Interview with Luis Castillo-Briceño

Q: Hello, Luis! Tell us some things about you. When did you take your first music lessons? You were living in Costa Rica then.  How is life and music life and culture there?

 I was living in Costa Rica yes. I was quite small, my first music lessons were when I was 4 years old, I started studying violin then, and continued to play for 5 years before changing to flute when I was about 10 years old.
Life in Costa Rica is very comfortable and colorful I would say, weather is nice, food is great! Similar to Greece! 
Musical life in Costa Rica is not as active as here in Europe. Similar to all the region of Central America, we are a very small country, just 5 million people, so we don’t have many orchestras or recitals.
However, this is changing as new projects and orchestras are starting to develop. There is a huge amount of support going towards Latinamerican classical music nowadays.

Q:  When did you decide that you wanted to be a professional musician? 

I come from a family of musicians, already the 5th generation! So it was a given that I would become a professional musician. My parents didn’t pressure me at all, but still it was pretty obvious from the moment I started to play some notes. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else when I was a child, and nothing has changed since.

Q: Why did you choose Europe and especially Switzerland for your musical studies? Tell us, if you want, some things about your studies now.

My parents always directed me towards Europe regarding its cultural and historical importance. We would come every second summer and travel around. This together with the fact that my musical education was completely european (my music professors were Russians and Germans) made it really natural for me to find my place here in Europe. And! Beethoven lived here! Bach! I needed to come to the place were everything started.
- Regarding Switzerland, I was really fortunate to find an incredible piano professor, Eckart Heiligers, to study my Bachelor in Piano in Zürich and in such an important university such as the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste. Luckily for me the level of the conducting department of the school is one of the highest in the world. I got the chance to learn from great professors such as Marc Kissoczy and Iwan Wassilevski.
Zürich is a great city, with an incredibly dynamic cultural and musical life. One week we may have Blomstedt with the Tonhalle Orchestra, the next week is Paavo Järvi, it never stops!

Q: Have you been to Greece before the masterclass?

I was in Greece once before the Competition, it was last year with my mother. We visited all Athens’ center and also the monasteries of Meteora in Kalambaka. Just incredible! We ate a lot of Tzatziki too!

Q: How did you find out about the masterclass?

As a young conductor trying to make a career, one is always trying to find new opportunities to grow and to get to know new orchestras. This Masterclass caught specially my attention due to its organization and overall musical level. It is not very common to have such an incredible teacher, with such a high level orchestra and organization.

Q: Tell us about your experience with Mr Economou and the Athens Philharmonia Orchestra and the things you liked the most about the masterclass and generally here in Greece

Simply put, Maestro Economou is one of the greatest musicians I have had the chance to experience. It may sound like I am exaggerating, but during the whole week, I think I can talk for all of the participants, we were able to receive so much knowledge from him, which was not just important, but at the end primary and fundamental for us as musicians and conductors. 
The Orchestra was fantastic too. I haven’t seen an orchestra with such an open, kind, full of energy and always ready to work disposition in a Masterclass. To play under so many participants with such respect and professionalism was really remarkable.
Together with the maestro and the orchestra, one of the best things of the masterclass was the incredible friends that we were all able to make throughout the week. All the participants were not just incredible musicians, but also amazing people with whom a sincere companionship and friendship was created. About Greece, the people were so welcoming and nice. Together with the weather at the beach in this region of Alimos, it was fantastic.
And the food of course!! Amazing food. 

Q: How do you feel about having won the first prize in the competition?

I still can’t believe I won the first prize in fact. The thing that makes me the happiest is to have to possibility to come back next year and to make beautiful music again with this incredible orchestra. Personally, I knew since the very first note we played together that we would make amazing music together and enjoy a lot while doing it. So this is what makes me the most excited.

Q: What are your plans and your craziest dream about the future?

My plans for the future right now are just to keep on studying and growing. A lot of scores are ahead, together with hopefully a lot of projects and opportunities with different orchestras.
Craziest dream about the future, hmm, I think as any young conductor, one of our main dreams, which is quite crazy also due to its difficulty, is to get a position as principal conductor in a really important orchestra. But for now, studying, studying and more studying!