A decade ago in Lima, Puru, a 10-year-old boy, Eduardo Rios, walked into a concert hall with his mother for the first time. As the symphony began to play, his attention fixated on the string section. Mesmerized by the violinists, his wide eyes studied the musicians as his ears soaked up the sound. In that moment, he knew he had found his calling.
Within four years, Rios made his solo debut with the National Symphony Orchestra of Peru. In his meteoric rise to the world classical stage, he has performed at Carnegie Hall and with the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and collaborated with great mentors in his field like French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.
Now 20, he is studying for his bachelor’s degree at L.A.’s Colburn School Conservatory of Music, while holding the title of “Concert Master” in the Young Artists Symphony Orchestra (YASO). In 2015, he won the prestigious Sphinx Competition for young black and Latino string players.
Rios will perform Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor at UCLA’s Royce Hall in a free YASO concert on Sunday, Dec. 6. Ahead of his performance, L.A. Weekly chatted with this rising star of the classical world.
What inspired you to play violin?
I actually come from a family of non-musicians. They are all music lovers. My Dad loves classic rock and is the biggest Beatles fan. My Mom loves classical music. The first thing I noticed was the violin section ... I was intrigued by it. I told my uncle, who lives in Florida, that I wanted to play violin. My uncle got me one for Christmas, I started taking lessons, my teacher noticed my talent ... it started everything.
What does a day of practice look like for you?
In Peru, the music world is not developed. So for me, I was one of “the best,” and it stopped me from doing my best because I didn’t know what else was out there in the world. They say talent is only 20 percent — the rest is work and practice that you put into it to make your talent grow. I would practice one or two hours a day in Peru. Here, in Los Angeles, there are 8-year-olds that practice four hours a day. Now I practice four. It’s very competitive here. Since I started later, I needed to catch up with the rest.
Is that physically challenging for you?
When you practice that much you have to be careful not to have injuries. If you don’t pay attention to how you’re playing, it can injure your hands. I’ll do an hour and a half in the morning and hour and a half later in the day.
You performed at Carnegie Hall?
[I played] two concerts in 2012 as part of New York’s String Orchestra Seminar under Jaime Lorado. It’s very intense. It was my first time in such a beautiful hall.
Other impressive performances in your career?
Disney Concert Hall was one of the best concert experiences I ever had, with Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting. [Also] with the Houston Symphony, it was an amazing experience. I had never played with an orchestra of that caliber.
You are “Concert Master” for YASO, what is that like?
This orchestra is very special, with artistic director Alexander Treger. His passion is inspiring. Every member is important. I lead the string section, making sure everyone is doing what the conductor wants and plays the right bowings. One of the most important thing also is I play the solos.
What have you learned from your collaborations?
Whenever I play with artists of the caliber of Martin Beaver, Clive Greensmith [both of Tokyo String Quartet], or I most recently have worked with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who is a famous pianist, I always learn so much. Their playing is so different and I always learn something new. It also teaches me to lead and be confident with myself.
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You won the Sphinx Award for $50,000, what did you spend it on?
The first thing that came to mind was a violin. The one I use is on loan, so I spoke to my teacher, and it’s not nearly enough money for a violin that is the level that I should be playing on. He suggested buying a bow. I’ll need a benefactor to help me buy the violin, which cost hundreds of thousands. [Editor's note: He's not exaggerating.]
I listen to all kinds. I love The Beatles!