R: It’s interesting actually now because there is a big influence in the UK on pop music at the moment by folk music with bands like Mumford and Sons and Bellowhead. As young people take on different influences they bring something fresh to music we though dead and buried and rejuvenate them. In the past big record companies pigeon-holed music into categories which they thought would sell and were therefore easy to market. This is Jazz, this Classical, this Folk, this Rock and Pop etc. Anything that fell between they weren’t really sure about. So what happened next.
M: When I was eight years old we had to move cities so that I could study accordion in this music school which was supposed to be really good, and then I had a really good teacher, Mrs. Maryte Markeviciene, for ten years and I also learnt this sense of hard work. I would go to her house every day when I was 13 or 14 all through the summer when the school was closed. She would be in the garden or cooking and I would be playing in the background with the window open and eventually we would have a lesson even though she had already heard what I was practising. It was a great time and I started seeing the results of my work so then we started doing competitions which were quite successful and interesting for me because up until then I hadn’t been anywhere. So then we went to Italy many times to all those competitions many of which were not very big but to me they were. I always had the plan that I would study at the Lithuanian Music Academy but then I was encouraged to try something else and I found London and came here.
R: The London Effect! I always said that if a young accordionist captured the public’s imagination in the UK it would rocket the accordion back into the spotlight if not globally at least in the English-speaking world. London is a great city for that to happen in. There is so much going on here and one is competing against so many art forms for attention.
M: When I first came here I was really struggling; the language, financially, no friends, I had to create a new social circle. There are some things about London I hate but whenever I leave I miss it. Someone did tell me that if I did make in in the UK it would be easier to make it everywhere else. Yes there’s the potential of going global. It’s going to be released in Germany in September then in Asia, then the USA. So many different cultures. There are a lot of marketing things we do like for example for Korea I have to record a Korean song. Not sure when it will be released in Italy.
R: I suppose Italians as other Europeans can buy it on the internet easily so release dates are maybe less important as long as they are aware the album is there.
M: Actually on i-tunes you can download it and get digital bonuses not on the CD and I recorded Bach Fantasia and Fugue especially for that bonus. I’m kind of sorry it didn’t go on the main album but people downloading it automatically get it.
R: So London has been a positive experience would you recommend taking the route you took to London and the Royal Academy of Music young accordionists? I ask this as someone who would have loved this to have been an option for me when I was a school-leaver but it wasn’t back then.
M: It’s tricky to answer that. I still get asked, “S you are a musician, but what do you do for a living? And advising people to study is quite a responsibility because there is a lot of trouble like when I finished at the RAM I wanted to carry on studying there but couldn’t afford it, I couldn’t get sponsorship, but if it works out for you and you follow your own path way you make a career then it’s the most exciting thing. I didn’t study anywhere else but I don’t think there is anywhere else quite like the Royal Academy of London that can prepare you as well for the modern classical accordion then you can do what you want with it. You are an accomplished musician and you choose the ways to represent you and your music. It’s so important to get this classical training and I’m really glad I came to London because I don’t think I would have succeeded as much anywhere else. It’s not just about the education it’s also about the city that it’s really tempting.
R: And you are competing against other musicians not just other accordionists to get noticed.
M: I get asked that all the time…would I recommend studying in London and I always recommend it. It’s a pity though that the Academy does not give that much importance yet to the accordion. It’s not a big department. There’s still something to achieve in that field. I hope it will change soon.
R: Well maybe they’ll have to take notice now with your success and value what they have more. I suppose my last question to you is about your next album. The “difficult second album” as it’s often referred to. What would you like to do?
M. Well we’re still a long way from playing all the musical genres that I love because the first album is just one side of the story, the second album I suppose will be something similar, maybe hopefully a little more…I can’t promise anything yet but I have some ideas. It will be a variety of things. People will be able to pick whatever they like from the album. It’s important to reach as wide an audience as possible. For the future I know what I would love to do; I’d love to do some really serious take on classical and contemporary music, maybe chamber music, maybe Bach, Piazzolla, Gubaidulina, I don’t know. It depends on negotiating with the record label and my manager because they are quite influential in my choices. In the Last week in august I am doing doing Accordion Music Week in Christopher Summer Festival in Lithuania. It’s the second year. Last year I invited Ksenija Sidorova and Alexander Kolovski from Macedonia. This year I didn’t have the opportunity to invite anyone from abroad but we are doing lots of projects with local accordionists. The opening concert will be in the Astronomy Museum in a very high tower in glass capsule and it will be very exclusive for only sixty-odd people. We will do Gubaidulina’s Silencio and finish with some John Cage. The idea of the concert is one of gradually diminishing to silence and spacing out into the cosmos. Then we’re doing only Tchiakovsky music. There’s a lot in my head that I would like to gather together and it’s a matter of getting together and discussing things.
R: Well I wish you a lot of luck with all your projects and thank you for sparing the time in your busy schedule for giving Strumenti&Musica this Interview. I’m sure everyone who loves accordion will be hoping you will be the one to make this breakthrough into the mainstream…I’m don’t want to put too much pressure on you…
This article is available also in: Italian