Oboist Konstantinos (Kostas) Tiliakos has always enjoyed dipping his toes into all manner of pursuits: He’s had his Pink Floyd and Genesis stage, his writing and editing stage, his mountain climbing stage, his shrimp protein stage –yes, that’s right, shrimp protein. That would be the research he did as an undergrad biology major at National Kapodistrian University in Greece, where he was born and raised.
In the end, as with so many of us, it was the impressions from childhood that remained: the memories of hearing Strauss and Beethoven on the record player at night, his father helping his children to nod off. “I remember sleeping with that soft music,” Tiliakos says. Today, those melodic lines continue to inspire him, as he joins the SOM this fall as visiting assistant professor of oboe, replacing Marc Fink, who retired this past spring.
Kostas Tiliakos has been principal oboe in the Greek National Opera Orchestra in Athens since 1997, where he previously held the solo English horn position. An avid lover of contemporary music, Tiliakos has been a member of the Hellenic Ensemble for Contemporary Music since 1990 and has premiered and recorded many works by contemporary composers, often dedicated to him. He has also recorded solo and chamber music pieces on Wandelweiser (Germany), Lyra and Irida Classics (Greece) labels and has been broadcast on radio and television throughout Europe. Internationally, he has appeared as a soloist throughout Europe, Africa, Canada and the US. Tiliakos has also been a successful teacher as many of his students hold currently positions at orchestras, bands and conservatories.
Tiliakos has studied with oboists Didier Pateau (Paris), Claude Chieulet (Athens), Paul Dombrecht (Brussels), and Hansjörg Schellenberger (Germany) and holds a BA in European Cultural Studies. In addition to performing, he has spent considerable time as a music writer and critic with the largest media organizations in Greece, including the National Geographic Society in Greece.
Along the way, he decided to take an academic break from his job at the Greek National Opera and pursue a sabbatical to the US. In 2002, Tiliakos had met Marc Fink, then professor of oboe at UW-Madison and president of the International Double Reed Society, at a IDRS conference. He immediately loved Fink and his “American” sound, once considered rounder and less reedy than those from Europe, and subsequently applied to study at UW where he received a Paul Collins Wisconsin Distinguished Fellowship. In 2012, he earned a master’s in oboe performance and began work on a DMA, but unbeknownst to him, Fink was making retirement plans. After Fink made his announcement and the search started for a replacement, Tiliakos was selected for the job. His official title will be visiting professor of oboe, and he will also become the newest member of the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, which performs all over the state of Wisconsin and will play in Madison on November 21 at Mills Hall.
Tiliakos’s wife Anastasia, a cellist and doctoral student in musicology at Greece’s Ionian University, is also here in Madison, as are their two young children Ellie and Nick.
Fink calls Tiliakos “rather unusual in his background, having studied with both French and German teachers growing up.”
“In the process of learning the ‘American style,’ he has adapted his style of reedmaking and worked very hard,” he adds. “He is a wonderful artist and teacher and I am delighted that he will be teaching oboe here next year.”
For his part, Tiliakos, who plans to climb the craggy hills of Devils Lake State Park and cruise Madison’s bicycle paths, is thrilled to have the opportunity to expand his musical boundaries and grow as a performer. “All this exchange makes you rich,” he says. “The American educational system is more open, and different ideas are really important for a musician.”
“It’s a fulfilment of a dream,” he continues. “It’s a great school, a great program, a great university. And I really like the weather.”