Manolis Christodoulou is a 30 years-old music teacher and a music performer from Greece and he has been living in Athens for six years. Although he grew up in Athens, he is originally from Kalymnos and Livadeia in Greece. Before he graduated from the department of Music at University of Ioannina, he had participated in Erasmus program at Turkish Music State Conservatory of Istanbul Technical University.
Grab a cup of coffee, put on your headphones, click on the link below and get ready to read our interview.
How do you describe your profession? When and how did you start doing it?
Music as a profession, in my point of view, is a blessing for anyone who follows it despite its difficulties and requirements such as commitment and strength to perform it -especially in tough times like the one we have been going through. Economic instability and various other stuff are the main difficulties that the musicians face with. Perhaps the worst of all is that in my country, as in many other countries, the majority considers music as something just can be done as a hobby rather than a profession. Besides, our industry must guarantee that the rights of the musicians are secured. Also, I would like to underline that performing music as a leisure time activity is a way different than doing it professionally. People should avoid underestimating this field and they should be aware of the difference between those two. A professional musician must be responsible for their object. If you have the talent, one way of doing this is moving forward in academy, for instance. Also, you can always read and expand your knowledge about music in a more broader sense.
How would you describe your Erasmus experience in Istanbul?
I had been in Istanbul Technical University in Istanbul for a short period in 2013. There is no doubt that my experience in Istanbul was one of the best times of my life. I admire Istanbul from the moment I started playing kanun so that the opportunity of performing it in the city where it is played was a remarkable thing for me. I adore both the diversity and the interaction between people. After living there, I felt like I favored it more. In particular, Istanbul Technical University impressed me with its facilities. In addition to that, the level of students who enrolled in were very high. I keep hanging out people I met there such as musicians, colleagues, locals and other citizens since they had contributed to that valuable experience. One final thing, participating to the program of “TRT” (Owned by the Turkish government) and all our daily experiences were meant to me as well.
How was your life before pandemic? How much time were you spending at work?
My life was quite good before pandemic, both financially and personally, since my country has slowly begun to recover from the severe economic crisis that has plagued us in recent years. I was taking part in various projects and orchestras. Plus, I was offering kanun lessons as well so that I had been working for long hours every day besides the time I spend for practicing. Strictly speaking, music fulfills a huge part of your daily life if you perform it professionally because we take it as a way of life instead of a regular job. Parallel to that, it turns into a vital need for the musicians to express themselves so it goes beyond the technique and theoretical knowledge in time.
In which way has pandemic impacted your professional life ? Do you work from home nowadays?
All arrangements including daily activities, concerts, orchestra rehearsals were suspended much earlier than the governmental restrictions. Nowadays, I have been continuing giving private lessons through Skype. For now, all I can do is practicing and making music at home, but that is not an efficient way for us to work. At this point, I would like to remind everyone that all art workers in the industry has been dealing with tough circumstances.
How do you cope with this whole situation? What has changed in your personal life due to pandemic?
I think everyone’s life has changed radically in this period of COVID-19, especially the ones who work are affected much more. By going under lockdown, we are forced to stay home while we had no idea about what will come next day. That uncertainty made us feel psychologically devastated. For me, a lot of things have changed due to restrictions and my personality. I was used to be outgoing and social; however, interacting with others is impossible now. That lack of interaction is the a major issue for me as a musician, who has to be in touch with people. We have to engage each other by participating rehearsals, attending live programs or in an academic environment so working from home is not the way for us.
What has challenged you the most during COVID-19?
Unfortunately, pandemic had a huge impact on musicians in all possible manners. The government hasn’t taken any action for the art workers so far so that most of the people have been struggling. As long as they will be ignored, the situation will get worse since the financial incapability will make people depressed. Above all, one of the most challenging thing for art workers is the creative process and inspiration. On the other hand, those music videos, which are created in the middle of pandemic has become a phenomenon. Thanks to such initiatives, we will be able to motivate a wide range of people with our art work.
In terms of art workers, what were the minor and major consequences of the decisions that are taken by government?
What else could have been done to protect the rights of art workers? Unfortunately, no substantive decision has been taken for the sake of art workers who are affected by pandemic restrictions. There was a granted governmental allowance, but just a few people could get benefits of it. Nowadays, there is a great deal of supportive movement by the art workers who are willing to react to that unfair situation and hopefully, we will receive those positive news that we wish to hear. The immediate financial support that will be provided by the government will help us survive until the concerts and other organizations run again.
How about #SupportArtWorkers movement? How did it all start?
“Support Art Workers” is a campaign organized by a group of talented art workers with various fields of culture. It is published on Avaaz, which is considered as the world’s largest and most powerful online petition platform. Basically, it aims to centralize the voice of citizens in political decision-making process. Avaaz refers to the term “voice” in Greek as well as many other languages that are spoken in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. In the same line with the meaning of that word, the platform mobilizes citizens from all over the world in order for them to have a voice in key national and global issues. In the light of aforementioned information, ’Support Art Workers’ movement is an initiative for collecting signatures in favor of implementing the demands of Greek workers in the wider area of culture. By collaborating, we aim to fulfill our personal and professional needs in order to be able to survive for the next few months. The pandemic and the lockdown have confronted these people with the uncertain future.
Do you consider yourself productive during pandemic times? Are you able to find that inspiration?
Inspiration is the hardest thing to get for the artists regardless of the circumstances. Fortunately, I have been passing through a creative process on my own. During the time I have been spending at home, I have performed and composed quite a lot. As the days go by, our perception towards the things have been changing and I have started thinking that we will be able to see pandemic times as an inspiring feature in our future works. I believe that we, as musicians, have been giving faith to a considerable amount of people all over the world because music is always here to keep us alive and inspired in tough times.
How do other art workers in Greece react to that challenging conditions? Have you come up with a common idea to prevent your rights?
Unfortunately, there has always been a lack of unity in art industry. To be more specified, there is some kind of an existing medium-sized unification between musicians to defend our rights and actually pandemic period is the best time to give a start for a better future for us. Art, itself, has become an extremely important matter for each of us in the course of financial, moral and cultural crisis. For instance, a major protest planned from all over the art world for this week and this is obviously a great start. One thing is for sure that those are the days that we must be taken care by the state. • Have you planned anything for the post-pandemic period in terms of your job or education? It is very difficult for me to think on my professional plans in this specific period because the future is uncertain. Nevertheless, I have been studying something about intercultural education for a while. One final word, thinking on what art means to us and the possible consequences of its absence is highly important.
As Plato once said: “Music is a moral rule. It gives the universe a soul, feathers in thought, takes off the imagination, gives joy to sadness and life in everything.”
Editor’s Note: Since the majority of art workers have become unable to get the unemployment support they need during COVID-19 pandemic, they have been struggling for survival. By conducting a series of interviews, Baklava Mag aims to inform youth around the world in order for them to come up with concrete solutions.