They Met Through Music

Violinist Larisa Elisha and Cellist Steven Elisha Win Second Global Music Award

If you are not a classical music lover you might not have heard of the Elaris Duo. But they’re kind of a big deal. Violinist Larisa Elisha, D.M.A., and her husband cellist Steven Elisha, D.M.A., have been racking up Global Music Awards as the Elaris Duo for their classical releases, Duo Virtuoso and Duo Virtuoso II. In fact, their first CD was so popular that it sold out and was rereleased, winning another Global Music Award last May.

Even more interesting is that the New York born Steven Elisha met the Azerbaijan born (part of the old Soviet Union) Larisa Elisha when they were both string professors at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. They started rehearsing a piece by Hungarian composer, Zoltán Kodály, and they have been together ever since. They admit it is their favorite piece.

“We have to claim that one, because that was the one we began working on together when we first met,” said Steven Elisha. “It was kind of like our first date. So that has a real special place in our experience together.”

“The Kodály duo is an absolutely incredible work and so emotionally charged,” said Larisa Elisha. “And for us it is very special.”

Expanding String Studies at Georgia Southern

Currently, Steven Elisha is head of the string area, director of orchestras, conductor of Georgia Southern Symphony Orchestra and professor of music. Larisa Elisha is associate professor of music and coordinator of upper string studies.

The Elishas arrived at Georgia Southern in 2011. Since their arrival, the string program at Georgia Southern has truly blossomed. Several students initially followed them from Washburn, and international string students have been choosing Georgia Southern specifically because the Elishas are here.

“The quality of musicians that we are able to graduate has greatly developed,” said Steven Elisha. “We have a wonderful success rate of many of our music education students being able to graduate and immediately finding employment and becoming really important teachers in the area, which is so badly needed.”

“For example we have the Strings at Southern Chamber Music Festival,” said Larisa Elisha. “So we’re trying to involve as many students from Brunswick, from the Golden Isle Youth Orchestra, from the Savannah Armstrong Youth Orchestra, from places in Florida, from different schools in Atlanta. And that has been a really helpful program because it brings high school students on campus. It’s important when they have a chance to come on campus. Once they see it they love it.”

“The other thing I think we can see is a renewed excitement from our community,” said Steven Elisha.“ And there has been a very huge increase in scholarship opportunities for music students as a result.”

Touring the World Through Music

Both Elishas have performed extensively worldwide as both individuals and as the Elaris Duo. They have appeared frequently on NPR, and about a year and a half ago, they returned from a lecture/recital and master class tour of Israel, including performances at the University of Haifa and the Jerusalem Academy.

“They invited so many different people to these recitals,” said Steven Elisha. “Composers, musicologists, other musicians. And it was just fascinating to get their feedback and the questions that they were asking.”

“And young composers would say, ‘oh, I am writing a piece right now,’” said Larisa. “Could you explain the techniques you used? It was really interesting how they were taking ideas from my performance and putting them immediately into their studio work. So that was exciting.”

Watching them perform together is exciting too, and their technique is quite breathtaking. Falling in love while playing makes for very beautiful music. — Liz Walker