KARISSA RATZENBOECK - Violinist with The Venice SymphonyDecember 2018
This month I am delighted to profile Karissa Ratzenboeck, a two-time FASS Scholarship recipient. First in 2008 when she attended Pine View School and then again in 2009 as a student at Florida State University. Karissa earned a Bachelor's degree in Violin Performance from FSU's College of Music and is now a violinist with The Venice Symphony. She also teaches violin by private instruction and at summer music camps to students throughout Sarasota County.
Karissa has shared the stage with many great musicians and vocalists including Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Johnny Mathis, Kristin Chenowith, The Ten Tenors and Trans Siberian Orchestra, among others. She has also performed at Carnegie Hall – an exceptional accomplishment that many musicians never achieve in a lifetime of performing. How do you get to Carnegie Hall from Sarasota? Let's start at the beginning.
At the tender age of 4 years old, Karissa Ratzenboeck held a Suzuki violin in her tiny hands for the first time. It was placed there by her violin teacher Dr. Linda Vasilaki – and from that moment on, Karissa's life was changed forever. At the ripe age of 6, she was performing on stage with the Florida West Coast Youth Symphony. Then, after years of hard work and continuous practice, Karissa's dedication was rewarded when she won the Young Artists' Concerto Competition in 2006 and made her solo debut at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in 2007. Next stop, performing at Carnegie Hall as Concertmaster of the Florida West Coast Youth Philharmonic at the age of 17. When asked to describe her memories and feelings of that momentous accomplishment, Karissa recounted seeing the orchestra in place and making her entrance onto the stage alone. "I remember gorgeous gold ornamentation throughout the concert hall, the floor to ceiling curtains on the stage, the red velvet seats and the rich smell of wood from the instruments and the building itself. It was exhilarating. When you're prepared, you are not afraid or nervous. You put your heart into it and just make music."
While Karissa's parents Harald and Monika are not musical, music was an important part of their respective family histories and they made sure it was also a part of their children's lives. Karissa's brothers Marcus and Derek are also both accomplished musicians. Derek is a violinist with New York City Ballet and Marcus is Concertmaster of The Venice Symphony. Music has been a strong lifelong connecting force for these three siblings.So, what is a typical day in the life of a concert violinist? "Ideally, I spend 2-3 hours practicing on my own and 3 hours of rehearsal for performances. When I play in the orchestra for the St. Petersburg Opera, that alone can be up to 6 hours of rehearsal. Professional musicians must prepare like professional athletes do…get adequate rest, take care of our bodies and keep optimally healthy to deliver the best performance."
Asking a musician to name their favorite composer is equivalent to asking a mother to tell you which of her children is her favorite (but I did it anyway!). While Karissa stopped short of narrowing the list down to just one, I did learn that for her, Bach sonatas and partitas are the gold standard and Mozart is a perennial favorite.
And now for the Full Circle Moment: Twenty years after holding her first Suzuki violin, Karissa at the age of 24 and her childhood music teacher, Dr. Linda Vasilaki, performed together professionally during Symphony on the Sand with the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra. Since that time, Dr. Vasilaki has helped Karissa to build her own private instruction program. By teaching young musicians, Karissa can now pay it forward and honor those who helped her grow in her own lifelong musical journey – Dr. Vasilaki, Daniel Jordan, Jan and Ron Balazs, Damien Pegis, Kenneth Bowermeister, Jim Cliff, Beth Newdome, Eliot Chapo and Dr. Alex Jimenez among others. Karissa enjoys working with the next generation of musicians and helping them to find their inspiration. Her message to her students is "Don't let anything stop your dreams – even financial challenges. It's not easy to make it in the arts, but if you carry the love and persistence and determination, you will get there. Even if you fail in auditions or competitions, failure is not the end – it's part of the process on the way to success."Brava, Karissa!
Elizabeth Rose and Elaine MacMahon