I'm Harris Shilakowsky. I was born in Boston, so I'm a native New Englander.
Violinists learn to traditional folk songs and 'classical' music. I'm a child of the 60's, so my listening and hence My Music combines elements of rock and pop and jazz and classical, and a bit of contemporary stuff...electronica, rap, and a taste of country that I must have picked up when I was working in Nashville. I perform as a member of groups...small ensembles, large ensembles like orchestras, and as a soloist.
I do a lot of arranging for strings because I also play a ton of weddings and my brides and grooms ask me to play popular songs but on string instruments. I'm mostly known as a violinist. Conductors and critics have commented on my sweet tone, which is what I've always taken the most care producing. My teacher at Yale used to say, (he was concertmaster of the Boston Symphony) that the BSO 'never plays an ugly note'. Well...sometimes I need an angry sound, so I will admit that occasionally, in the interest of being real, I'll do something gritty and tough, but I do believe in creating sounds that you would want to listen to...
I studied piano with my mother, Rina Shiller beginning at age 5. Then I began violin at age 9. I played organ in my teen years, mostly blues and rock, while performing with orchestras like Springfield Symphony and Portland Symphony in Maine. I sang in my Junior High chorus and tried acting in the school musical…While I worked on my undergrad degree at New England Conservatory of Music, I played violin with Wes Riley’s jazz band. Went to Yale University for a master’s degree, I spent a year off working as concertmaster of the Orquesta Sinfonica de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
After I graduated from Yale, I got into the first violin section of the Buffalo Philharmonic & then the Nashville Symphony, where I also was a session musician, then skipped around from Grand Rapids, New Orleans, Charleston SC, and London Symphony orchestras. I heard that you could make good money playing for touring shows, so I played for a number of musical theater production companies, touring in Germany and the US and working in theaters in Boston, Providence and NYC.
As a pro, I’ve backed up people that I listened to in my own childhood...Rod Stewart, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, Moody Blues and touring & recording with other great singers and entertainers. I started composing in high school, but was inspired to compose more after playing in the Boston Pops under film composer John Williams.
As a free-lancer, I backed up musicians like Rod Stewart, Pavarotti, Moody Blues, Charlotte Church, the Irish Tenors, Bobby Vinton, KD Lang, Johnny Mathis, Smoky Robinson, Sarah Brightman, Anne Murray, Linda Ronstadt, a boat-load of opera singers and ballet dancers and jazz and rock musicians. So my influences are wide-ranging. They come from all the music I played in the rank n file and as an occasional soloist, chamber musician and band member.
I will be continuing to write more original pieces and songs and recording them... and arrange more songs for strings and voice and other instruments.
A Hard Learned Lesson
My latest project was hiring musicians as the Personnel Manager and Concertmaster of a new contemporary series of concerts in Newport, Rhode Island. I was very proud to have been selected by the music director, Paul Van Anglen, to help him make this festival a great new addition to the cultural scene in Rhode Island. I was also excited to be performing the beautiful, haunting Violin Concerto by Alban Berg as soloist for the series! However, during rehearsals with the top professional musicians of New England, who I carefully chose...each for their unique virtuosic talents and abilities, we, the professional performers, discovered that the director of the series wasn't trained as a conductor. The music he had chosen was particularly difficult, and so his lack of ability was transparent to all of the others on-stage. After stumbling through 2 concerts, the second of which needed to have a replacement conductor, as the director couldn't conduct the music correctly, being both un-educated and under-prepared, we came to rehearsal, only to find that the 'conductor' was missing. We found out that he was canceling the remaining 4 concerts of the series. Evidently, on top of a lack of professionalism, the 'president' and 'conductor' also hadn't raised and put aside the money necessary to pay everyone their professional fees.
My own personal history includes 9 years of running a professional chamber orchestra, which was called the Bristol Chamber Orchestra. I founded that group, assembled a board of directors, endeavored to raise the money necessary to pay all of the concerts' expenses, programmed the repertoire, purchased and/or rented sheet music and built a library of music.
My past experience founding and operating organizations has taught me much. Good lessons in how to manage and coordinate resources and people. Result: performances and educational experiences for young people who will continue to perpetuate these traditions. I learned this summer everything to avoid. And most importantly, to include the professionals in decision-making and the process of creation. After all, this is what we are trained to do. This is why its no coincidence that at least half of the people that I determined to be qualified to performance challenging contemporary music hold Phd's and Doctorate degrees in music.
Together with a team of legal, marketing, and administrative specialists, we musicians will create a new collaborative that will inspire audiences and students as we tour the New England States.
I love my work teaching students of all ages. Each of my students has different interests and needs, so I figure out what they need and what they like and assign the music and studies that will help them reach their personal musical goals.
Sheet Music for Gigs & Original Compositions
For gigging musicians...especially string players, You can check out my arrangements on this website or at the Sheetmusicplus.com website. I'll be publishing more arrangements (sheet music) and recordings to this website. Sign up for my mailing list and I'll let you know as things become available! You'll be the first to know, actually! In fact, I'll give you a free download when you sign up to the mailing list for my newsletter (and don't worry...I won't ever send out a newsletter more than every 2 weeks...and more likely just once a month).