Getting to Know You: an interview with Summer Music Institute Violist, John Kastelic

2012 Summer Music Institute John Kastelic, Viola

We've survived week one of the Summer Music Institute!  I had a chance to quickly catch up with one of our students, Violist, John Kastelic.

John received a B.Mus degree in composition and music scholarship at UBC, studying viola with David Harding. As a violist and violinist, he plays a wide variety of music, ranging from classical music, to country fiddling, to tango, to experimental improvisation. He plays viola in the Black Dog String Quartet, as well as in two experimental rock bands, The Living, and Strength of Materials. He is an alumnus of the 2006 National Youth Orchestra of Canada. Always excited to learn new instruments and music, he is also a member of the Balinese Gamelan Gita Asmara. John lives in Vancouver and is an enthusiastic cyclist, enjoys reading books in hammocks, and likes spending free time in the garden.

AW:       What got you interested in Music?
JK:  Big question! My mom is really musical, and she'd often take a break from looking after the house by sitting down at the piano and playing through some Debussy. My two older sisters played piano before I was old enough to play, and that got me even more interested. I didn't want to play the same instrument as them though, so I jumped at the chance to play violin instead. When I was 15 or 16 I made the switch to viola, because the only violist in my youth orchestra skipped town. Since I was the violinist with the longest arms, I got the gig.

AW:       What is your favorite instrument?
JK:  The viola, naturally! I also really enjoy the voice, because everyone has one and it's super portable. I'm not much of a singer, but I've been spending a lot of time lately learning how to put them together -- to sing and play viola -- and that's been an incredible exercise for me!

AW:       What are you most looking forward to during the Summer Music Institute?
JK:  Mostly, I'm interested in playing with other young people and seeing what they're up too, how they're expressing their musicality in a culture where musical boundaries are being torn down left, right, and centre.

AW:       What are you most looking forward to while in Ottawa?
JK:  I don't know much about Ottawa, so I'm looking forward to exploring it a little. I might get a cheap bike during SMI, to be more free and mobile. Biking around is the best way to get to know a city, I think.

AW:       What is your favorite thing to do when you’re not practicing?
JK:  I just mentioned biking. Even though I rarely ride for pleasure -- I'm usually commuting somewhere -- biking is one of my favorite things to do. I also really enjoy cooking vegetarian food and find there's something relaxing about being in the kitchen. Lately, I've also been hard at work building bicycle-powered sound sculptures with some dear friends in Vancouver. Yepp, that's right, pedal-powered instruments made out of recycled bike parts! I've been having a ton of fun grinding, welding, and generally improvising these things into existence. A couple of our instruments were featured at the Vancouver International Children's Festival, which just wrapped up at the beginning of June. We'll be expanding our collection over the summer, and we've received an art grant from Burning Man to take them down to Nevada at the end of August.

AW:       Is there something that acts as an inspiration to you?
JK:  The biggest inspiration and encouragement for me right now is seeing people my age taking charge of their art and their communities in imaginative, DIY ways. That sounds abstract, but here are some recent things I've seen happening around me: a neighbourhood free library, a weekly community sauna, classical musicians pushing genre and technical boundaries (string players singing!), free and mobile yoga sessions, house concert series'...

AW:       Top three songs you just can’t stop listening to lately!
JK: a. Curtis Mayfield -- Get Down 
b. The Melvins -- Your Blessened 
c. Fats Waller -- Dream Man