Music and theater are in her heart and soul. Marika Countouris, a Greek-Italian Pittsburgh native who moved to D.C. to attend Catholic University of America's prestigious musical theater program, joined Visitation this year as director of both the chorus and Madrigals and vocal director for the spring musical; she also offers private piano and vocal lessons to students. Marika first became familiar with Visitation while working at Gonzaga College High School as musical director for their shows (this year will be her fifth), getting to know our students who were performing on the Gonzaga stage.
When she learned of the opening at Visitation, Marika was excited to bring a "breath of fresh air" to the chorus and Madrigals program. With a background in both classical and contemporary music direction and vocal performance, Marika is a perfect fit.
"Everyone is so nice and welcoming," said Marika of what she loves best about Visitation. "I know everyone is busy, but that doesn't affect [the students] ... They're such young professionals to be able to do that."
She feels it's important for both chorus and Madrigals to be fun for the girls. "We work a lot with doing things a cappella that aren't; I take my hands away from the keyboard. I train them to watch a conductor, which isn't usually something they learn at the high school level," she said. Her ultimate goal is to encourage students "let go" of their papers once they know the notes: "Trust yourself."
Patience & Humility
As a teacher - and someone who works in theater - Marika finds patience to be a much-needed Little Virtue. After spending time with her students during her day jobs at Visitation and Gonzaga, Marika works on local shows as an actress and musical director. Much of rehearsal time, she says, is just waiting for it to be your turn.
Humility is also important. Marika sees it in the girls here, and it is evident in their collaborative attitude. "No one is 'the best,'" she said.
Being a Role Model
"I think it's important to have a woman working with a young, female ensemble," said Marika. She works to bring her full self when working with her students.
She shares her favorite music with them. "Winter Song" by Sara Bareilles, which the Madrigals performed at the Visitation Christmas Concert, was a new challenge for the girls as a contemporary piece. "I arranged it for them with their voices in mind, and they were excited about it, because it was something I was excited about too," she said.
Marika also tells them what she's up to beyond the gates of Visitation. "Being a musician is my life," she said. Whatever shows she's working on, however late rehearsals go, she tells the stories of what it means to turn what they love into a career.
Two shows she worked on this year were nominated for 2019 Helen Hayes awards. 'Aida' at Constellation Theater was nominated in the category of music direction, and Marika worked as its associate musical director. 'Brooklyn' with Monumental Theater Company was nominated for outstanding production and outstanding ensemble, and Marika played the part of both musical director and a member of the ensemble.