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30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2015 edition

Robert Rowat

"Youth is wasted on the young." — George Bernard Shaw

It's a shame Shaw never lived to meet any of the ambitious and hard-working young musicians presented in the 2015 edition of our annual list: 30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30.

Ranging in age from 12 to 29, they shatter the stereotype by taking full advantage of their youth, winning prestigious competitions, performing at the world's leading concert halls, recording critically acclaimed albums and writing bold new works, all through hard work and dedication.

It's worth remembering that behind every young classical musician is a network of support: family, friends, teachers and patrons who provide the encouragement and money necessary for success. Hats off to them.

Our 2015 list was compiled with advice from conservatories, music competitions and professional training programs from coast to coast. Read the list below to meet Canada's next generation of classical music stars, and above all, pay attention to your local concert listings for information on when and where you can see them perform.

1. Suzanne Rigden (soprano)

Age: 29
From: Dartmouth, N.S.
Hot because: She sings a wicked Queen of the Night and has stage presence to burn. In February, she stole the show as Adele in Vancouver Opera's Die Fledermaus. Rigden is a fellow of the 2015 Tanglewood Music Centre, where earlier this summer she sang Luigi Dallapiccola's Concerto de la notte di Natale dell'anno 1956. One reviewer praised her "lithe and athletic voice that easily encompassed Dallapiccolla’s complex vocal lines, executing the stratospheric ascents without undue effort." She's also a new home owner (Montreal), a recent convert to vegetarianism and sleeps with a teddy bear!
— Tytania in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Pacific Opera Victoria, opening April 14, 2016.

Suzanne Rigden

2. Jared Miller (composer)

Age: 26
From: Burnaby, B.C.
Hot because: He's composer in residence at the Victoria Symphony, a C.V. Starr doctoral fellow at Juilliard in New York City, and one of 15 recipients of the 2015 SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers. An accomplished pianist, he enjoys improvising music from pop culture in the style of classical composers. (Think South Park meets Brahms.) In July, his new work, Bloom for cello and flutes, was premiered alongside compositions by John Luther Adams at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
— World premiere of his composition for string orchestra,Echoes of Autumn, performed by the Victoria Symphony under Stilian Kirov on Nov. 2 at the Royal Theatre.
— Performance of 2010 Traffic Jam by the Royal Conservatory Orchestra under Tania Miller at Toronto's Koerner Hall on Nov. 27.
— Pianist Michael Noble plays works by Miller, Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev and Rzewski at VSO School of Music on Nov. 27, a presentation of Müzewest Concerts.

Jared Miller

3. Lara Deutsch (flute)

Age: 24
From: Ottawa, Ont.
Hot because: She works with a sports psychologist on her mental game for auditions and competitions, and it's paying off. Deutsch won $17,500 at the 2014 OSM Standard Life Competition, including first prize in the woodwind category. She's also executive director of Pronto Musica, which seeks to create a full-time professional training orchestra in Canada.
— Playing with National Arts Centre Orchestra for season-opening concert (Mahler 4) on Sept. 16 and 17.
— Playing with Orchestre symphonique de Montréal for Rite of Spring tour of the U.S. in March 2016.

Lara Deutsch

4. Jordan de Souza (conductor/keyboardist)

Age: 27
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: The Ottawa Citizen was wowed by the "preternatural self-assurance and aplomb" of his recent performance of Verdi's Requiem, and the Canadian Opera Company has nabbed him to be its new assistant/guest conductor. De Souza is also an accomplished collaborative pianist, harpsichordist and organist, and is spending part of his summer in Vienna with his pal Philippe Sly, coaching Schubert's Winterreise. (Can't wait to hear that!)
— Conductor of two mainstage performances of the Canadian Opera Company's production of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro in February 2016.

Jordan de Souza

5. Philippe Sly (bass-baritone)

Age: 26
From: Ottawa, Ont.
Hot because: Earlier this summer, he triumphed in the title role in San Francisco Opera's production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, a performance described as "energetic, affable" and "stylish" in the local press. Sly returns to San Francisco this fall for Papageno in Die Zauberflöte. Plus, everyone wants him for Handel's Messiah. This year, the St. Louis and Chicago symphonies got him.
— Golaud in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande with l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal on Sept. 8 and 9.
— Soloist in Mozart's Requiem with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Jan. 21 to 23, 2016.
— Recital with pianist Michael McMahon at Coast Recital Society in Sechelt, B.C., on March 6, 2016.

Philippe Sly

6. Alexander Seredenko (piano)

Age: 28
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: He won first prize in the senior division of the Canadian Chopin Piano Competition and is one of 87 pianists selected for the ninth Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in Japan. He performed Bach's Art of Fugue in recital in April and has been selected as a Rebanks Family fellow at the Royal Conservatory starting in September. And if all that isn't enough, Seredenko is a licensed pilot who enjoys flying for inspiration.
— Soloist in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Nov. 13.
— Chamber music by Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff and Piazzolla with violinist Stanislav Pronin at Vancouver's Music in the Morning series, March 16 to 18, 2016.

Alexander Seredenko

7. Wallis Giunta (mezzo-soprano)

Age: 29
From: Ottawa, Ont.
Hot because: In March, she slayed the Ottawa public with her "solid acting coupled with splendid singing" as Cherubino in Opera Lyra's Le Nozze di Figaro. Her boyfriend is American baritone John Brancy, with whom she shares a bit of the spotlight on her wonderful 2015 Naxos release, William Perry: Music for Great Films of the Silent Era, Vol. 2. Giunta joins the artistic ensemble of Leipzig Opera for the 2015-16 season, with roles in La CenerentolaFaustLe Nozze di FigaroParsifal and Die Walküre.
— Tiffany in John Adams's I Was Looking at the Ceiling and Then I Saw the Sky at Teatro dell'Opera di Roma opening Sept. 11.
— Cherubino in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro at Leipzig Opera opening Nov. 14.
— Soloist in Handel's Messiah with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 4 and 5.

Wallis Giunta

8. Ewald Cheung (violin)

Age: 25
From: Edmonton, Alta.
Hot because: He recorded his debut album, A Tribute to Fritz Kreisler, earlier this year with pianist Philip Chiu, a frequent collaborator. He's a founding member of the Roddick String Quartet, established at McGill University's Schulich School of Music, where Cheung continues to study and where he was awarded the Golden Violin Award in 2010. He's an Oilers fan, but he may want to keep that to himself in hockey-crazed Montreal.
— Concert with Quatuor Jeanne-Mance as part of the McGill International String Quartet Academy at Tanna Schulich Hall in Montreal on Aug. 22.
— Recital with pianist Philip Chiu at Salle Joseph-Rouleau des Jeunesses Musicales Canada in Montreal on Sept. 26.

Ewald Cheung

9. Cheng2 Duo
Bryan Cheng (cello) and Silvie Cheng (piano)

Ages: 17 and 24, respectively
From: Ottawa, Ont.
Hot because: We don't normally include ensembles on this list, but this brother-sister duo performs as one. Musical to their fingertips, both play multiple instruments (Bryan also plays piano and trumpet; Silvie plays viola and flute) and are both trilingual (English, French and Mandarin). In July, they performed at the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival and were featured in a studio performance on Vermont Public Radio. The duo will tour as Debut Atlantic artists in Atlantic Canada, Oct. 14 to 30, 2016.
— The duo performs music by Franck, Fauré and Debussy for the Cecilian concert series at Knox Metropolitan Church in Regina, Sask., on Nov. 21.
— Bryan performs as soloist in Daniel Bjarnason's Bow to String with Esprit Orchestra at Toronto's Koerner Hall on Jan. 24, 2016.

Cheng Duo

10. Charles-Richard Hamelin (piano)

Age: 26
From: Joliette, Que.
Hot because: (a) He loves bow ties, (b) he received the 2015 Career Development Award from the Women's Musical Club of Toronto and (c) because Hamelin is one of 84 participants at the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition. We like his chances!
— All-Chopin recitals at Ottawa Chamberfest (Aug. 6) and Orford Festival (Aug. 7).
— Chamber music by Beethoven and Franck with musicians from the OSM at Montreal's Bourgie Hall on Sept. 18.
— 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw from Sept. 28 to Oct. 23.

Charles-Richard Hamelin

11. France Bellemare (soprano)

Age: 28
From: Saint-Félicien, Que.
Hot because: She won third prize at the 2015 Montreal International Musical Competition, making a strong impression not only with Dvorak's "Song to the Moon" but also her head-turning wardrobe. This fall, Bellemare returns for a third season at l'Opéra de Montréal's Atelier lyrique.
— Confidante in Strauss's Elektra at l'Opéra de Montréal, opening Nov. 21.
— Soloist with McGill Chamber Orchestra's Trilogy of Seductionon Feb. 23, 2016.

France Bellemare

12. Hugo Lee (oboe)

Age: 21
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: Lee is the recipient of the 2015 Michael Measures Prize ($25,000) from the Canada Council and he says the cash will help fund the final year of his degree at Juilliard. He won the 2014 Juilliard Oboe Concerto Competition, held every four years, and played Vaughan Williams's Oboe Concerto with the Juilliard Orchestra under Edward Gardner at New York City's Alice Tully Hall. When he's not making reeds, Lee is a computer artist, programmer and board-game enthusiast.
— Soloist in Strauss's Oboe Concerto with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada on their summer 2015 tour.
— Soloist in Ursula Mamlok's Concertino for Oboe and Chamber Orchestra with the New Juilliard Ensemble, as part of Juilliard's Focus! Festival at Lincoln Center in New York City in January 2016.

Hugo Lee

13. Leonid Nediak (piano)

Age: 12
From: Kingston, Ont.
Hot because: Inside sources at the Royal Conservatory of Music inform us that Nediak got a "jaw-droppingly good score" on his ARCT piano exam in April. He also won the audience prize at the 2015 Cleveland International Piano Competition and has already performed with the Montreal and Quebec symphonies and the Toronto Sinfonietta. Oh, and he's a computing whiz and a prize-winning fencer. 
— Solo recital at a private residence in Cleveland, Ohio, on Sept. 13
— Soloist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Cathedral Bluffs Symphony Orchestra at P.C. Ho Theatre in Scarborough, Ont., on April 16, 2016.
— Soloist in Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Kindred Spirits Orchestra at Flato Markham Theatre for the Performing Arts on May 7, 2016.

Leonid Nediak

14. Joshua Peters (violin)

Age: 23
From: Winnipeg, Man.
Hot because: He won first prize at the 2015 Eckhardt-Grammatté National Music Competition and described it as "an exciting and humbling experience." Peters, who enjoys cooking in his spare time, will play works by Canadian composers Vivian Fung, John Estacio and Jordan Pal on his 2015 E-Gré Competition winner's tour. He recently relocated to Montreal to continue his studies at McGill's Schulich School of Music.
— Recital at Hart House in Toronto on Nov. 8.
— Recital at U.B.C. in Vancouver on Nov. 25.

Joshua Peters

15. Laura Silberberg Sgroi (composer)

Age: 28
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: She recently completed a doctorate of music composition at U of T and admits to a passion for electronic dance music. She brought those facets of her musical personality together at the recent Pan Am Games, where Sgroi improvised on the piano and performed a DJ set featuring her own compositions at the Ontario Celebration Zone, which was as fabulous as it sounds. In case you're left with the impression she's a bit wild, know that her mornings start at the gym nearly seven days a week.
— Piano improvisation to silent films at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre and the Canadian Music Centre in Toronto.
— World premiere of new work performed by the Cantabile Chamber Singers in 2015-16.

Laura Silberberg Sgroi

16. Jan Lisiecki (piano)

Age: 20
From: Calgary, Alta.
Hot because: Few Canadian classical musicians, regardless of their age, have attained Lisiecki's level of international acclaim. So far in 2015, he has given concerts in 13 countries, and he'll add four more to the list before the year is out. Lisiecki gave the first concert of his 20s in Abu Dhabi, marking the milestone with "a brazen display of technique, and a roller-coaster ride through the depths of worldly emotion" in Chopin's 24 Preludes, Op. 28.
— Complete Beethoven Piano Concertos (chamber versions) with the Annex Quartet at Stratford Summer Music from Aug. 27 to 29.
— Recording sessions in Rome from Sept. 27 to 29 for an all-Schumann release on Deutsche Grammophon with the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia and Antonio Pappano.
— European tour with the Warsaw Philharmonic from Oct. 7 to 14.
— Solo recital at London's Wigmore Hall on Oct. 30.
— Soloist in Grieg's Piano Concerto with l'Orchestre Métropolitain and Yannick Nézet-Séguin in Greater Montreal from Dec. 16 to 20.

Jan Lisiecki

17. Boson Mo (violin)

Age: 25
From: Montreal, Que.
Hot because: He was the sole Canadian at the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition where he played Bach, Paganini, Tchaikovsky and Messiaen on his snazzy 1871 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin, on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts. Also, when he's not playing violin, he's honing his skills in the kitchen, specializing in Chinese cuisine.
— Chamber music by Kodaly and Schubert with cellist Desmond Hoebig and pianist Andrew Staupe in Houston, Texas, in November.

Boson Mo

18. Claire de Sévigné (soprano)

Age: 27
From: Hudson, Que.
Hot because: She's a coloratura soprano with a voice that can do just about anything above the staff. (For proof, watch this fun video.) A semifinalist at the 2015 Montreal International Musical Competition, de Sévigné is spending the summer at the Salzburg Festival's Young Artist Project, and in the fall she joins the Opera Studio Program at Zurich Opera, where they will no doubt be smitten.
—Milliner in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier at the Salzburg Festival, opening Aug. 20.
— Angelica in Haydn's Orlando Paladino at Zurich Opera, opening May 7, 2016.

Claire de Sévigné

19. Charissa Vandikas (piano)

Age: 18
From: Newmarket, Ont.
Hot because: She has a black belt in karate, which may explain why she's such a fierce competitor: Vandikas won first prize at the 2015 Canadian Federation of Music Teachers' Association's National Piano Competition and the senior division of the Toronto Sinfonietta Competition. This fall she enters the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
— Soloist with the Haydn Jeugd Strijkorkest Orchestra in the Netherlands in the 2015-16 season.

Charissa Vandikas

20. Stéphane Tétreault (cello)

Age: 22
From: Montreal, Que.
Hot because: In April, Toronto got to hear him play the Elgar concerto with Yannick Nézet-Séguin's Orchestra Métropolitain on the occasion of its long-overdue Toronto debut. The Toronto Star said Tétreault "electrified the four movements with an exceedingly shiny cello, which reflected the hall’s stage lighting like a Hollywood searchlight." That cello happens to be the 1707 "Countess of Stainlein, Ex-Paganini" Stradivarius, on loan by Jacqueline Desmarais, valued at $6 million, and it shines in more ways than one in Tétreault's hands.
— Recital with pianist Alexandre Tharaud at Montreal's Salle Bourgie on Jan. 20, 2016.
— Soloist in Schumann's Cello Concerto with Sinfonia de Lanaudière (Jan. 23 to 31, 2016), Orchestre symphonique de Saguenay (Feb. 21, 2016), Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (March 11, 2016) and I Musici de Montréal (March 31, 2016).

Stéphane Tétreault

21. Avan Yu (piano)

Age: 28
From: Vancouver, B.C.
Hot because: He released an excellent new album of Liszt/Schubert transcriptions earlier this year on the Naxos label. Classics Today says Yu "brilliantly reconciles Schubert’s melodic trajectory with Liszt’s intricate textures." Yu concertizes extensively in Germany with frequent trips to Australia, where he gained a large following by winning first prize at the 2012 Sydney International Piano Competition. Wily concertgoers caught his recital earlier this summer at the Lanaudière Festival.
— Solo recital for SW German Radio at Frankfurter Hof in Mainz, Germany, on Oct. 9.
— Soloist in Mozart's Concerto No. 23 with the Thunder Bay Symphony on Nov. 12.

Avan Yu

22. Hugo Laporte (baritone)

Age: 24
From: Quebec City, Que.
Hot because: Laporte won the grand prize at the 2014 OSM Standard Life Competition with his lovely, unforced lyric baritone. (Watch his full performance here.) In June he sang in a masterclass with Marilyn Horne and lived to tell about it. He sings Le Dancaïre in Bizet's Carmen with l'Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Kent Nagano on Aug. 5 at Montreal's Olympic Park.
— Berlioz's Nuits d'été with l'Orchestre symphonique de Gatineau on Sept. 19.
— Starring role in Puccini's La Bohème at l'Opéra de Québec in May 2016.

Hugo Laporte

23. Mari Coetzee (cello)

Age: 18
From: Calgary, Alta., via South Africa
Hot because: Last November, she was awarded a gold medal from the Royal Conservatory of Music for earning the top mark in Canada on her ARCT examination in cello performance. In May she won the $8,000 top prize at the Shean Strings Competition in Edmonton. Is it any wonder Coetzee — who's secret passion is impressionist art — is spending the summer at the prestigious Aspen Music Festival and School and is heading to Juilliard this fall?
— Solo recital in the High River Gift of Music Series on April 23, 2016, in High River, Alta.

Mari Coetzee

24. Rihab Chaieb (mezzo-soprano)

Age: 28
From: Toronto, Ont., via Sousse, Tunisia
Hot because: On singing trouser roles, she says, "there's something really liberating about being a man." Not surprisingly, the theatrical young mezzo has been scooped up by the Metropolitan Opera's prestigious Lindemann Young Artists program. Earlier this summer she made her debut at the Glyndebourne Festival singing Mercedes in Bizet's Carmen.
— Tebaldo in Verdi's Don Carlo at l'Opéra national de Bordeaux, opening Sept. 24.

Rihab Chaieb

25. Tony Yike Yang (piano)

Age: 16
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: Last summer, Yang won first prize at the Cooper International Competition after bowling over the jury with Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Cleveland Orchestra. He won $10,000 for his efforts along with a full scholarship to attend the Oberlin Conservatory. This was only the latest competition win for Yang, who's one of 84 pianists selected for the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition. He's one of the youngest competitors, but by no means a long shot.
— 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition in Warsaw from Sept. 28 to Oct. 23.

Tony Yike Yang

26. Aviva Fortunata (soprano)

Age: 27
From: Calgary, Alta.
Hot because: In June, she represented Canada at the 2015 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and in July she was one of two Canadians invited to Placido Domingo’s famed Operalia competition, hosted this year by the Royal Opera House in London. In addition to singing, Fortunata says she enjoys "watching roller derby, pop culture cross-stitch and the art of vintage hair styling."
— The Countess in the COC Ensemble Studio's February 2016 production of Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro.

Aviva Fortunata

27. Mehdi Ghazi (piano)

Age: 26
From: Montreal, Que., via Oran, Algeria
Hot because: He chose music over a career in medicine (he holds a bachelor of science), much to the relief of critics like Montreal's Claude Gingras, who compares him to Wilhelm Kempff. In January, Ghazi was a soloist in Beethoven's Triple Concerto with l'Opéra Orchestra National Montpellier in France.
— Solo (Rachmaninoff Preludes, Op. 23) and chamber music (Fauré's Piano Quartet No. 1) at Aegina International Music Festival in Greece on Aug. 7.

Mehdi Ghazi

28. Annie Zhou (piano)

Age: 17
From: Toronto, Ont.
Hot because: Last August, Zhou won first prize in the junior category of the International Frederick Chopin Competition in Foshan, China. She's the first Canadian to earn this honour. She'll build on that success as one of only three Canadians accepted into the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition, coming up at the end of September in Warsaw. She's been preparing for that this summer at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
— Recital debut at the Auditorium du Louvre on Feb. 18, 2016.

Annie Zhou.

29. Steven Woomert (trumpet)

Age: 26
From: Etobicoke, Ont.
Hot because: He has just completed his first season as associate principal trumpet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, a position previously held by his father. Brass players are known for loving symphonic works by Mahler, Wagner and Strauss, but Woomert tells us he's also a big country music fan.
— Soloist in Vivaldi's Double Trumpet Concerto with theToronto Symphony Orchestra on March 2, 2016.

Steven Woomert

30. Dasol Jeong (violin)

Age: 24
From: Toronto, Ont., via South Korea
Hot because: She's working on her master's degree at Juilliard with Ida Kavafian, having completed her undergraduate studies at the Eastman School of Music in 2014. She was selected as a CBC Young Artist for 2015 and recorded music by Franck, Joachim and Wieniawski at Glenn Gould Studio.

Dasol Jeong

More to explore:

30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2013 edition
30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2014 edition
30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2016 edition