mr. Andreou remarks “you can never stop practicing and becoming better, but there has to be a good balance between that and the entrepreneur aspect of it. Finally, believe in your friends and ‘brothers’ as hard as it might seem, it’s the only way to fool the system, because it’s something that the system doesn’t calculate. It’s a characteristic of our culture to bond and honor our friendships! ‘Filia’ is such a heavy word!”
Presently, Mr. Andreou is involved in numerous projects including “Now vs. Now,” “New York Gypsy All Stars,” “Gonzalo Grau and La Clave Secreta,” as well as “Breeding Ground,” a by-product of “Now vs. Now”; morever, Mr. Andreou sings for his Greek Band called Syn…Phonia.
Mr. Andreou concludes “I intend to keep evolving with these projects, while trying to create my own project which is on the horizon!”