Berkeley to Syros: Kairos Youth Choir returns to International Festival of the Aegean

Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything.  ~ Plato

In July 2011, the Kairos Youth Choir realized its dream with their first appearance in Greece at the International Festival of the Aegean on the island of Syros. Following months of fundraising, including a grant received from the Elios Charitable Foundation, Kairos, once again, was invited to return to participate at the 13th International Festival of the Aegean July 16-31, 2017.

The music Festival was founded in 2005 by Greek-American conductor Peter Tiboris, attracting world-class musicians, dancers, and actors from dozens of countries. It has become a summer destination for lovers of the arts from Europe and beyond.

Tenor soloist Dr. Chris Vitakes, Kairos Youth Choir, Director Laura Kakis Serper.
Kairos Youth Choir Agios Ni​k​olas performance featured on YouTube

Kairos performed a varied program of treasured sacred choral music classics in several languages including Latin, Greek, Swahili and Russian. Included in their offerings were Greek folksongs, “To Ekklisaki, arranged by Tikey Zes, and the program closed with the timely song made famous by Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World”. After a moving experience of youth united on positive themes, the children shared an encore which brought audiences to their feet, the Greek National Anthem. In addition to the Sunset Concert program, the children of Kairos sang with the adult choirs in Mozart’s Coronation Mass and also performed Puccini’s “Humming Chorus” in the fully staged production of “Madame Butterfly”. Dr. Chris Vitakes, a long-time member and president of Oakland’s Ascension Cathedral Liturgical Choir was also featured as a tenor soloist and tour chaperone.

Laura Kakis Serper, Peter Tiboris, and Arkadi Serper.

Kairos is under the direction of Kairos Founder and Executive Director Laura Kakis Serper and Kairos Pianist and Composer Arkadi Serper. Their son, Emile Serper, composed a choral piece when he was age 10 which was recently published, “Ave Maria, A Prayer for the Earth”. Now returning to the Festival of the Aegean at 14, Emile’s “Ave Maria” was also offered by the choir.

“The experience of traveling to Greece is truly a life-changing event,” said Ms. Kakis Serper. “Our focus was on providing the opportunity for young singers to experience firsthand through Greek music, history, art, and food, the part of their own heritage that connects back to the cradle of civilization; the ancient culture where values were incredibly right and the whole society was centered around things that truly matter.

“In other words, this was not only a concert tour about growth as young musicians. On this epic journey, we also wanted our children of American culture to touch the land where thousands of years ago, their idols in mathematics, philosophy, and democracy offered their talents to better all of humanity. Seeing the Acropolis and Poseidon’s Temple, tasting artfully crafted Greek delicacies, swimming in the sea and even dancing Greek dances with locals in a taverna — these are only some of the highlights which formed a unique community with the 50 people on this unforgettable musical tour,” she added.

“In these times of challenge and difficulty for our youth, to me it is a true honor to be creating positive memories with the cultural heritage that belongs to us all. Thanks to our gifted team of staff and parents, the joy of completing such an Odyssey with our children successfully will remain in our hearts forever. Most of all, we are deeply grateful to our sponsors at the Elios Charitable Foundation and our private donors for making this possible.”

Ms. Kakis Serper has vast experience directing children’s choirs, and she received her degrees from the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music as well as attended Westminster Choir College, and the Aspen Music Institute. Her Greek heritage inspired the name of the Kairos and its choruses. Her Greek folksong choral arrangements have been performed in festivals throughout the US, including Carnegie Hall.  She is also the Director of Choral Music at The Crowden School where her choirs have performed with the San Francisco Symphony for three seasons, most recently in Orff’s Carmina Burana. Ms. Kakis Serper was recognized at the California State Senate for over 20 years of excellent musical service to the community through Kairos Choir programs.

Mr. Serper received his music education in Russia at the Gnesin State Musical College and Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory. He continues a distinguished career as a pianist, composer and music educator. Mr. Serper is Director of Piano and Composition Music Theory at The Crowden School, and teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory in the Preparatory Department. He has written many choral compositions for Kairos Youth Choir, some of which have been published through the Henry Leck choral series. As an acclaimed composer, his symphonic and chamber compositions have been produced by several major orchestras. As a pianist, he continues to perform concerts, both as a soloist and a chamber musician, and often serves as a pianist for the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.

Greek American conductor, music director, and producer Peter Tiboris has enjoyed a worldwide career for more than 40 years of which the past 30 have been in New York City as founder and artistic director of MidAmerica Productions, which has produced concerts in Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall (now called David Geffen Hall), and Alice Tully Hall in New York; the Festival of the Aegean in Syros, Greece; performances series in Vienna, Austria, and Florence, Italy; and concerts throughout Europe and the United States. Maestro Tiboris is also the founder of the Manhattan Philharmonic, Elysium Recordings, and most recently, MidAm International.

In 2011, the Festival was named “Best cultural organization operating in the wider region of Greece” by the Awards Committee of Music Critics of the Union of Greek Theatre and Music Critics, based in Athens, Greece. In December 2014, the Festival was awarded the Gina Bachauer Award as Festival of the Year. For more information about the International Festival of the Aegean, visit

To view Kairos Youth Choir’s performance at the International Festival of the Aegean’s Sunset Concert, visit YouTube link


Kairos Youth Choir provides a superb musical education and the exhilarating experience of performing beautiful, complex choral music and musical theater. Kairos choristers, girls and boys between the ages of 7 and 15 learn choral music from the finest traditions of classical, jazz, gospel, and world folk music sung in their original languages. Founded in 1990, the Choir has appeared in many community, civic, and cultural events, including the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Berkeley Opera, and the Mark Morris Dance Group, and the California Bach Society. They have sung internationally, at Tivoli Gardens in Denmark, and concerts in Scandinavia, and Tuscany, Italy, in 2008, as well as the Festival of the Aegean in Syros, Greece in 2011 and 2017. Auditions for children to join this fun and inviting choral community are currently underway. For more information about Kairos and its upcoming concerts, visit



Email the author: Frosene Phillips

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