Zhani Ciko is an Albanian famous musician and conductor. He was born in Gjirokastra on December 8, 1945. His father Mihal Ciko was an opera singer, choir master, who graduated from the "Giuseppe Verdi" Conservatory in Milan, Italy. His mother was a university professor. The well-known Albanian composer Nikolla Zoraqi received his first violin lessons at the age of five from his uncle. After graduating from the Artistic High School, Zhani Ciko continued his studies at the State Conservatory of Tirana for violin. After graduating in 1967, he started working as a solo violinist and Concert-Master in the Opera and Ballet Theater Orchestra and the Albanian Philharmonic. At the same time he also worked as a violin lecturer at the Higher Institute of Arts. During this time Ciko interpreted for the first time some of the major works of Albanian violin literature.
In 1970, at the age of 25, Ciko was appointed Artistic Director of the Opera and Ballet Theater in Tirana, a position he held until 1973, when he was banned from performing on the stage by the dictatorial regime of the time and sent to work as a music teacher in Patos, a small town near Fier. This led to the termination of his artistic career for a long period. During his time in Patos, Ciko worked hard to enliven the artistic life of the city, thus being respected by the ordinary citizens of this city. In 1979 he returned as a violin teacher and then as the Director of the Jordan Misja Art High School in Tirana. At that time, in collaboration with the Institute of Pedagogical Studies, he conceived and developed the basics of pedagogy in art schools across the country. In 1989 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Symphony Orchestra of the Albanian Radio Television. In addition to intensive activity with his string orchestra, Zhani Ciko has also conducted master classes in Italy, France, Hungary, etc.
Ciko is a permanent member of several international juries in Albania and abroad. In the late 80's he formed the string orchestra Young Virtuosos of Tirana, with which he quickly achieved great success. Under his direction the orchestra has won the highest awards of the country in the May Concerts, in the Competitions of Music Schools, etc. Since the first tours in 1989 in Austria, Italy and Greece, he achieved success outside Albania. He is then invited to other activities in Spain, France, Slovenia, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. As conductor of the Young Virtuosos of Tirana orchestra he has participated in Karynthische Sommer (Austria), Aix en Musique (France). At the Balkan Festival in Greece the orchestra was recognized as the Best Ensemble, while in April 1996, at the Pro Archi International Festival in Hungary, it won the First Summa Cum Laude Award.
In May 1997 he was again awarded first prize at the European Music Festival in Belgium, and in the same year undertook a tour in Germany, appreciated by both the public and local critics. With the string orchestra he produced 3 videocassettes, as well as 3 CDs in collaboration with Austrian firms. Various radios, such as ORF, DRS, Slovenian Radio Television, Hungarian Radio Television, as well as the radios of the Vatican, Bavaria, Switzerland and Sweden, have broadcast concerts of this orchestra. From 1989 to 2003 Zhani Ciko was the Artistic Director of the Symphony Orchestra of the Albanian Radio and Television (RTSH). With this orchestra, as well as with the Prishtina Philharmonic, he has made a great number of recordings, giving a great contribution in overcoming the cultural isolation of Albania.
As conductor of the orchestra Zhani Ciko has also collaborated with various soloists in Albania, Italy and Austria, as well as with choral ensembles in Austria, Spain and France. In 1998 Ciko undertook another tour in Sweden with 18 very successful concerts. In the same year he founded the first ensemble of New Music in Albania with which he performed some of the works of the VII Festival of New Albanian Music.
Another success of Zhani Ciko was his participation in the Music and Youth Festival 2000, in Vienna, where the orchestra he conducted was awarded the First Prize for string orchestras and the Grand Prize of the Municipality of Vienna. In 2003 Zhani Ciko was appointed Director of the Opera and Ballet Theater. As the most important Albanian musical institution, this theater achieved great progress under its direction, meeting European artistic standards and collaborated with the most famous theaters in the world such as the Rome Opera Theater, the Fiorentin Musical Theater, the Giuseppe Verdi Theater Trieste, the Marseille Opera, the Vienna Musical Theater, the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb, and numerous theaters and opera houses in the United States.