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Life & Work with Katerina Rakestraw

Today we’d like to introduce you to Katerina Rakestraw.

Hi Katerina, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I started playing viola at age 11 in my middle school orchestra. My amazing school orchestra teacher Earl Kuutti, who I had the huge fortune to have as a teacher until I graduated high school, pushed and encouraged me to try out for different extracurricular opportunities. I played little gigs and had a few music students as a high schooler, then got a bachelor’s and master’s in music performance and have been working ever since. I got to where I am today by prioritizing inventiveness and hard work- I come from a family where my parents were always self-employed, so to me, it seemed the natural course to start my own business and chart my own path.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
It has absolutely not been a smooth road. In high school, I remember it was hard to even convince my guidance counselors that it was possible to go to college to study music. I transferred schools after my first year in college at what I thought was a dream school, moving 800 miles closer to home and having to completely start over in a new environment (that wound up being the best thing I could possibly have done, honestly, but at the time I didn’t feel that way.) In my mid 20s, I fought several years of a chronic injury that threatened to end my career and it wasn’t until I figured out a good combination of treatments that I started to really thrive as a musician. Even that is a journey of highs and lows, ups and downs, feasts and famines.

Then, fast forward to 2020 and, you know. But I’ve always persisted, and it’s so encouraging to see live music starting to come back, kids starting to have more opportunity, and the phone starting to ring again.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a freelance musician and teacher of viola and violin. I am probably most known as a wedding music coordinator. I’ve sold sheet music I’ve arranged all over the world, including in countries like New Zealand and South Africa, and have performed with platinum selling recording artists on their tours. I’m most proud when I can bring music into someone’s everyday life and show them the beauty and relevance of classical music and classical instruments. I’ve played for 40,000 people in arenas and for homeless neighbors on city streets. I believe that music is for everyone.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
Definitely! As far as finding a mentor goes, if you are a young music student I recommend asking your major teacher if they have a graduate of their studio they think would be a good connection. I have done some mentoring for students about to graduate from my college and it’s wonderfully rewarding. In life, if you’re just starting out in a creative field, tell people what you’re up to. You never know who may be interested in participating in your film, who may need music for an event, or who may want to collaborate in some way. With regards to networking in general, it just takes practice to get used to interacting with strangers on that level. But always be ready with a business card and always be able to succinctly introduce yourself and ask others questions about themselves. Being engaging in those conversations is a huge key.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Angie Webb
Emily Jones
Rob Hereth
Rustic White Photography

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