Rocking the Octaves: Musical virtuoso is a musical anomaly

Equally comfortable with opera and rock and roll, Alexander Kariotis is a classically trained tenor and a rock musician. "It's the drama and emotion of classic operatic arias and the electricity and vitality of rock and roll," he explains about his commitment to both. "I have integrated several elements from both types of music, including vocals and instrumentals, to form this new genre."

As a child in a suburb of Chicago, Kariotis grew up listening to his parents' Big Band music and taking piano lessons. But it was singing with his older brother's rock band, Gambler, at the age of 12 that set him on his journey. "My music continues to be influenced by my brother, Tony," says Kariotis fondly.

It was the early '80s when Kariotis toured with Gambler, and also, oddly enough, had the chance to hear Luciano Pavarotti sing. Deeply inspired by the world-famous opera tenor, Kariotis auditioned and won a scholarship to study at the Mannes conservatory of Music in New York City. Dan Marek, a tenor who sang at the Metropolitan Opera, took Kariotis under his wing.

Mr. Marek "was a great mentor and teacher, a wonderful man," recalls Kariotis. "I learned a great deal from him about opera and about being a musician." Meanwhile he
managed to keep his hand in pop music by flying back and forth from Los Angeles to sing backup with his brother, who was then recording for Warner Brothers.

After completing his studies at Mannes, Kariotis received a full scholarship to pursue graduate work in music at UCLA. There he was recommended for the Enrico Caruso Competition in Italy, where he was a semifinalist.

Alexander has had the tremendous opportunity to work with acclaimed opera coach John Wustman, who was also Pavarotti's accompanist, In Italy with Pavarotti's teacher Arrigo Pola and with Gianni Raimondi, a renowned operatic tenor. With them, he learned the original Bel Canto technique and the art of singing as an Italian tenor.

"You can only imagine how unbelievable it was to study with these opera masters in the same place great composers lived and created these manuscripts, "confesses Kariotis.

He returned to America with the passion to fuse his two loves: rock and opera. Northwestern gave him yet another full scholarship to do his Masters in Voice, and he received stunning reviews for his role in the Tony award winning Broadway play "Master Class" by Terrence McNally. But his greatest achievement during this time, he says, was meeting his wife, Aimee Willis, an operatic soprano.

Writing his new style of music was the inspiration for his first one-man show, Holdin' On, which premiered at the Laurie Beechman Theater in New York. It has since been performed to packed houses Off-Broadway and in New Jersey and LA, and is now under consideration by several theaters around the country.

With his band, the Rock Opera Orchestra, Kariotis unites the fans of both of these genres with his magnetic personality and the innovative music he writes. His brother
Tony, who passed away from Lou Gehrig's disease, continues to influence Kariotis, both as a musician and as a mentor.

Susan King, Matters Magazine
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