Migen Selmani, an Albanian violinist in the ERT Symphony Orchestra

She has been working with the Radio and Television (ERT) Symphony Orchestra for the past six years and the Orchestra of Colors since 1995. Migen Selmani, said to be one of the best violinists around, graduated from the Athens Conservatory, where she studied under Tatsis Apostolidis. She was born into a family of artists in Tirana 31 years ago. With her mother a film actress and her father a trombonist, she spent her childhood around orchestras and cinema stages. She has divided her time between Greece and Albania. «I came here in 1991 with my photograph on my mother’s identity card because I was 15 years old.» She speaks with admiration of her family, not so much because due to their occupations they were in a better position than others who lived in Albania, but because «they sought a better future for us.» Her father was the first to arrive in Greece, leaving the Tirana Radio Orchestra where he had worked. The rest of the family followed later. «Things seem simple now, but then they seemed seemed insurmountable. They sacrificed their art and did and still do other jobs than the ones they studied.» Selmani is beautiful, expressive, emancipated and integrated into the society her parents chose. «Having reached this age where I’ve spent half my life there and the other half here, I forget what it was like before. My friends are here, my relationships, my mentality, but there comes a moment when things show that you are different – your identity card, your name. The word racism has a deeper meaning than the way it is used in Greece; I attribute it to lack of information. I have had incredible love and friendship from Greeks but also the opposite. The phobia is mainly about Albania and less about others. Lots of things have happened and naturally people are frightened.» She sees a reserve on the part of traffic police officers or bureaucrats when they ask where she is from, but says «the majority of people have been welcoming.» Lifetime with a violin The fact that she plays the violin is something she owes to her father and something she never forgets. «In Albania you become a musician to make your future secure.» That is more or less how she started out at 6 years old. She didn’t like it much at first: «I saw it as oppression.» But slowly her attitude changed. At home they listened only to classical music, and she had to practice for two hours a day. «Now that I think about it, I have spent my whole life with a violin in my hand.» When she sat her entrance exams for the Athens Conservatory she was trembling with nervousness. She will never forget the man who approached and tuned her violin. «’Don’t be afraid,» he said. It was Tatsis Apostolidis. «I didn’t know who he was then, Later I learned that he was one of the best teachers and soloists; I was his student from 1998 till I graduated.» Apart from the orchestras, Selmani has played violin on many recordings (from Eleftheria Arvanitaki to Giorgos Theofanous). She worked for two seasons with Vassilis Papaconstantinou and last year with Yiannis Kotsiras, and she sometimes plays in a string quartet started by four friends. Her favorite composer is Mozart – «the misunderstood. Most people think his works are happy, but the exact opposite is the case.»