Seven-year-old Amira Abouzahra is wowing Europe’s classical music world with her virtuoso performances
By Omneya Makhlouf
A mira Abouzahra stands on stage with violin tucked neatly beneath her chin and bow at the ready, waiting for her cue from the pianist. The experience of her 20 concerts is evident in her poise, and the invitations lined up to perform at international venues next year are evidence of her talent. An impressive feat for someone who barely reaches the top of the piano her mother accompanies her on. For you see, this violinist virtuoso is only seven years old.
Born in December 2005 to Egyptian pianist Ahmed Abouzahra and Hungarian pianist Nóra Emödy, Amira has been surrounded by music all her young life.
“Amira would listen to music when she was in the womb,” says Abouzahra. “In 2005, her mother and I performed and toured, having a total of 120 concerts that year. So naturally, when she was born she immediately developed a musical ear.”
Amira’s musical talent became apparent at age 4, when she took part in the open days at the Music School in Mannheim, Germany, where the family lives. The school holds open sessions to let children of all ages meet teachers and try out different instruments. Amira tried the cello but, as her father explains, the teacher did not captivate her. The violin teacher was the one to grab her attention; “he knew how to deal with children,” her father says.
Emödy recalls her daughter fell in love with the violin after a few lessons and is still one of her teacher’s most remarkable students until this day. “I’m glad she’s doing well and that she loves it,” says Emödy, “it’s not important that she becomes a child protégé, the important thing is that she spends time with music and enjoys it.”
In her video interview with Egypt Today, Amira made it clear it’s not just making music that she enjoys. “I love playing at home, on stage and in school,” she says. “My favorite is on stage when people clap for me, and when my mommy and daddy clap for me.”
From the very beginning, her parents noticed Amira’s ability to create beautiful sounds with the violin, which Abouzahra points out is not an easy task. Any time guests would visit, Amira would quickly run to her room, get her violin, and show off her talents to the visitors.
During the interview, Amira got her violin and played a Fritz Kreisler composition called “Preludium and Allegro,” which she learned three weeks prior and now plays by heart.
“It’s a natural experience for her to play in front of an audience. She has no stage fright whatsoever,” explains Abouzahra. “If you were to tell her to play on the roof, she would gladly do it!”
Amira’s calling is the violin, but that doesn’t stop her from practicing the piano with her mother on a regular basis. Most of her performances have been solos with her mother on piano, and her repertoire focuses mainly on the neoclassical genre of music.
Her talents are winning recognition from the musical community. In January, Amira took first prize at Germany’s Young Musicians competition, and she has won several other awards in her short career. Recently she was granted a scholarship from the Sparkasse Bank to take extra violin lessons and perform throughout Germany. “In October I’ll play in Germany and Hungary, and in February, I’ll play in Oman,” Amira says.
This month, Amira is also traveling around Germany with a group of young musicians to meet and play with famous composers of classical music.
Amira’s mother manages Amira’s schedules, practices with her, and meets with musicians who would like Amira to accompany them in performances. Emödy says that she feels no pressure managing her daughter’s professional life: “I really enjoy playing with her on many occasions.”
Still, she hadn’t planned for Amira to become so successful so she had to make some adjustments to accommodate this, like stepping back a little in her career. Emödy says this doesn’t bother her at all: “I’ve had enough concerts in my musical career, and I’m going to have more in the future, so I’m not losing anything if I spend more time with her now.”
Alongside her musical career, Amira attends a regular elementary school like any other child — with a little extra attention, perhaps. Abouzahra says that school officials constantly ask her to play for school events such as plays, concerts and assemblies. Amira admits this makes her feel she is special among her peers and boosts her confidence as a performer.
You might assume Amira’s musical career would consume the time she need to study, and it’s true that her violin practice takes up two to three hours a day, but Amira, now in third grade, has been a consistent straight-A student.
Abouzahra explains that Amira is already used to working so hard at the music school that it was pretty basic for her to study and excel in her subjects, including German and math, which is closely related to musical theory and rhythm. He believes that when you increase musical activity, you increase the person’s ability to learn, making it an automatic process of growth.
Amira isn’t missing out on a social life either. “Luna, Alyssa, Marissa, Zoy, Lea, Marianna, they’re all my friends,” she says, enthusiastically listing her playmates. For fun, Amira says she likes to teach her little sister, five year old Mariam, to play violin, adding “I like to draw and play tien tae [German for self defense martial arts].”
Abouzahra notes a well rounded lifestyle is important so Amira does not develop resentment towards music or feel as though she missed out as a kid.
As keeper of Amira’s schedule, Emödy says, “I give her time for developing, to make sure she gets everything she needs.”
Her parents are also making sure Amira and her sister stay connected to their multicultural roots. The girls are trilingual, speaking Arabic with Abouzahra, Hungarian with Emödy and German with everyone else. Since Amira was born, her parents have tried to bring her to visit Egypt at least six times a year, but with the political situation in the country, Amira hasn’t visited Egypt since the 2011 Revolution.
The cultural connections extend to Amira’s music as well. On Abouzahra’s Youtube account is a clip of Amira playing a piece by contemporary Egyptian composer Aziz El- Shawan.
The proud parents admit they don’t know what the future holds for Amira, but they have very high hopes. “If one day she comes and says ‘I want to do something else’ I will support her,” Emödy says. “But I don’t think she’ll say that,” she adds in laughter.
Recently, Amira started to dabble with the piano and the violin, composing small parts of songs. Who knows,she maybe the next Aziz El-Shawan. et
You can see some of Amira’s performances on her father’s Youtube channel “Ahmed Abouzahra.”