Vasilis Kostas: The Greek musician who conquered America with his laouto

Vasilis Kostas
Vasilis Kostas
Greek laouto player, Vasilis Kostas, won the “Forty Under 40” award by  the Greek America Foundation in New York.

Vasilis Kostas, the acclaimed master laouto player and composer from Epirus, has just won another important international distinction, making him one of the most decorated Greek musicians of the last decade.

Vasilis recently won the “Forty Under 40” award in New York City, which is an initiative of the non-profit organization Greek America Foundation. This award has been given since 2010 to people up to 40 years old, who excel in the fields of arts, sciences and business.

This is one of the many awards that Vasilis has won over the last few years for his accomplishments in laouto playing (lute), in traditional Greek music, but also in jazz and other genres.

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Vasilis Kostas was born and raised at Ioannina in Epirus, Greece, and completed his Bachelor studies in Philosophy and Pedagogy at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

He also graduated with a diploma from the famous Greek Conservatory, Philippos Nakas, and moved to the United States to study for a Master’s degree program at the Global Jazz Institute of the Berklee College of Music in Boston.

“Many people think that studying music is relatively easy, but music degrees are very demanding and stressful.

"Becoming a musician is not just about talent, it certainly requires dedication and a great will to devote a huge portion of your personal time to this purpose. I say this to all young people who wish to study something; you must envision yourself at the end of your studies, because this is crucial for the development and the direction you wish to follow,” Vasilis said.

After getting a full scholarship for his studies, Vasilis tried to open new doors for laouto playing and Greek traditional and jazz music in the US.

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He quickly received global recognition for his talent, won numerous awards, and was asked to perform on large international stages, such as Carnegie Hall, top music festivals around the world, and in academic institutions in the US and Canada.

“I have always been impressed by how positively musicians from other countries respond to our own genre of music at concerts, especially in America. Somehow, I think they understand the history that our music carries, they can relate to our musical idioms and understand their value.”

One of Vasilis’ first exposures to the global music scene was a concert in Boston, with performances by traditional music artists from many different countries. The concert was attended by thousands of people from all over the world, who came together in America to celebrate a variety of musical styles.

“I will never forget the first continental music concert I attended in Boston. My initial impression was that the public, as it consisted of people from different countries, would not respond positively to the heavy Epirus hearings that we would present. I was wrong! The comments at the end of the concert disproved me and I was overjoyed to realize that our traditional music can touch people from different countries to such an extent.”

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Vasilis is also a member of the band 'Global Messengers', formed by the Grammy Award-winning pianist of Jazz, Danilo Perez, while his latest album “The Soul of Epirus”, recorded with successful clarinet player, Petroloukas Halkias, was voted the best album of 2019 by Balkan World Music Chart.

His innovative approach on the laouto comes from his unique technique and ability to combine traditional elements of his musical roots along with various other music genres, such as jazz and classical improvisations, which have made him a pioneer in his area.

“I believe that when various musical traditions merge, based on an aesthetic approach that combines them beautifully and in a completely natural way, then we can talk about an essential marriage that can offer something new in music. In my case the meeting of jazz with traditional music came, I would say, as a natural result of the musical stimuli I had from a young age.”

Vasilis currently lives and works in Boston, where he teaches music and travels frequently to participate in musical events and concerts around the world, as he continues to promote traditional Greek music and culture through the playing of the Greek laouto.

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