Alumni Nathaniel and Elena Efthimiou Receive Houghton University’s 2022 Young Alumni of the Year

October 13, 2022

The Young Alumni of the Year award is presented to recent graduates of Houghton who have had a dramatic impact on their profession, community and/or church. This year’s recipients are Nathaniel and Elena Velázquez Efthimiou.

Both Nathaniel and Elena completed their Bachelor of Music degrees in 2014 at Houghton University’s Greatbatch School of Music; Elena in Violin Performance and Nathaniel in Composition. In 2016, Elena completed her Master of Music in Choral Conducting and Nathaniel completed his Master of Music in Conducting, also at Houghton University’s Greatbatch School of Music. Nathaniel went on to complete his doctoral studies in orchestral conducting at Boston University.

Ms. Efthimiou has dedicated herself to working with youth choirs and today serves as the Associate Director of Choirs at Boston Children’s Chorus. She has led performances at such well-known venues as Harvard’s Sanders Theatre, Calderwood Hall and Carnegie Hall. Her work has allowed her to partner with vocalists including Idina Menzel, Javier Muñoz and Melinda Doolittle and movement artists including Chanel DaSilva, Jon Boogz and Lil Buck. She additionally has held artistic positions at the Aspen Music Festival, Boston Music Project and Houghton University. Ms. Efthimiou focuses on music accessibility for all people and strives to champion equity through her work as a musician and artistic administrator.

Beyond her excellence as a programmer and conductor, Ms. Efthimiou strives to bring light, hope and a sense of servant leadership into her work with children. While finding herself in a highly secular environment, she prays regularly that her work will leave indelible marks on the children with whom she works.

“Elena was a fabulous student and one of so many former students of whom I am exceedingly proud,” shared Dr. Brandon Johnson, former Houghton University Director of Choirs and current Director of Choral Activities at Eastern Michigan University. “She is a talented conductor and an incredibly capable servant-leader. I know she is able to achieve anything God calls her to pursue.”

Dr. Efthimiou is an award-winning conductor, the founding Music Director of Orchestra Contempo, Cover Conductor of Rhode Island Philharmonic, Assistant Conductor of Boston Civic Symphony and Assistant Professor at Berklee College of Music. He was recently granted an award by Georg Solti Foundation U.S. and participated in the 2021 Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition. He was the 2015 James Conlon Conducting Prize winner, had his performance of Strauss’s Don Juan featured on American Public Media’s Performance Today, and has had his original compositions featured at festivals and on television.

Like his wife, Dr. Efthimiou lives out his faith as a scholar-servant in a secular context. He strives to bring a sense of community to the ensembles he leads, not unlike the community he saw thrive at Houghton University during his studies. He seeks to galvanize a sometimes disparate group of individuals around a shared love of music and challenges them to uplift others through their talents.

According to Houghton University professor emerita of organ, Dr. Judy Congdon, “Nathaniel was an ideal student – exceptionally talented, extremely diligent, and always personable.” This diligence and talent has led Nathaniel to his incredibly successful musical career.

When current Houghton University Provost and former composition instructor Dr. David Davies ’01, reflects on Dr. Efthimiou’s time at Houghton, he remembers a student who “possessed a rare combination of innate musicality, a strong work ethic and teachability. Nathaniel was quite gifted in several musical fields, and he was in high demand as performer and conductor.”

Two key characteristics of both Elena and Nathaniel, was their humility and kindness. Though they were two of Houghton’s most talented students, they never hesitated to volunteer to assist with a variety of service-related tasks around the Greatbatch School of Music. Both during their time at Houghton and since, they have modeled artistic excellence expressed with Christ-like humility.” – Dr. Davies


Together, the Efthimious have followed the Lord’s calling into a life of service in the world of musicians. As they have lived, worked and served in their Boston communities they have seen rewarding fruit flourish as God ministers through them.

For their dramatic impact on the classical music industry in choral conducting, orchestral conducting, musical accessibility and composition, for their servant-scholar hearts that lead them to shine for Christ in a broken world, it is a privilege to award Nathaniel and Elena Efthimiou this year’s Young Alumni of the Year Award.