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30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2013 edition
By
Robert Rowat

Published

August 1, 2013

Genre

Compiled and written by Robert Rowat and Michael Morreale.

Canada is well represented at the international level by some of the world's top classical musicians. Angela Hewitt, James Ehnes, Ben Heppner, Marc-André Hamelin, Measha Brueggergosman and Yannick Nézet-Séguin perform regularly in the most prestigious concert venues and as guests of today's leading orchestras.

But before these artists reached the top of their fields, they logged countless hours in the practice studio, seized every opportunity to perform in public and invested time and money in lessons and coachings, all with the ultimate — and elusive — goal of establishing a career as a professional classical musician.

Who are our next classical music stars? We surveyed Canada's conservatories, music competitions and professional training programs, and today we pay tribute to 30 Canadian classical musicians under 30 who are making their mark. They range in age from 8 to 28, and we think they're amazing.

1. Gordon Bintner (baritone)

Age: 25
From: Regina, Sask.
Hot because: The last 12 months have been huge for Bintner: he won first prize and the People's Choice Award at the 2012 Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Competition, and in May he made his debut with L'Opéra de Montréal singing Lescaut in Massenet's Manon. We think he looks too sweet to portray womanizing Don Giovanni, but Bintner says it's his dream role.
Upcoming:
- February 2014, Toronto, Ont.: the role of Don Alfonso in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte with the COC's Ensemble Studio.

Gordon Bintner won first prize and the People's Choice Award at the 2012 Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Competition.

2. Kevin Chen (piano)

Age: 8
From: Edmonton, Alta.
Hot because: The only under-10 entry on our list, Chen is the youngest person to attempt his ARCT exam at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He placed first in his age group at the national finals of the Canadian Music Competition in Sherbrooke, Que. Oh, and he's also a composer currently polishing off his first symphony.
Upcoming:
- Oct. 5-6, Abbotsford, B.C.: Mozart concerto with the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra.

Kevin Chen is the youngest person ever to attempt his ARCT exam at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

3. Ji Soo Choi (violin)

Age: 18
From: Oakville, Ont.
Hot because: Choi was awarded the grand prize at the Canadian Music Competition in the 19-30 category. Not bad for an 18-year-old! She will be attending the Juilliard School in the fall where she'll be able to show off her violin's pink, bedazzled mute and pink shoulder rest.
Upcoming:
- May 3-4, 2014, Oakville, Ont.: Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 with the Oakville Chamber Orchestra.

Si Joo Choi was awarded the grand prize at the 2013 Canadian Music Competition in the 19-30 category.

4. Nikki Chooi (violin)

Age: 24
From: Victoria, B.C.
Hot because: Chooi nabbed the $40,000 first prize at the 2013 Michael Hill International Violin Competition in New Zealand. The Boston Globe called him “a model of taste and tonal refinement.” And just take a look at that 1700 Taft Stradivarius, valued at $5 million, on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts.
Upcoming:
- Nov. 27, Chicago, Ill.: recital, Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series, Chicago Cultural Centre.

Nikki Chooi won first prize at the 2013 Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

5. Cameron Crozman (cello)

Age: 18
From: London, Ont.
Hot because: Crozman took home $15,000 as winner of last year's Michael Measures Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts. He currently studies at the Paris Conservatoire. He's awesome, but don't just take our word for it, listen to a live recording of Crozman playing the Dvorak Cello Concerto last season with National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
Upcoming:
- Feb. 12, London, Ont.: Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 with Orchestra London.

Cellist Cameron Crozman won the 2012 Michael Measures Prize.

6. Aviva Fortunata (soprano)

Age: 25
From: Calgary, Alta.
Hot because: We want to be Fortunata's BFF. A member of the COC Ensemble Studio, she believes a night at the opera is "an amazingly cathartic experience." She's also a passionate fan of CN Power, a Toronto roller derby team, and has her own nail polish blog. We predict a bright future.
Upcoming:
- Aug. 17, San Francisco, Calif.: the role of Elsa in a scene from Wagner's Lohengrin in the Merola Grand Finale at the War Memorial Opera House.

Aviva Fortunata hails from Calgary.

7. Wallis Giunta (mezzo-soprano)

Age: 27
From: Ottawa, Ont.
Hot because: In addition to her ravishing voice, arresting stage presence and — let's be honest — stunning looks, Giunta is a singer with smarts who seeks out unique and challenging projects. For instance, in June she sang the role of Tiffany in John Adams' I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.
Upcoming:
- Nov. 11 to Dec. 7, New York City, N.Y.: the role of Countess Ceprano in Verdi's Rigoletto with the Metropolitan Opera.
- January to February 2014, Toronto, Ont.: the role of Dorabella in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte with the COC.

In June 2013, Wallis Giunta sang the role of Tiffany in John Adams's I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.

8. Andrew Haji (tenor)

Age: 28
From: London, Ont.
Hot because: Last November, Haji placed second in the Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Competition. While his beautiful Mozart singing makes people stop in their tracks, his claim to fame was performing the title role in the U of T's production of Rob Ford, the Opera in 2012.
Upcoming:
- February 2014, Toronto, Ont.: the role of Ferrando in the COC Ensemble Studio production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte at the Four Seasons Centre.

Andrew Haji performed the title role in the U of T's production of Rob Ford, the Opera in 2012.

9. Keith Hamm (viola)

Age: 25
From: Rosebud, Alta.
Hot because: Even though he's busy with his job as principal violist of Toronto's Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, Hamm made time this summer to organize the first Rosebud Chamber Music Festival in his hometown. Also, his idea of happiness is playing hockey on his dad's backyard rink.
Upcoming:
- Aug. 4, Rosebud, Alta.: chamber music by Haydn and Dvorak at Rosebud Church.

Violist Keith Hamm's idea of happiness is playing hockey on his dad's backyard rink.

10. Daniel Hass (cello)

Age: 16
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: While he says he "feels like a regular kid most of the time," he also says "an ideal day for me would be four hours of practising." It'll be all cello and clam chowdah for Hass when he begins studies in September at the New England Conservatory, on scholarship, of course.
Upcoming:
- May 30, 2014, Toronto, Ont.: recital at Alliance Française.

Cellist Daniel Hass is a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music.

11. Nadia Kyne (flute)

Age: 27
From: South Surrey, B.C.
Hot because: A graduate of both the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School, Kyne has been assistant principal flutist and piccoloist of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra since 2011. She also teaches at St. James Music Academy, an after-school program for children from low-income families in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
Upcoming:
- Sept. 28, Vancouver, B.C.: season opening concert of the VSO at the Orpheum Theatre.

Nadia Kyne studied at two of North America's most prestigious music schools.

12. Vincent Lauzer (recorder)

Age: 25
From: Montreal, Que.
Hot because: Lauzer has won practically every competition open to recorder players and was named Espace musique's "révélation" for 2013-14. He makes you listen to the recorder with fresh ears, and is the next big thing on Canada's baroque music scene.
Upcoming:
- Oct. 11, Montreal, Que. (followed by performances in Spain and Belgium): soloist with Arion Baroque Orchestra.

Vincent Lauzer is one of the most highly regarded young recorder players in classical music today.

13. Bénédicte Lauzière (violin)

Age: 23
From: Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Que.
Hot because: Lauzière dazzled us when she came to our Montreal studios in February for a recording session. A student at New York's Juilliard School, she has played concertos with the Kitchener-Waterloo and Quebec symphony orchestras. We're impressed by her commitment to chamber music.
Upcoming:
- Feb. 26, 2014, Montreal, Que.: all-Brahms chamber music concert at Bourgie Hall.

Bénédicte Lauzière began by studying music at McGill University's Schulich School of Music.

14. Kerson Leong (violin)

Age: 16
From: Ottawa, Ont.
Hot because: Leong recently represented Canada at Concertino Praga in the Czech Republic and received an honourable mention for his efforts. He has appeared as soloist with the Toronto Symphony, Montreal's Orchestre Métropolitain and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. Plus, he plays a nifty 1705 Guarnerius violin.
Upcoming:
- Nov. 10, Alzenau, Germany: Rising Stars recital at Alzenau Castle.

Kerson Leong is one of the youngest artists on our list.

15. Jan Lisiecki (piano)

Age: 18
From: Calgary, Alta.
Hot because: He’s got what every aspiring pianist wants: a busy international touring schedule, an exclusive major record deal and critical acclaim. Lisiecki’s Proms debut last month was praised in The Guardian for his “exceptional maturity and poise.”
Upcoming:
- Aug. 8-10, Stratford, Ont.: solo recital at Stratford Summer Music.
- Aug. 25, Warsaw, Poland: Chopin and his Europe International Music Festival.
- Sept. 29, London, England: solo recital at Wigmore Hall.

Jan Lisiecki has been described by the New York Times as "a pianist who makes every note count."

16. Christopher Mokrzewski (pianist/vocal coach/conductor)

Age: 28
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: He’s a man of many hats. Mokrzewski balances his time and talents between duties as resident conductor of Calgary Opera, music staff at the Canadian Opera Company, music director of Toronto's Against the Grain Theatre and as a solo and collaborative pianist. Hats off to him.
Upcoming:
- May 2-8, 2014, Calgary, Alta.: conducts Britten's Rape of Lucretia with Calgary Opera's emerging artists at Arrata Opera Centre.

Christopher Mokrzewski's busy schedule sees him exploring his musicality through many different outlets.

17. Simone Osborne (soprano)

Age: 26
From: Vancouver, B.C.
Hot because: Osborne's day planner is getting a lot of action these days. A former CBC Next! artist, the rapidly rising star has made recent debuts at Carnegie Hall and with Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel. The New York Times praised her voice's "creamy, sweet top register and an arrestingly dark lower range."
Upcoming:
- October 2013, Toronto, Ont.: the role of Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème with the Canadian Opera Company.
- February 2014, Toronto, Ont.: the role of Oscar in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera with the Canadian Opera Company.
- March 1-2, Vancouver, B.C.: Strauss and Beethoven with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

The past few years have seen soprano Simone Osborne make many operatic debuts.

18. Marko Pejanovic (piano)

Age: 13
From: Bloomingdale, Ont.
Hot because: Earlier this year, Pejanovic competed in, and won, the senior categories at the Kiwanis Festival of Greater Toronto, and was awarded the President's Trophy. We love his attitude: “You don’t really feel your fingers play. It’s your head that’s controlling all of this, and your heart, and [that] makes it beautiful.”
Upcoming:
- Aug. 3, Niagara on the Lake, Ont.: solo recital at St. Mark's Anglican Church.

Pianist Mark Pejanovic has an mature approach to music despite his young age.

19. Slavko Popovic (clarinet)

Age: 18
From: Hamilton, Ont.
Hot because: We're not sure what the rest of his graduating class is up to next year, but recent high school grad Popovic is heading to Philadelphia's Curtis Institute in September where he won the only first-year spot for a clarinettist. Before then, he's touring with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. Go Slavko!
Upcoming:
- Aug. 1, Ottawa, Ont.: Mahler's Symphony No. 9 with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada at Southam Hall.

Slavko Popovic

20. Lucas Porter (piano)

Age: 22
From: Port Williams, N.S.
Hot because: Don't be fooled by Porter's boyish charm. He's a serious pianist and composer with major accomplishments to his credit. Plus, he's got a romantic bent, subtitling his winter 2014 concert tour To Love and be Loved.
Upcoming:
- Nov. 21, Halifax, N.S.: Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 with Symphony Nova Scotia.
- Jan. 22, Montreal, Que.: solo recital at the Maison des Jeunesses musicales.

Lucas Porter

21. Blake Pouliot (violin)

Age: 19
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: Each year, 500 hopeful students apply to the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. Not only did Pouliot get in, he was chosen to lead the group as concertmaster and awarded the 2013 Michael Measures Prize. Fun fact: Pouilot starred in numerous TV shows and films while in grade school.
Upcoming:
- Aug. 1, Ottawa, Ont.: National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
- Aug. 4, Montreal, Que.: National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
- Aug. 6, Calgary, Alta.: National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
- Aug. 7, Edmonton, Alta.: National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
- Aug. 11, Vancouver, B.C.: National Youth Orchestra of Canada.

Blake Pouliot

22. Anastasia Rizikov (piano)

Age: 14
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: The Glenn Gould Foundation found Rizikov’s talent so promising that they arranged a long-term loan of a brand new Yamaha grand piano. Maybe they have an extra-low chair around, too.
Upcoming:
- Oct. 3, Kleinburg, Ont.: solo recital at McMichael Canadian Art Collection
- Feb. 6, Halifax, N.S.: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1 with Symphony Nova Scotia.

Anastasia Rizikov

23. Alexander Read (violin)

Age: 26
From: London, Ont.
Hot because: A former concertmaster of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Read is currently the youngest member of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, where he's principal second violinist. He tells us he's a coffee enthusiast who enjoys making espresso for friends. (Drop by our office any time, Alex.)
Upcoming:
- Aug. 17, Montreal, Que.: Fieberphantasie for strings, clarinet and piano by composer and clarinettist Jörg Widmann (also performing), and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 12 with Kit Armstrong as soloist at Place des Arts.

Alexander Read

24. Philippe Sly (bass-baritone)

Age: 24
From: Ottawa, Ont.
Hot because: Sly has a way of impressing audiences and judges. He’s won both the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (which come with a cool $15,000 prize) and the Montreal International Musical Competition (add another $55,000 in winnings). Oh, he also makes frequent appearances on the popular Barihunks blog.
Upcoming:
- Sept. 12,15,16, Montreal, Que.: Berlioz’s Damnation de Faust with l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.
- Dec. 6,7, Winnipeg, Man.: Handel’s Messiah with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
- March 15, Philadelphia, Penn.: Fauré’s Requiem with the Philadelphia Orchestra.

Philippe Sly

25. Stéphane Tétreault (cello)

Age: 20
From: Montreal, Que.
Hot because: You couldn’t write a better bio. At 15, Tétreault was personally selected by Michael Tilson Thomas to be the youngest participant in the YouTube Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. In 2007, he won first prize in the Montreal Symphony Orchestra Standard Life Competition. Then, last year, he was given use of one of the greatest surviving Stradivarius cellos.
Upcoming:
- Aug. 17, Montreal, Que.: Haydn’s Cello Concerto No. 1 with the Orford Academy Orchestra (part of the OSM's Cool Classical Journey).

Stéphane Tétreault

26. Rob Weymouth (trumpet)

Age: 24
From: Brampton, Ont.
Hot because: One of Canada's most exciting young brass players, Weymouth was principal trumpet of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada from 2008 to 2010. He now plays second trumpet in the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. He brought the 2012-13 concert season to a close with an impressive performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 at the Brott Music Festival.
Upcoming:
- Oct. 5, Toronto, Ont.: opening night of the Canadian Opera Company's production of Britten's Peter Grimes at the Four Seasons Centre.

Rob Weymouth

27. Todd Yaniw (piano)

Age: 27
From: Edmonton, Alta.
Hot because: When Yaniw came to our Toronto studios last December and played Rachmaninov's Sonata No. 2, we were blown away. Where does he get his energy? It could be the copious amount of coffee he admits to drinking (whatever it takes!). Yaniw is currently doing doctoral studies at the University of Austin.
Upcoming:
- Nov. 19, Austin, Texas: solo recital including Scriabin's Sonata No. 3 and Schumann's Fantasy, Op. 17, at Jessen Auditorium.

Todd Yaniw

28. Brian Yoon (cello)

Age: 26
From: Vancouver, B.C.
Hot because: Yoon is principal cellist of the Victoria Symphony and won first prize at the 2012 Eckardt-Gramatté National Music Competition. He says his idea of happiness is a pitcher of beer with friends after a great concert. Our idea of happiness is watching Yoon play Poulenc.
Upcoming:
- April 7, 2014, Victoria, B.C.: Schumann Cello Concerto with the Victoria Symphony and Tania Miller, conductor.
- Oct. 8: guest appearance with the Emily Carr String Quartet at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Brian Yoon

29. Avan Yu (piano)

Age: 26
From: Vancouver, B.C.
Hot because: Yu did exceptionally well at piano competitions in 2012. He won the Sydney International Piano Competition and was the only Canadian to make the semifinals at the Honens International Piano Competition. Well rounded, Yu plays solo, concerto and chamber repertoire, and one day hopes to play Satie's Gymnopédie No. 1 in space.
Upcoming:
- Nov. 11, Hong Kong: Recital at Hong Kong City Hall Theatre.
- May. 3, Kamloops, B.C.: Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with Kamloops Symphony.

Avan Yu

30. Annie Zhou (piano)

Age: 15
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: We often hear about super-talented young musicians, but Zhou's recent CBC studio session made us sit up and take note. "She's the real deal," said one colleague. Her secret? A bracing splash of water behind her ears before walking onstage to perform.
Upcoming:
- 2014, Umbria, Italy: recital at Festival Assisi nel Mondo.

Annie Zhou

More to explore:

30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2014 edition
30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2015 edition
30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2016 edition