Zoi Tsokanou, the first woman ever to be appointed as head of a prestigious music institution in Greece such as the Thessaloniki State Symphony Orchestra, remained at the wheel of TSSO from 2017 until the end of 2022.
Reminiscing the years of her stint, in addition to several remarkable artistic achievements, she treasures the bonds she crafted with the people of the Orchestra, with whom she maintained a close daily contact for six whole years, on a multiple
level: musical, artistic, but also personal. “Many times I still see them in my sleep,” she shares with us, praising the positive impact of this connection.
She hails TSSO as “a great orchestra that will keep evolving” and wishes its people, both the artists and the administrative staff, to make a habit of traveling abroad so as to get acquainted with the modus operandi of international orchestras and come up
with the ways on how to follow their footsteps in Greece.
“Openness and extraversion is what I wish for everyone involved,” she stresses, while adding that “noble competition helps you evolve” and that “inquisitiveness is life-giving”. Administrative tasks are definitely not among the things she misses from her six-year stint. “You learn how to cope with it along the way, but seeing it from a distance now I am honestly wondering how I managed to get on top of things.I feel like a ton lighter, now,” she humorously says, as she never stopped to progress and evolve as a musician, despite the heavy workload she assumed both in the artistic and the administrative field. “There would be no point in taking on such a post if I were forced to make compromises. I embarked on this adventure as an artist and I was not willing to lose that quality along the way. Therefore, I had to invest a lot of time and show a great deal of patience.”
Following this professional marathon, she takes a break to enjoy life as a freelancer, taking part in concerts around the globe. “That’s what I need right now. After all, my career as a maestra kicked off long before my TSSO period, it kept going at that time and it continues its course as we speak.” In winter 2023, Zoi Tsokakou performed at London’s Royal Opera, Norway’s National Opera, Barcelona’s Symphonic Orchestra, Geneva’s Grand Théâtre, while also making her music debut in Mexico, an experience she classifies as one of the greatest in her career.
In Xalapa, the capital of the state of Veracruz, she joined forces with Mexico’s most time-honored orchestra. Xalapa, often labeled as “Athens of Veracruz”, is a city blessed with an abundance of historical heritage and culture, full of fascinating museums, and home to one of the most renowned universities of the country. “People’s response was touching. The audience was engrossed in music, ‘well trained’ and enthusiastic. People were expansive and giving, triggering a surplus of motivation for the musicians,” she explains.
The current year has been generous so far for Zoi Tsokanou, who never rests on her laurels, always in search of new challenges and new music crushes. She plans to take a more keen interest in opera and musical theater, two genres she adores, while also flirting with the contemporary repertoire, which she finds fitting to her identity as a musician and is likely to serve as the main pillar for the upcoming season. She does not hesitate to say that she would accept a similar post to the one she held at TSSO, as long as her duties were exclusively focused on the artistic branch and not the administrative section. Unfortunately, that is not the case in most cultural institutions in Greece.
“Such a post is of great importance as you can build on it and evolve through a prestigious institution. It should be pointed out that these tasks are fully separated in other countries,” she explains. Zoi Tsokanou, apart from her trips for professional purposes, is currently splitting her time between Switzerland, where she’s permanently residing with her family, and her birthplace, Thessaloniki.