Florida Folklife Program
Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: George Soffos
George Soffos - 2011 Florida Folk Heritage Award
George Soffos was a widely recognized master of the bouzouki, a distinctive Greek guitar that is similar to the mandolin and belongs to the lute family. A valued member of the large Greek community in Tarpon Springs, Soffos upheld the proud heritage of the bouzouki player as custodian and guardian of traditional musical culture. The bouzouki is regarded as the preeminent instrument of traditional and contemporary performance, requiring a delicate touch, subtle ornamentation, and command of both the lyrical traditions of Grecian music and the urban traditions of the bouzoukia, or Greek night clubs. Soffos became a student of the bouzouki when, at 15 years old, he was sent to study with John Tatsapoulos, a master of the instrument. After that, he played in the bouzoukia of Washington D.C., New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, Nashville, and countless other cities, both in the U.S. and abroad. Upon returning to Tarpon Springs in the late 1990s, Soffos became one of the most sought-after performers at local festivals and nightspots. He was a mentor and supporter among the community of younger performers, and taught through the City of Tarpon Springs Greek Arts Initiative, which encourages the preservation and practice of Greek community arts. George Soffos passed away in 2013.