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The Mandolin in Turkey : with Bülent Yazici

Bülent Yazici was born in 1977. He’s a medical doctor and a nuclear medicine specialist in Ege University Medical Faculty, Izmir, Turkey. He discovered mandolin in the middle school when he was 14 years old. After high school, he won the Medical School of Ege University and started the career on medicine. He became a medical doctor in 2002 and a nuclear medicine specialist in 2008. I worked as a nuclear medicine specialist in several different cities and returned to Izmir in 2014. He learned and developed to play mandolin with my own effort. He play as concertmaster in Izmir TOBAV (Turkey Opera and Ballet Foundation) Mandolin Orchestra which has been established in recent years.

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How did you meet the mandolin?

I met the mandolin in the middle school when I was 14 years old. In fact, block flute was taught in the music classes, but our music teacher was sometimes playing mandolin during the lectures. I loved the sound of mandolin and got one. I developed some basic skills on mandolin play through my teacher’s assistance for a few months. Unfortunately, this elementary effort could not be sustained after a short while as I started high school in a different city.  Later, I did not meet anyone who played mandolin for a very long time until recent years.

How is your activity organized around the mandolin?

I usually play mandolin myself and make records at home. I like to play classical (mostly baroque) music such as mandolin concertos of Vivaldi, some movements of Bach’s violin sonatas/partitas and cello suites and some pieces of R. Calace. And, I am dreaming to play Bach’s Chaconne and of course advanced solo mandolin pieces of R. Calace.

I spend most of my time on my profession, I nevertheless also play mandolin in a mandolin orchestra (Izmir TOBAV Mandolin Orchestra) once a week. It cannot be counted as a very professional orchestra perhaps, but a good and decent one.

I will continue my medical career as a practitioner and researcher, but I am aiming to spend more time for playing mandolin, rejuvenating it to be more than a side hobby.  

Can you tell us about the history of the mandolin in your country?

Just after the declaration of republic in 1923 and establishment of secular modern Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, education system has been modernized and the conservatories have been established. Many great composers, conductors and virtuosos of many instruments other than mandolin have been graduated from these schools. Although the mandolin taught has never existed in the conservatories, mandolin had become a main instrument in normal elementary and middle schools between 1930s and 1960s. Even mandolin orchestras had been established in the middle and high schools in those times. Later, the interest in mandolin playing declined and unfortunately, mandolin was almost completely out of the scene after 1980s. For this reason, most of those few people playing mandolin today are music teachers who have learned mandolin in their childhood before 1970s and they are mostly older than 60 years old. I am 42 years old and I think very very few people, who are younger than me, play mandolin in Turkey.  
In recent years, there have been some pleasing developments about mandolin in Turkey. In the city Izmir, some mandolin players, mostly music teachers such as mentioned above, have come together under the roof of “Turkey Opera and Ballet Foundation (TOBAV)” and established a mandolin orchestra that I am a part of for a year. Today, it is the biggest mandolin ensemble in Turkey.  Some smaller mandolin ensembles have also been established in Izmir and some other cities (Ankara, Eskisehir, Denizli, Edirne, Bursa, etc.).  However, to further sustain and enhance such activities and ensembles, a sound encompassing base that allows the new generations get acquainted with mandolin should be formed. I hope that mandolin will become more popular in my country.

What is the position of the mandolin currently in your country?

Mandolin had been widely used in the music lessons of middle schools between 1940s-1970s but today, unfortunately it is not a popular instrument in Turkey.

How has the mandolin and its repertoire evolved in your country?
What is the most played repertoire in your country?

The repertoire of mandolin consists of some tangos, waltzes and the arrangements of some classical music pieces and Turkish classical and traditional music.

Where is the mandolin taught?

Unfortunately there isn’t other than some individual lessons.

If you had to choose a word that represents or defines the mandolin, which would it be?

I forget the troubles of routine life while playing mandolin.