News & Stories

Vojin Kocić: A Life for the Guitar

In 2015, Serb Vojin Kocić became the first guitarist to win the Prix Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes. He talks to us about his musical ambitions, and what the guitar means to him.

Vojin Kocić, what does it mean to you to have won the Prix Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes 2015?

Vojin Kocić: The Prix Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes is the biggest prize I've won in my career up to now, so of course it really means a lot to me. For one thing, because of the impressive standard at the final in Geneva and the exciting way that different instruments and line-ups come together to compete. For me, it was very interesting to see where the classical guitar – as a relatively young instrument – stands, compared with instruments such as the piano or the violin. For another thing, winning the prize means I get the chance to perform at the prestigious Lucerne Festival in Summer. It's fantastic to see my name alongside all those great musicians that will play there. The prize money will also allow me to keep focusing totally on my music and on practicing. I might even use it to buy myself a new guitar.

How did you prepare for the final in Geneva?

Whenever I take part in a competition, for me it's all about the passion and the fun. Music isn't a sport. Ultimately, the jury decides. On the stage, I try to relax, and play with all my heart and soul. If I can do that, then I've achieved my goal – however the jury rates my performance at the end of the day.

When did you discover your love of the classical guitar?

My dad is a big fan of rock music. When I was little, he used to play me CDs by Jimmy Hendrix and Gary Moore. I was hooked, and I used to imitate the rock stars and their tricks – playing the electric guitar with my teeth, for example. It was through my mum, who often played piano at home, that I first experienced classical music. I had my first classical guitar lesson at the age of eight – and I fell in love with the instrument straight away. So, my parents had a big influence on my decision to devote my life to the classical guitar, and they've always supported me wholeheartedly. I'm enormously grateful to them for that.

How many hours a day do you spend practicing and preparing for concerts and competitions?

I play every day – but how many hours, on average, I don't know. Often I'll take my guitar and get away from it all by immersing myself in the music and losing myself in it. Time no longer matters. But when I have to prepare for exams or concerts, I'm a bit more organized about it, and I'll draw up a plan. But these days, there's a lot more to being a professional musician: You kind of have to be your own manager, send numerous emails, and draw up concert programs. Music is my life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Everything I do is connected to music.

You're currently studying for your Master's degree at Zurich University of the Arts. After your basic training in Serbia, what made you decide to come to Switzerland to continue your studies?

I took part in my first major competition in Serbia at the age of 14. The jury was made up of many of the big names from the classical guitar world. After that, I got lots of invitations from schools all over Europe – London, Paris and Cologne, for example. But, at such a young age, I didn't feel ready to leave my familiar surroundings to go and study music abroad.

Soon, though, I started to feel that I wasn't making much progress. I wanted to do more than just play in exams. I realized that, if I wanted to become a professional musician, I would need to perform regularly in front of a wide audience – and on an international stage. There simply weren't the opportunities in Serbia. So, at the end of my first year at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade, I got in touch with Professor Anders Miolin, who teaches at Zurich University of the Arts. I flew to Zurich and was immediately impressed by his personality, his philosophy, and his style of teaching. After that, I turned down the entrance exams to various other European schools of music and decided to continue my studies in Zurich. That was in 2011, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Do you see any differences between the status of classical music in Switzerland and in Serbia?

The audience for classical music in Serbia is very small. There aren't as many festivals and concerts as in Switzerland. You don't hear much about it in the media, either. There are lots of talented Serbian musicians in the field of classical music, but most of them go abroad to pursue their ambitions because of a lack of development opportunities. I hope that I can do my bit to promote interest and appreciation of classical music in Serbia. The story of me winning the Prix Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes has been reported on national TV and in the Serbian press, for example, which makes me very proud.

Can you imagine yourself staying in Switzerland, once you've finished studying?

Definitely. I've been living in Zurich since 2011, and I have to say that it's become my home. I've made lots of new friends, and I feel really comfortable. I owe Switzerland a great deal. I've had my greatest successes since I've been living here. Continuing my studies here was the right decision at the right time in my life.

Have you got any firm ambitions, in terms of your musical career?

I'll be finishing my Master's degree at Zurich University of the Arts in June. Then I want to start studying to teach music in the fall semester – still here in Zurich. After that, maybe there will be an opportunity to stay and teach in Switzerland. I'd also like to compete regularly in major competitions. My ultimate goal is still to devote myself entirely to music, to keep discovering the guitar and getting to know it better in all its facets.

Are there any major educational or musical milestones on the horizon between now and your appearance at the Lucerne Festival in August?

2015 is going to be an exciting year for me. I'm going to be recording my first CD in Paris in the next few months, as part of the prize for a competition I won a little while ago. At the time, I didn't feel I was ready for the challenge. But winning the Prix Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes has given me the self-confidence I needed to take on the project. Anders Miolin will be with me for the recording, supporting me and giving me the benefit of his experience. There's a competition coming up in Koblenz at the end of May, and I finish my Master's degree in June. In early July I've got two orchestra concerts, where I'll be playing Joaquín Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" – one of the most famous classical compositions of the twentieth century. I'm particularly looking forward to these concerts, because the classical guitar itself isn't an orchestral instrument, so I very rarely get the chance to play with an orchestra. My program at the Lucerne Festival on August 20 will consist of a variety of specially selected pieces, which I'll be playing on the CD and at the aforementioned concerts.

When did you discover your love of the classical guitar?

My dad is a big fan of rock music. When I was little, he used to play me CDs by Jimmy Hendrix and Gary Moore. I was hooked, and I used to imitate the rock stars and their tricks – playing the electric guitar with my teeth, for example. It was through my mum, who often played piano at home, that I first experienced classical music. I had my first classical guitar lesson at the age of eight – and I fell in love with the instrument straight away. So, my parents had a big influence on my decision to devote my life to the classical guitar, and they've always supported me wholeheartedly. I'm enormously grateful to them for that.

How many hours a day do you spend practicing and preparing for concerts and competitions?

I play every day – but how many hours, on average, I don't know. Often I'll take my guitar and get away from it all by immersing myself in the music and losing myself in it. Time no longer matters. But when I have to prepare for exams or concerts, I'm a bit more organized about it, and I'll draw up a plan. But these days, there's a lot more to being a professional musician: You kind of have to be your own manager, send numerous emails, and draw up concert programs. Music is my life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Everything I do is connected to music.

You're currently studying for your Master's degree at Zurich University of the Arts. After your basic training in Serbia, what made you decide to come to Switzerland to continue your studies?

I took part in my first major competition in Serbia at the age of 14. The jury was made up of many of the big names from the classical guitar world. After that, I got lots of invitations from schools all over Europe – London, Paris and Cologne, for example. But, at such a young age, I didn't feel ready to leave my familiar surroundings to go and study music abroad.

Soon, though, I started to feel that I wasn't making much progress. I wanted to do more than just play in exams. I realized that, if I wanted to become a professional musician, I would need to perform regularly in front of a wide audience – and on an international stage. There simply weren't the opportunities in Serbia. So, at the end of my first year at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade, I got in touch with Professor Anders Miolin, who teaches at Zurich University of the Arts. I flew to Zurich and was immediately impressed by his personality, his philosophy, and his style of teaching. After that, I turned down the entrance exams to various other European schools of music and decided to continue my studies in Zurich. That was in 2011, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made.

Do you see any differences between the status of classical music in Switzerland and in Serbia?

The audience for classical music in Serbia is very small. There aren't as many festivals and concerts as in Switzerland. You don't hear much about it in the media, either. There are lots of talented Serbian musicians in the field of classical music, but most of them go abroad to pursue their ambitions because of a lack of development opportunities. I hope that I can do my bit to promote interest and appreciation of classical music in Serbia. The story of me winning the Prix Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes has been reported on national TV and in the Serbian press, for example, which makes me very proud.

Can you imagine yourself staying in Switzerland, once you've finished studying?

Vojin Kocić: Definitely. I've been living in Zurich since 2011, and I have to say that it's become my home. I've made lots of new friends, and I feel really comfortable. I owe Switzerland a great deal. I've had my greatest successes since I've been living here. Continuing my studies here was the right decision at the right time in my life.

Have you got any firm ambitions, in terms of your musical career?

I'll be finishing my Master's degree at Zurich University of the Arts in June. Then I want to start studying to teach music in the fall semester – still here in Zurich. After that, maybe there will be an opportunity to stay and teach in Switzerland. I'd also like to compete regularly in major competitions. My ultimate goal is still to devote myself entirely to music, to keep discovering the guitar and getting to know it better in all its facets.

Are there any major educational or musical milestones on the horizon between now and your appearance at the Lucerne Festival in August?

2015 is going to be an exciting year for me. I'm going to be recording my first CD in Paris in the next few months, as part of the prize for a competition I won a little while ago. At the time, I didn't feel I was ready for the challenge. But winning the Prix Credit Suisse Jeunes Solistes has given me the self-confidence I needed to take on the project. Anders Miolin will be with me for the recording, supporting me and giving me the benefit of his experience. There's a competition coming up in Koblenz at the end of May, and I finish my Master's degree in June. In early July I've got two orchestra concerts, where I'll be playing Joaquín Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" – one of the most famous classical compositions of the twentieth century. I'm particularly looking forward to these concerts, because the classical guitar itself isn't an orchestral instrument, so I very rarely get the chance to play with an orchestra. My program at the Lucerne Festival on August 20 will consist of a variety of specially selected pieces, which I'll be playing on the CD and at the aforementioned concerts.