Interview with Rossitza Milevska
During the preparations for the Jazz Harp Festival & Academy in the Fall, the iJHF interviews French/Bulgarian jazz harpist Rossitza Milevska by e-mail.
What are your current activities as a jazz harpist?
My current activities as a jazz harpist are with my jazz trio 'Milevska Trio'
We have some great summer concerts and jazz expériences during the jazz festivals as Jazz a Juan, Jazz in Segur or Jazz a Toulon and the concerts for the Soirées Estivales Conseil General. This year we won the jazz compétition Tremplin musik contest, the jazz edition in Antibes, so it was a part of our price to have a concert during the Festival Jazz in Juan 2013.
We also spent a few days in the studio, to make some new records of our compositions.
When did you start playing the harp, and do you remember why?
I started playing harp 22 years ago. It was a chance for me that the harp teacher in the School of Music was looking for a new student. I was a classical pianist but I was interested in learning more…so I went to my first harp lesson just to see how it would be and how I would feel about it.
The feeling at the end of my first lesson was so great and I decided to continue playing the harp.
Who was your teacher / were your teachers?
I started studying with Professeur Malina Christova and Kohar Andonian, later I went to France to study with Elizabeth Fontan Binoche (classical harp) and Robert Persi (jazz piano and jazz harp)
Which music did you grow up with?
First of all I was a classical piano student so I grew up with classical music.
When I was a child I also loved the songs from the different cartoons: at first Russian’s and later some of the Disney’s -then I discovered the album Thriller of Michael Jackson and I was so impressed … At the same time I appreciated Ella Fitzgerald’s songs or her duets with Louis Armstrong, I discovered the Broadway musicals like Cats or Cabaret…I adored the musicians like Stevie Wonder, Brian McKnight, Earth ,Wind and Fire, Chicago, Steps ahead, some great jazz musicians as Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Oscar Peterson, Nat King Cole….etc .There are a lot of musicians that inspired me…
When did you start to include jazz influences in harp your playing and why?
I think I started when I was 17 years old. I wanted to play some old tunes and jazz standards on the harp …so I needed to know if it would work ☺
Did you have trouble to find your place and function in a jazz band with the harp?
No,it gives you some great possibilities and a kind of freedom.
I think that the jazz band is something very spécial and important for the musician : to find your place, to exchange with the other musicians, to play and feel the music, to have fun…so 'let’s play with the jazz band' –I adore it!
Which (jazz) musicians inspire you most?
J.S.Bach, Chopin, Debussy, Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau, Avishai Cohen...even Take 6
What do you think about when you improvise? Do you think about harmonies and form while playing, or do you rely on only ears & flow?
First of all,I need to be sure about the harmony of the piece so it gives me the freedom later to know where I want to go or where I should not go. When you know the form and the harmonies, it gives you the different ways to go through the piece. It's like you may tell us a story but you have so many ways to do it… and you have the freedom to choose which way to go .
How do you practice?
I need to work on some classical exercises, then I work on a classical piece and then I play some jazz standard. Sometimes I play jazz exercises written for other instruments and I try to adjust it to the harp.
What are you trying to improve these days?
There are a lot of things to do in jazz on the pedal harp so I am trying to develop and make the harp more comprehensible for the people and show them all her inspiring possibilities.
Are you working on a new CD? And how about your last one?
Yes, we (Milevska Trio) are almost ready with the next one and I hope I could bring it with me for the Jazz Harp Festival in Leiden.
What are your plans for the years to come?
I hope that I can continue doing all the things that I love to do : to create, to play, to teach, to learn and to share the beautiful music and this great instrument –the harp.
Do you have any advice for beginning jazz harpists?
I adore when somebody tells me that something is impossible….when you want something, you have to believe it and then you can make it.
Can you give us a little scoop about what you want to give our students at the Jazz Harp Festival & Academy this Fall?
I am so happy to be a part of the Jazz Harp Academy with so many great harpists and musicians there.
So you should come and we will learn how to feel, how to create, how to improvise and how to have fun with the music: that’s why we say 'to play' the music ;)