30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2017 edition

Meet the young Canadians burning up the classical music scene.
CBC Music presents our fifth annual list of Canada's emerging classical music talent! (Bo Huang Photography)

With additional research by Kateryna Gordiychuk.

Here it is: our fifth annual list of Canada's emerging classical music talent!

They're young, highly skilled, creative, disciplined and determined to make their mark in the world of classical music — and we think they're amazing.

Before we meet them, though, let's acknowledge the recent accomplishments of some of our "30 under 30" alumni:

  • Pianist Jan Lisiecki released his fourth album, all-Chopin, on Deutsche Grammophon.
  • Violinist Blake Pouliot won the grand prize at the 2016 OSM Manulife Competition.
  • Cellist Bryan Cheng won the Michael Measures Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts, and released a new album.
  • Violist Marina Thibault released her debut album and welcomed her new baby, Lucien, into the world.
  • Pianist Jun Li Bui won third prize at the 2017 Aarhus International Piano Competition.
  • Composer Jared Miller got his PhD from Juilliard.
  • Violinist Yolanda Bruno won first prize at the inaugural Isabel Overton Bader Canadian Violin Competition.
  • Aviva Fortunata filled in at the last minute for an ailing soprano in Dallas Opera's production of Bellini's Norma.

And those are just a few highlights.

But now, it's time to get acquainted with this year's inductees into our "30 under 30" community. Meet them below, from oldest to youngest. And if there's a rising classical music star you'd like us to know about, hit us up on Twitter via @CBCclassical using the hashtag #CBC30under30.

Adam Cicchillitti, guitarist

Age: 29
Hometown: Montreal

Whether he's accompanying singers in his own Lieder arrangements, wowing the crowd with the precision of his finger work, or just hanging out at home playing BachAdam Cicchillitti is an ardent ambassador for classical guitar. In 2016, he toured the East Coast under the auspices of Jeunesses musicales du Canada; in February he played in a masterclass given by Pepe Romero; and most recently, he signed with Analekta Records (watch for his first release early in 2018). He's already scheduled for a 2018-19 Debut Atlantic tour with fellow guitarist Steve Cowan. A specialist in child pedagogy, Cicchillitti founded the guitar program at Ottawa's Suzuki Strings. This fall, he begins doctoral studies with Jérôme Ducharme at McGill, and while all of this is hugely exciting, Cicchillitti is quick to point out that the highlight of the past year was getting married. (If somebody played Scarlatti for you like this, you'd marry them, too.)

Matthew Russell, trombonist

In May 2016, Canadian trombonist Matthew Russell obtained his Master’s degree from Pittsburgh’s Carnegie. (Submitted by Matthew Russell)

Age: 29
Hometown: Montreal

After narrowly escaping a career as a harpsichordist, Matthew Russell is well on his way as a trombone soloist. In June, he reached the finals of the Prix d'Europe (his mom was his accompanist!) and in April he subbed in a Savannah Philharmonic concert, playing alongside his girlfriend, Adrianne Munden-Dixon, who's a violinist in that orchestra. Over the past year, Russell has released a dozen videos on noncerto's YouTube channel and they're weird and wonderful, so don't miss them. "Audiences are constantly surprised by the versatility and expressive capabilities of trombone," he tells us, and he'll be working further on that this fall when he begins his doctorate at Rutgers University, studying with Weston Sprott. The big question is: will he cheer for the Habs or the Devils?

Dorothy Ro, violinist

Canadian violinist Dorothy Ro is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at the Juilliard School as a member of the Verona Quartet. (Brittany Florenz)

Age: 28
Hometown: Bedford, N.S.

Dorothy Ro tells us she loves puppies, movies and gin martinis (with extra olives), so we like her already. On top of that, she holds one of the violin spots in the Verona Quartet, the graduate resident string quartet at Juilliard, where she's working toward an artist diploma and gets to play a beautiful 1734 Francesco Gofriller violin, on loan from the Juilliard Instrument Collection. Next season, the Verona Quartet will play the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., make its Hawaii debut — "I will try to get some beach time while I'm there!" — and premiere a new work by Julia Adolphe as part of a residency at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts. Ro also teaches at Indiana University's Summer String Academy. "Kids may be young and innocent but they can be very perceptive," she observes. "You can definitely learn a thing or two from them."

Afendi Yusuf, clarinettist

Afendi Yusuf recently took part in the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont. (Elena Sippel)

Age: 28
Hometown: Waterloo, Ont.

For living proof that Canada's music schools are training world-class musicians, look no further than Afendi Yusuf, a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., where he studied with Ross Edwards, and the Royal Conservatory of Music's Glenn Gould School, where he studied on full scholarship with Joaquin Valdapeñas. In September, Yusuf begins his tenure as principal clarinettist with the Cleveland Orchestra. "I cannot imagine a better environment for my personal and artistic growth," he says. Last season, he was guest principal clarinettist with New York's Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, and he recently took part in the prestigious Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont. Born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Yusuf's love of travelling will be fulfilled in 2017-18 with performances at Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie and Vienna's Musikverein. For someone with "a severe obsession with dogs," he seems to be holding it together.

Simon Rivard, conductor

Starting in September 2017, Simon Rivard will be conductor in residence of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. (Tam Lan Truong)

Age: 27
Hometown: Saint-Lambert, Que.

Everything is happening at once for Montreal conductor Simon Rivard. In September, he'll begin his tenure as conductor in residence with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, working with incoming music director Paul Haas, and will conduct his first Messiah with them in December. This summer, he was acting music director of the Orchestre de la Francophonie, filling in for Jean-Philippe Tremblay. Rivard cites his former teacher, Raffi Armenian, with helping him get to this point: "He set an ideal of complete knowledge of scores, where the music is not only in your mind, but also in your body, in your soul." When it all gets to be too much, this self-described fanatic of British comedy unwinds by binge-watching Blackadder and eating Texan-style baby-back ribs. You know, for work-life balance.

Adanya Dunn, soprano

In May, Adanya Dunn was "a properly flirty Musetta, looking fabulous and acting up a storm" in Against the Grain Theatre's revival of its English-language adaptation of Puccini's La bohème. (Jessica Osber Photography)

Age: 26
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

In May, Adanya Dunn was "a properly flirty Musetta, looking fabulous and acting up a storm" in Against the Grain Theatre's revival of its English-language adaptation of Puccini's La bohème. "The kind of familial support, fun, and freedom we experienced over three-and-a-half weeks made us feel as though we had all been a part of each other's lives forever," she reflects. This month, the U of T, Glenn Gould School and Bard College Conservatory grad finds herself at Highlands Opera Studio in Haliburton, Ont., workshopping Mishaabooz's Realm, a new work by Cree composer Andrew Balfour. Future plans include an all-Claude Vivier project with Soundstreams and a triple bill of opera-ballets with FAWN Chamber Creative, plus hobbies like archiving her family history and combing for treasures in second-hand shops.

Andrei Feher, conductor

Andrei Feher was recently appointed as the new Music Director of the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra effective August. (Matthieu Gauchet)

Age: 26
Hometown: Montreal

One of the year's top headlines in the Canadian classical world was the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra's announcement that Andrei Feher would be its new music director. In fact, that was only the tip of the iceberg for this young man who, not that long ago, replaced his Dumbledore wand with a conductor's baton. (He's a huge Harry Potter fan.) In December, he made his debut with l'Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, and that went so well they invited him back twice next season. He also conducted his first opera — an Opéra de Lausanne production of Thierry Besançon's Les Zoocrates — which he describes as "an amazing experience." In 2017-18, Romanian-born Feher is looking forward to debuts in Bucharest, Edmonton and with Quebec City's Les Violons du Roy ("they are electric!"), and of course his first official concert as music director with the KWSO. "I feel that it will be a very special moment for me; they're such a warm group of musicians."

Roydon Tse, composer

Roydon Tse wrapped up his year teaching composition and musical skills at the University of Toronto. (David Chen)

Age: 26
Hometown: Toronto

Why is Roydon Tse smiling? It's not only because he got engaged in May, although that has a lot to do with it. Tse also wrapped up his year teaching composition and musical skills at the University of Toronto — his students nominated him for an outstanding teaching assistant award — and picked up two SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers last August. In November, the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra will give the world premiere of Tse's Concerto for Sheng and Orchestra, and next June, musicians of the Paris Opera Orchestra will perform his work Memories for harp and marimba at the Bastille Amphitheatre. When he's not teaching, composing or writing grant applications, Tse plays blitz chess (you won't beat him) and watches Jacob Collier videos — all of which may change once he ties the knot!

Chris James, flutist

Canadian flutist Chris James joins the roster of the Vancouver Symphony this fall 2017 as their assistant principal flute and piccolo. (Karjaka Studios)

Age: 25
Hometown: Toronto

Hey, Vancouver: get ready to welcome Chris James to your fair city. He's the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's new assistant principal flutist, bringing with him job experience with the Memphis, Ann Arbor and Missouri Symphony Orchestras. "I can't wait to settle in with my new VSO family and start to build some lasting connections," he says. At the end of May, James competed in the Kobe International Flute Competition — "I didn't expect it to be so transformative. I met so many wonderful new friends ... had some fantastic food and really kicked my flute playing up a level or two in the process." Last winter, he subbed with the NAC Orchestra and walked to work each day along the frozen Rideau Canal. "I felt like I was in a Canada tourism ad, and I loved every minute." This amateur tap-dancer and linguistics enthusiast is looking forward to playing John Williams's score for Jurassic Park for the first time in November with the VSO.

Jean-Michel Dubé, pianist

Pianist Jean-Michel Dubé won 1st prize at the 2017 Canadian Music Competition's Stepping Stone contest. (Supplied by Jean-Michel Dubé)

Age: 25
Hometown: Quebec City

Jean-Michel Dubé began the 2016-17 season by releasing his debut album, the complete works for solo piano by André Mathieu, and concluded it by winning the $10,000 first prize in the Canadian Music Competition's Stepping Stone Final. We hope he relaxed with a well-deserved poutine and bloody caesar (his favourites) after that. The youngest of five children — four of whom are pianists — Dubé credits his teacher at the Conservatoire de musique de Québec, Suzanne Beaubien, with his success. "She has enabled me to flourish as an artist and has always believed in me, even in difficult times," he says. In July, Dubé took part in the 5th Piano Competition "Piana del Cavaliere" in Carsoli, Italy, and in September, he heads to Berlin to compete in the second German Piano Open. We like his chances!

Katya Poplyansky, violinist

Katya Poplyansky won the $4,000 second prize at the inaugural Isabel Overton Bader Canadian Violin Competition. (Juri Hiensch)

Age: 25
Hometown: Moncton, N.B.

"Sometimes when I practice, my mind is too full of thoughts, so I will write them down on paper and hang them on my wall," admits Katya Poplyansky. "The most consistent one is 'Don't lose yourself.' Also, 'Don't get caught up in unimportant things.'" These wise words seem to be helping: in April, she won the $4,000 second prize at the inaugural Isabel Overton Bader Canadian Violin Competition. Poplyansky, a graduate of the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and London's Guildhall School of Music, says she was thrilled to return to Canada in 2016. "Being close again to my family and friends was such a relief and made me so happy." This fall, she's heading to Cornwall, U.K., to take part in the International Musicians Seminar in Prussia Cove. In the meantime, you may spot her burning up the streets of Toronto on her new bicycle.

Simone McIntosh, mezzo-soprano

Canadian mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh was recently named first prize winner at the Canadian Opera Company's 2016 Ensemble Studio Competition and Wirth Vocal Prize. (Ian G. McIntosh)

Age: 25
Hometown: Vancouver

At 25, Simone McIntosh has already ticked a big item off her bucket list: singing the role of Judith in Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle, which she did in March with Opera McGill. McIntosh completed her master's there in May and won the Wirth Vocal Prize last November — a cool $25,000 that could help finance a return to Vienna. "I visited four years ago, and fell in love with the culture and history of the city. Since then, I've always wanted to go back and discover more," she enthuses. In the meantime, she's preparing for her first year at the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio, where she clinched her acceptance by winning the annual COC Ensemble Studio Competition. Fans in Toronto can catch her on Dec. 5 singing a solo recital at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.

Alexandra Smither, soprano

In November, Alexandra Smither will sing in Houston Grand Opera's presentation of Tom Cipullo's chamber opera Glory Denied. (Emily Ding)

Age: 25
Hometown: London, Ont.

Like many musicians, Alexandra Smither describes herself as a nomad these days, splitting her time between Toronto and Houston, Texas, where she recently graduated from Rice University's Shepherd School of Music. As a fellow of the 2017 Tanglewood Music Centre, Smither coached Schubert's "Der Hirt auf dem Felsen" with Dawn Upshaw for a July 6 performance with Emanuel Ax and BSO principal clarinettist Bill Hudgins. "Working with my musical idols has been incredible," she says. As a result of her first prize at the 2017 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition — "absolutely thrilling!" — Smither'll go on a recital tour next season. In November, she'll sing in Houston Grand Opera's presentation of Tom Cipullo's chamber opera Glory Denied. The secret to her success? It might be her diet: strawberry margaritas and Kraft Dinner. (That covers all the food groups, right?)

Katerina Gimon, composer

Katerina Gimon won first prize in the Godfrey Ridout category at the 2016 SOCAN Foundation Awards for her choral piece "Elements." (Brian Lee Topp)

Age: 24
Hometown: Burlington, Ont.

Don't even bother talking to Katerina Gimon until she has had at least three cups of tea. "I have a ridiculously large collection of all sorts of tea," she explains. "When I'm composing, I always have a teapot on and will keep the tea flowing!" It's working: Gimon won first prize in the Godfrey Ridout category at the 2016 SOCAN Foundation Awards for her choral piece "Elements;" in March, the Pembroke Hill Chamber Choir performed her piece "Fire" at Carnegie Hall (it brought down the house), and she got to hear her piece "All Together we are Love" sung by a massed choir of 200 at Elektra Women's Choir's choral leadership workshop. "It was unbelievably powerful!" Gimon is currently writing music for Mr. Burns, a post-electric play, a project of Vancouver's Little Mountain Lions Productions — inspired by The Simpsons  opening in April 2018.

Samuel Chan, baritone

Canadian baritone Samuel Chan has been praised by critics for his “Velvet tones” and for his “vocal versatility” on the operatic, concert and recital stage. (Submitted by Samuel Chan)

Age: 23
Hometown: Calgary

Samuel Chan may be struggling with coffee addiction — he tells us it's his favourite drink and his favourite snack — but he's not letting that get in the way of his career, which is taking off like a rocket: he placed second in the 2016 Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio Competition, securing a spot for himself in the COC's prestigious Ensemble Studio; he workshopped a new upcoming opera by Cree composer Andrew Balfour, and he met Chris Hadfield backstage at the lieutenant-governor of Ontario's Canada 150 celebration. In his down time, this former piano (yes, piano) finalist at the Canadian Music Competition devours vintage crime fiction. Next season, he'll sing in the COC's revival of Robert LePage's production of Stravinsky's The Nightingale and continue his quest to "use music to spread messages of inclusivity, tolerance, acceptance and love." You go, Samuel.

Byungchan Lee, violinist

Born in Seoul and currently based in New York City, Chan Lee is the 2014 winner of the Golden Violin Competition. (Submitted by Chan Lee)

Age: 23
Hometown: Vancouver

If Chan Lee found his first year as a master's student at the Juilliard School "incredibly enriching," then year 2 will be epic: in late August and September, he'll play in an orchestra comprising musicians from Juilliard and the Sibelius Academy of the University of the Arts touring Helsinki, Stockholm and New York under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen. Later in the season, Lee will tour Japan with the Ansonia String Quartet, an ensemble of four Juilliard students, including fellow Canadian Meagan Turner. Last year, when the Canada Council for the Arts awarded him the use of its 1768 Miller Januarius Gagliano violin, he dropped by our studio and played some Fritz Kreisler on it. He has recently taken up running — possibly to burn off all the champagne he admits to drinking — and will do a half marathon in the fall. Catch him if you can!

Felix Hong, pianist

Having captured the Grand Prize of the prestigious Concours Prix d'Europe in June 2017, Felix Hong has emerged as one of Canada’s most promising young pianists. (Tam Lan Truong Photography)

Age: 23
Hometown: Montreal

For Felix Hong, an ideal day off would be wandering around a big city alone — something that he'll be able to do come September, when he begins his master's degree at the Guildhall School of Music in London, England. He got a big boost by making it to the Stepping Stone Final of the 2016 Canadian Music Competition and followed that up this year by winning the grand prize at the 2017 Prix d'Europe. A graduate of McGill's Schulich School of Music, where his teacher was Ilya Poletaev, Hong has also been studying with André Laplante for the past year — "he has helped me a lot, especially with finding my own voice on the instrument" — and will return to Montreal in March to play Rach 3 with l'Orchestre symphonique des jeunes de Montréal. When he breaks free of the practice studio, he follows basketball (Golden State Warriors) and baseball (Brothers, Chinese Pro Baseball League) and eats junk food ("chips or anything from a vending machine"). Fun fact: his twin sister is a PhD candidate in chemical engineering at M.I.T.

Milton String Quartet

Montreal's Milton String Quartet won the grand prize and string division gold medal at the 44th annual Fischoff Chamber Music Competition in South Bend, Ind. The Milton String Quartet members are, from left to right: Maïthéna Girault (violin), Joshua Morris (cello), Evan Robinson (viola) and Roman Fraser (violin). (Roman Fraser)

Average age: 22.5
Hometown: Montreal

"We focused on staying true to ourselves and our vision of the music," reflects violinist Maïthéna Girault on the Milton String Quartet's winning formula at the 44th annual Fischoff Chamber Music Competition in South Bend, Ind., where they nabbed the grand prize and senior string division gold medal. The group is based at McGill's Schulich School of Music, where they're coached by André Roy — "his passion and curiosity are contagious and he has taught us more than anyone we know," says Girault.

In May, the quartet did a residency at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, a result of their win at the 2016 Schulich Chamber Music Competition. Earlier this summer, the Milton SQ was the fellowship string quartet at ENCORE Chamber Music in Cleveland, Ohio, and this time next year, they'll be in Imola, Italy, taking part in the Emilia Romagna Festival. Until then, they're hanging out ("always around food and sometimes around drinks") and swapping stories about their many pets.

Rashaan Allwood, organist

Rashaan Allwood played a solo recital at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England. (Submitted by Rashaan Allwood)

Age: 22
Hometown: Mississauga, Ont.

"Every time I really get to know a work, I feel like I put a small part of myself inside of it," says Rashaan Allwood, who has gone from playing keytar in a funk/jazz fusion band in high school to working on his master's in organ performance at McGill University's Schulich School of Music, to nabbing first prize in the organ category of the 2016 OSM Manulife Competition. In May, Allwood played with the OSM on the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique at La Maison symphonique — "It was exciting and terrifying" — and in February, he played a solo recital at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, England. "It's quite thrilling to play on an organ with some pipes that have existed since it was played by Handel." While he continues his studies in the fall, Allwood is preparing for an Oct. 27 performance (on piano) of book 1 of Messiaen's Catalogue d'Oiseaux.

Paul Williamson, pianist

Pianist Paul Williamson was born in Abbotsford, B.C. (Katherine Lim)

Age: 21
Hometown: Mission, B.C.

In April, Paul Williamson cleaned up at the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers' Association National Piano Competition, winning not only first prize, but also special prizes for Chopin, baroque music and Canadian music, bringing his total prize earnings to $9,500. A month later, he gave a solo recital for the Valley Concert Society in Abbotsford, B.C., and in June he played Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Fraser Valley Symphony. This summer, he's taking part in the young artist program at the Kniesel Hall Chamber Music Festival in Blue Hill, Maine — where he may have time to indulge his passion for hiking — before returning to Winnipeg for year 4 of his bachelor of music at the University of Manitoba. Audiences there can catch him in recital with violinist Gregory Lewis (see below) with the Women's Musical Club of Winnipeg in October.

Gregory Lewis, violinist

Gregory Lewis will start his master's degree at Yale University this fall. (Brooke Lewis)

Age: 20
Hometown: Thunder Bay, Ont.

In April, Gregory Lewis got a call from the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra, whose violin soloist was delayed due to a snow storm. Could he play Brahms' Violin Concerto on 24 hours' notice? "I hadn't performed the concerto in over two months, but I was able to bring the concerto back and give a great performance," he recalls. In May and June, Lewis was in New York attending the Starling-DeLay Symposium at Juilliard. "Only 12 student artists are selected every two years, and a Canadian hadn't been selected since 2011, so I was thrilled to participate this year." Lewis, who'll start his master's degree at Yale University this fall, is motivated by his older sister's example: she overcame epilepsy to become an advocate for research into that disease. "She has fought through terrible odds and has dedicated her life to bettering the lives of others. I can't think of how someone could get more inspiring."

Tristan Teo, pianist

Canadian pianist Tristan Teo was born in Vancouver and currently lives in New York City where he's a 2nd-year master's student at Juilliard. (Supplied by Tristan Teo)

Age: 20
Hometown: Vancouver

In May, we were blown away by Tristan Teo's quarter-final recital (Bach, Ravel, Kapustin) at the 2017 Cliburn Competition, where he was part of a strong Canadian contingent. It was the most recent triumph in a year full of accomplishments: Teo graduated from the Juilliard School with straight As in all four years of his bachelor of music degree and began his master's, and he gave a solo recital and masterclass at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. This fall, he'll play a solo recital in New York, and in November he's heading to Vilnius, Lithuania, to play in a "three generations" concert alongside his former teacher Sasha Starcevich — "he always inspires me to be a better musician" — and Starcevich's former teacher, Ilana Vered. Somehow, with all of this going on, he finds time to collect Lego

Linda Ruan, pianist

Linda Ruan travelled to Denmark to take part in the Aarhus International Piano Competition. (Submitted by Linda Ruan)

Age: 19
Hometown: Surrey, B.C.

A surprising number of pianists on this year's list have expressed their interest in jazz, and Linda Ruan is no exception. "Jazz musicians amaze me," she says. "These creative souls are constantly expanding my artistic horizons and my perception of what music can be." Ruan is pretty amazing in her own right. In June, she won the grand prize in the senior category of the Canadian Music Competition. In March, she travelled to Denmark to take part in the Aarhus International Piano Competition. "I didn't make it past the first round but I succeeded in getting my playing to a new level," she reflects. This season, she'll play Clara Schumann's Piano Concerto in a fundraising concert for the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre in Vancouver, and in April at Koerner Hall she and her friend Charissa Vandikas will play Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra under Johannes Debus.

Godwin Friesen, pianist and composer

Godwin Friesen completed his first symphonic work, Pilgrimage, to be performed this season by the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra. (Supplied by Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra)

Age: 19
Hometown: Saskatoon

The first thing to know about Godwin Friesen is that he's an avid juggler and Rubik's Cube solver, and he can do either of these things while unicycling. You'd need a hobby, too, if you'd had Friesen's year: In February he won the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association's Shurniak Concerto Competition, which earned him $2,000 and the chance to play Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. He also completed his first symphonic work, Pilgrimage, to be performed this season by the Saskatoon Youth Orchestra.

Along with Cliburn champ and 2015 Piano Hero Thomas Yu, Friesen played Saint-Saëns's Carnival of the Animals with the Saskatoon Symphony last November — "my first time playing with an orchestra!" — and teamed up with fellow students at the Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School to play Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds ("an exquisite piece," he says). Somehow, he makes time to jam with his eight-member Friesen Family Band in genres ranging from folk to baroque.

Lala Lee, pianist

Lala Lee made her debut with Symphony Nova Scotia, playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 under Bernhard Gueller. (Bo Huang Photography)

Age: 17
Hometown: Halifax

"The job description of a musician is literally no work, all play," says Lala Lee. With an attitude like that, it's no wonder good things are happening for her. In March, she made her debut with Symphony Nova Scotia, playing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 under Bernhard Gueller. Her solo recital last November in the Music Room's Chamber Players series went so well that she's been invited back next season for a concert with her chamber group, Daedalus Trio. In July, she reached the Stepping Stone semifinals of the Canadian Music Competition. She's moving to Toronto this fall to begin her studies at the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music. If she's homesick, she will cheer herself up with viola jokes: "they keep me alive."

Alice Lee, violinist

Age: 17
Hometown: Toronto

"My ideal day off would be lying on my bed and watching anime while eating popsicles out of the box," confesses Alice Lee, who has obviously been reading our minds. The young violinist deserves to kick back, having won first prize in the B category of the OSM Manulife Competition last November, as well as first prize at the 2017 Shean Competition in May. She'll play a concerto with the Edmonton Symphony in 2018 as a result of the latter win, in addition to an upcoming solo engagement with the Buffalo Philharmonic and an appearance at the Banff International String Quartet Festival. She credits her older brother with inspiring her — "he is hard-working, considerate, generous, and a perfectionist; everything I aspire to be" — and admits that her own enthusiasm for the violin can sometimes be too much. (We'd argue it's just enough!)

Arthur Wang, pianist

Age: 16
Hometown: Vancouver

In March, Arthur Wang was a finalist at the 2017 Hilton Head International Piano Competition, playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra. "Although there's lots of practice and hard work involved," he reflects, "when I see the reaction from the audience, which is particularly important for me, it makes me feel as though every second of preparation was worth it." Music to the ears of Sasha Starcevich, Wang's teacher, who says, "Arthur has the spirit and heart of a true musician, with a presence and communication onstage of a brilliant virtuoso." In July, Wang took part in the e-Piano Junior Competition. Fans in his hometown can catch him at a fundraising concert for the Northwest International Piano Ensemble Competition at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in late September.

Christine Ke Pan, pianist

From 2007 to 2017, Canadian pianist Christine Ke Pan won numerous prizes in the categories piano solo and piano concerto at the Montreal Classical Music Festival. (Submitted by Christine Ke Pan)

Age: 16
Hometown: Brossard, Que.

Without hesitation, Christine Ke Pan names Yuja Wang as her biggest inspiration. "Every time she's onstage, I see a powerful and independent woman lost in her own world of music, which I aspire to be!" Wang would be impressed by Pan's recent accomplishments: in April, she won the $3,000 second prize at the Canadian Federation of Music Teachers' Association National Piano Competition, where she was the youngest contestant. She also won first prize in the 15- to 18-year-old category at the Canadian Music Competition, which led to a performance of Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Orchestre de la Francophonie in July — the crowning achievement of a year that also included a trip to Disney World. Pan's musical interests extend to pop as much as classical. "I'm really interested in drums," she tells us — and it looks like she's marching to her own beat.

Emma Hoglund, pianist

Vancouver pianist Emma Hoglund studies with Ian Parker and Sergei Saratovsky. (Dorothy Sonya-Hoglund)

Age: 15
Hometown: South Surrey, B.C.

"We'll be in touch," said conductor Bramwell Tovey to Emma Hoglund when she was awarded first prize at the VSO School of Music's Future of Excellent Competition in June. The 15-year-old will play Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 with the VSO in January. In July, Hoglund went to Pasadena, Calif., to attend the John Perry Academy of Music where she made lots of friends: "Music is truly a universal language so we can all speak to each other even though we may come from very different places." Most recently, she took part in Music Fest Perugia, in Italy, where she stopped eating pasta and gelato long enough to play a concerto in the Basilica San Pietro. She also dabbles in jazz improvisation, enjoys rap and electronic music, plays volleyball and when she's thirsty, reaches for a taro milkshake boba with pearls. Cheers, Emma!

Ireh Kim, marimbist

Canadian marimba player Ireh Kim is one of the winners in the VYSO concerto competition in 2017. (Music Without Borders Society)

Age: 14
Hometown: Vancouver

Ireh Kim says the three best things to happen to her in the past year were: (1) winning first prize in the junior category at the VSO School of Music's Future of Excellence Competition, thereby clinching her chance to play Paul Creston's Concertino for Marimba with the VSO next season, (2) getting a dog — a black miniature poodle called Jolly, and (3) her brother going away to study at Princeton. (We laughed out loud at that last one.) "Most people think of me as a 'classical only' person," she says, "but in my daily life, I mostly listen to k-pop, R&B, hip-hop, and other genres."

How did she discover percussion? "While I was waiting for my piano lesson at my music school, I sometimes peeked in the small percussion studio and listened to the different types of sounds each instrument could make." Curiosity soon led to obsession: "I became comfortable with every instrument in the studio, until the marimba came in. I had no idea what a marimba was! When I struck my mallets on the wooden keys, the beautiful, cavernous sound captured me and it soon became my favourite percussion instrument." And the rest, as they say, is history.

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