30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2018 edition

Meet the young Canadian musicians burning up the classical music scene.
Bassoonist Kristy Tucker is currently studying with Frank Morelli at the Yale School of Music. (Brock Jenken Photography)
Do not take up music unless you would rather die than not do so.- Nadia Boulanger

It seems like a dire warning (not to mention a confusing double negative), but the famed composition teacher knew too well the sacrifice and frustration required to become a professional classical musician. She also knew that, for so many, there simply isn't an alternative.

That's the case with the 30 young people we've selected for our sixth annual list of Canada's hottest emerging classical musicians, whose hard work and dedication are paying off. They're winning big competitions and prizes, making exciting debuts, graduating from top music schools — and we think they're amazing.

Scroll down to get acquainted with this year's inductees into our classical "30 under 30" community, from oldest to youngest.

If there's a young Canadian classical musician you'd like us to know about, inform us on Twitter.

Jarred Dunn, pianist

Jarred Dunn won 1st prize at the 2018 Lithuanian International Chopin Competition. (Sean Done)

Age: 29
From: Niagara Falls, Ont.

"If I could go into isolation for six months and study just one composer, I would take everything Debussy wrote," says Jarred Dunn, who now walks daily in Debussy's footsteps since relocating to Paris. Earlier this year, Dunn won first prize and the concerto prize at the Chopin International Competition of Lithuania. He also recorded his first album (Chopin, Debussy) in Madison, Wis.

Following studies at the University of Toronto and the Juilliard School, Dunn completed graduate degrees with Anna Górecka (daughter of composer Henryk Górecki) at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland. Next season he'll play concertos by Brahms and Mozart with the Chamber Symphony of Lithuania. In his (practically non-existent) spare time, he plays tennis, reads 50-plus books a year, and drinks cosmos with his partner Patryk.

Amy Hillis, violinist

Violinist Amy Hillis is the 1st-prize winner of the 2018 Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition. (Valentina Sadiul)

Age: 28
From: Regina

Audiences across Canada will have ample opportunity to hear Amy Hillis perform in the coming concert season. As first-prize winner at the 2018 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, she'll go on tour in October and November with pianist Katherine Dowling. Then, in 2019, she and pianist Meagan Milatz will tour the Maritimes, Quebec and the Prairies as part of Road Trip! A Pan-Canadian Partnership, presented by Debut Atlantic, Les Jeunesses Musicales du Canada and Prairie Debut.

Head to Ottawa's NAC on Sept. 17 and you'll catch her playing Beethoven with the Montreal-based SOMA String Quartet; tune in to CBC Music's In Concert this fall, and you'll hear the music she recorded recently in our Montreal studio.

It's a busy time, and when it all gets to be too much, this Roughriders fan either recharges at Last Mountain Lake in Buena Vista, Sask. — "It was my second home as a kid and I feel both at peace and energized when I'm there" — or, gets an adrenaline boost by hurtling downhill on skis.

Simon Riverin, violinist

In September 2018, violinist Simon Riverin begins a 2-year tenureship at the Karajan Akademie of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. (Astrid Ackermann)

Age: 27
From: Jonquière, Que.

"When I was a kid, my biggest inspiration was violinist Sarah Chang," recalls Simon Riverin. "I saw her on television playing with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and I almost got sucked into the TV!" Well, fortunately that didn't happen, but he did start playing the violin when he was five and hasn't looked back.

Riverin graduated with great distinction from Montreal's Conservatoire and won first prize, three years in a row, at the national final of the Canadian Music Competition. Last season, he toured Europe with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Far East with the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra. These days, when he's not watching Queer Eye, he's preparing for a two-year tenureship with the Karajan Akademie of the Berlin Philharmonic — "I will be playing with this orchestra for the next two seasons!" — which starts in September and sounds totally amazing.

Noémie Raymond-Friset, cellist

Cellist Noémie Raymond-Friset recently won third prize at the Canadian Music Competition's Stepping Stone final. (Alex Blank)

Age: 27
From: Longueuil, Que.

For Noémie Raymond-Friset, the worst thing about being a musician is practising scales and arpeggios daily. Her solution? "I turn it into more of a meditative kind of practising, which makes it nicer." (She also rewards herself with red Twizzlers.)

Her dedication is paying off: she's currently working on her doctorate at the Eastman School of Music and recently won third prize at the Canadian Music Competition's Stepping Stone final. This summer, she was an artist in residence at the Heifetz International Music Institute in Staunton, Vt., after having attended its summer program in 2017. ("It became my second musical home.") Currently obsessed with Shostakovich — "the depth, the darkness, the sarcasm, the harmonies" — Raymond-Friset also makes time for reading, Marvel movies and the songs of Jacques Brel. In October, she'll make her concert debut in Lima, Peru.

Jarrett McCourt, tubist

Jarrett McCourt is currently the acting principal tubist of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and principal tubist of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. (Alice Hong)

Age: 27
From: Windsor, Ont.

The first thing to know about Jarrett McCourt is that he's a certified yoga instructor. "Whenever I'm feeling like I'm not playing my best, yoga really allows me to relax and find my best sound." This past season, he put that healthy sound to use a few ways: in Mahler's Symphony No. 9 with Michael Tilson Thomas in McCourt's last concert as a fellow of the New World Symphony in Miami; as understudy for Carol Jantsch (principal tubist of the Philadelphia Orchestra) in a concerto by Michael Daugherty with the Albany Symphony at the Kennedy Center; and most recently, in a gig with jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding in Detroit.

Next season, he'll tour Hamburg, Berlin and Paris with the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, and return to his alma mater to play a concerto with the University of Western Ontario's Wind Ensemble. Somehow he finds time to moonlight as a photographer (see his portfolio here). But it's not all hard work: McCourt unwinds by watching reruns of The Office and Parks and Recreation while eating Halo Top ice cream.

Emily Kruspe, violinist

Emily Kruspe became the 2nd violinist of the Rolston String Quartet in May 2018. (Alisa Zaytseva)

Age: 26
From: Toronto

Avid cyclist, Netflix binge-watcher and self-described cat lady Emily Kruspe was offered (and accepted, obviously!) the second violin position in the Rolston String Quartet in May — perfect timing, since the quartet will be making its Carnegie Hall and Wigmore Hall debuts in December and January, respectively.

A graduate of the University of Toronto and a Rebanks Fellow at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Kruspe singles out her former teacher Erika Raum as especially influential: "She has been my confidante and mentor for the last 10 years. I admire her outlook on life and her musicianship." Best thing about being a musician? "There is never a shortage of phenomenal music to discover," she responds, confessing a fascination with harmony, which explains her love of Beethoven: "the man certainly knew how to modulate!"

Charles Sy, tenor

W. A. Mozart: 'Il mio tesoro' from Don Giovanni, sung by Charles Sy

5 years ago
Duration 3:58
Tenor Charles Sy and pianist Stéphane Mayer perform the aria "Il mio tesoro" from Act 2 of Don Giovanni. Recorded in CBC Toronto's Studio 211, Sy is one of CBC Music's 30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30 for 2018. Consult the full list here:

Age: 26
From: Mississauga, Ont.

"My mother emigrated from her family and her home country to establish herself on the other side of the world in order to build a better life for herself and her loved ones," says Charles Sy, who's inspired by her example to do his best. Recent achievements include reaching the finals of the Glyndebourne Opera Cup, winning the $7,000 first prize in the Oratorio Society of New York's Oratorio Solo Competition, and making his Carnegie Hall debut as the Evangelist and tenor soloist in Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

This summer, he's taking part in San Francisco's Merola Opera Program and after that, he'll head overseas to tweak his German language skills. Sy is one of three Canadian tenors who'll compete in the International Voice Competition's Hertogenbosch in September, and next April, he'll make his Vancouver Opera debut as Prince Ramiro in La Cenerentola by Rossini. We think his mother must be bursting with pride.

Enjoy his performance of "Il mio tesoro" from Mozart's Don Giovanni, with pianist Stéphane Mayer, recorded in CBC Toronto's Studio 211.

Zac Pulak, percussionist

Percussionist Zac Pulak commissions and performs new Canadian music. ( Alan Dean Photography)

Age: 26
From: Winnipeg

If you happen to be looking for percussionist Zac Pulak, just follow the trail of Goldfish crumbs (his favourite snack). There, you'll find one of Ottawa's most dynamic musicians. "Do or do not; there is no try," he says, quoting Yoda — a motto he puts into practice with such endeavours as #NSFWcc (Not safe for work contemporary cabaret), an emerging-artists concert series he started last year.

Pulak also commissions and performs new Canadian music as part of SHHH!! Duo, plays with violinist Yolanda Bruno and cellist Carmen Bruno in trio [no]relation, and teams up with Andrew Harris for Percussion A to Z, a popular entry on festival lineups. No wonder the Winnipeg native compares himself to a beaver — "Industrious, and, if I may say so, cute from a distance." In the 2018-19 season, thanks to a Chalmers Professional Development Grant from the Ontario Arts Council, he'll further his training alongside Beverley Johnston.

Lauren Margison, soprano

Lauren Margison sang the role of Clorinda in Opéra de Montréal's November 2017 production of Rossini's La Cenerentola. (Brent Calis)

Age: 26
From: Toronto

Margison's ideal day off? "Sitting by a lake with a good book, and a nice cocktail." (That's the correct answer, FYI.) We hope she's been doing lots of that this summer to prepare for her next big adventure as a member of the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio. Last February, Margison put herself on everyone's radar, winning a $10,000 award from the George London Foundation. She also sang the role of Clorinda in Opéra de Montréal's November 2017 production of Rossini's La Cenerentola.

These days, in addition to learning the role of Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin — "his musical storytelling is absolutely mind-blowing" — she's apt to be knitting, quoting Winston Churchill, reading Tolkien or watching shark videos. ("Shark Week on Discovery is like Christmas for me!") Oh, and if her name sounds familiar, it's because her father is iconic Canadian tenor Richard Margison.

Alice Hong, composer and violinist

An international award winner both as a violinist and composer, Alice Hong has had compositions performed in Hungary, Netherlands, China, Czech Republic, Canada and the United States. (Britton Riley)

Age: 26
From: Toronto

April was huge for Alice Hong: Her piece Phoenix was performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at its most recent reading session — a new experience for this composer, whose usual place is the violin section — and she was the soloist in Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending ("one of my favourite pieces") with the U of T Symphony Orchestra.

An animal lover with a penchant for Haribo gummies, Hong is currently working on her doctorate of music at U of T, and praises her violin teacher, Jonathan Crow, for "his example of always working hard, efficiently, and with a smile on his face!" She also has serious respect for jazz musicians: "They have such a deep understanding of theory and form, and they are always creating and listening to music in the moment." This summer, you'll find Hong on a Holland–America cruise ship, touring Alaska and the North Pacific and playing chamber music as part of Lincoln Center Stage. There are worse summer jobs!

Nathan Bredeson, guitarist

Nathan Bredeson is a founding member of the Ottawa Guitar Trio. (Valerie Keeler Photography)

Age: 25
From: Vancouver

A year ago, Nathan Bredeson established the Ottawa Guitar Trio with his former classmates François Lacelle and Alex Bougie and their sold-out debut concert was such a success. They immediately scheduled an encore performance. "I cannot wait to see where the project ends up," he says. The Vancouver native also recently wrapped up his first year teaching at Ottawa Suzuki Strings and recorded his first album, Nocturne. Pretty impressive for a guy who sleeps late — "I wish I was the type of person who could wake up at 6 a.m. and be a fully functioning human being" — and takes a lot of naps.

Like so many others on this list, Bredeson has awesome parents: "Thanks to their support I have been able to keep pursuing the dream." That dream includes recording Ravel and music from The Legend of Zelda with the Ottawa Guitar Trio next season. In the meantime, he'll spend some holiday time in P.E.I., hang out with his dog Buddy, gorge on St-Albert cheese curds and watch Bob Ross videos. Sounds like heaven!

Kristy Tucker, bassoonist

Bassoonist Kristy Tucker is currently studying with Frank Morelli at the Yale School of Music. (Brock Jenken Photography)

Age: 25
From: Winnipeg

"Don't be sorry, be better." It sounds like something Dwayne Johnson would say, but in fact it's bassoonist Kristy Tucker's uncompromising motto. Holding herself to the highest standards, she's currently studying with Frank Morelli at the Yale School of Music, having completed degrees at the University of Manitoba and McGill University. Last season, she played principal bassoon — including the opening solo in Stravinsky's Rite of Spring — with Yale Philharmonia. There'll be more Stravinsky in September when she makes her Carnegie Hall debut playing L'Histoire du soldat alongside Yale faculty members David Shifrin and Ani Kavafian.

Tucker says she admires people who can just go with the flow, and admits to some obsessive tendencies, such as "folding and re-folding my sheets until everything is the same width" and "sitting in the front seat, carefully eyeing the road because [my boyfriend] is a very absent-minded driver." We bet she's very good at cutting straight tips on her reeds.

Simona Genga, mezzo-soprano

Hector Berlioz: 'Le Spectre de la rose,' sung by Simona Genga

5 years ago
Duration 6:29
Mezzo-soprano Simona Genga and pianist Trevor Chartrand perform "Le Spectre de la rose" from Nuits d'été, Op. 7, by Hector Berlioz. Recorded in CBC Toronto's Studio 211, Genga is one of CBC Music's 30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30 for 2018. Consult the full list here:

Age: 23
From: Toronto

"If music be the food of love, I'll have seconds," says Simona Genga, laughing at her own joke (her specialty). Genga won first prize and the audience choice award at the Canadian Opera Company's 2017 Ensemble Studio Competition, securing her tenureship in that professional development program beginning in September. She also won the Norcop Song Prize last fall and gave a recital at Walter Hall in March as a result. In May, with a master's degree in opera performance from U of T under her belt, Genga sang the role of Annina in a St. Louis Opera Theatre production of Verdi's La Traviata. This summer, she's a fellow at the Ravinia Festival's Steans Music Institute, refining her song-interpretation skills. To unwind, she watches Real Housewives (any country) and puts Death Cab for Cutie albums on repeat.

We were blown away when she and pianist Trevor Chartrand performed Berlioz's "Le Spectre de la rose" in our Toronto studio.

Kevin Ahfat, pianist

Johannes Brahms: Intermezzo in A Major, Op. 118, No. 2, played by Kevin Ahfat

5 years ago
Duration 5:54
Pianist Kevin Ahfat plays Klavierstück in A Major (Intermezzo), Op. 118, No. 2, by Johannes Brahms. Recorded in CBC Toronto's Studio 211, Ahfat is one of CBC Music's 30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30 for 2018. Consult the full list here:

Age: 23
From: Toronto

Last February, at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Calif., Kevin Ahfat and cellist Juliette Herlin gave the North American premiere of the recently discovered Cello Sonata No. 3 by Saint-Saëns. (Yes, really! Watch this about it.) Another of Ahfat's proudest accomplishments of the past year was restoring a 1895 New York Steinway grand piano that he received from the estate of the late David Oppen, a Canadian-born Stanford researcher, VP at Nortel and amateur pianist. "It really sounds like a true old-school, American Steinway: a deeply warm, dark, and wholesome sound," Ahfat says.

For now, due to hefty import tariffs, the piano will remain in New York, where Ahfat has spent the past six years completing a bachelor's and master's degree at Juilliard. He's moving home to Toronto later this summer to begin a Rebanks Fellowship at the Glenn Gould School. (Time to get that dog he's always dreamed of?) While he's a disciple of Martha Argerich, he says Beyoncé by Beyoncé changed his life.

We invited him to our Toronto studio to play some Brahms.

Dominique Beauséjour-Ostiguy, cellist and composer

Cellist Dominique Beauséjour-Ostiguy is the winner of the 2018 Prix d'Europe. (Amélie Fortin)

Age: 23
From: Laval, Que.

"I've always had a weakness for Romantic music, and for me, the music of Rachmaninoff is the summit of Romanticism," says Dominique Beauséjour-Ostiguy. "I love the intensity and flow in his music, and particulary the harmony, which I find sublime." Not surprisingly, Rachmaninoff's Cello Sonata is the piece that attracted Beauséjour-Ostuguy to music in the first place.

In June, shortly after completing his master's degree at the University of Montreal, he won the 2018 Prix d'Europe, a $25,000 prize offered annually by the Académie de musique de Québec. Last season, he performed concerts built entirely of his own compositions with two ensembles he belongs to: BOA (a duo with pianist/vocalist Marie-Pier Allard) and the Andara String Quartet. He's got upcoming performances of Dvorak's Cello Concerto with the University of Montreal Symphony Orchestra and the Montreal Youth Symphony Orchestra. To train for those, he'll not only practise like mad, but also indulge his passion for long-distance running. Catch him if you can!

Brayden Friesen, trombonist

Henri Tomasi: Concerto for Trombone, 1st movement, played by Brayden Friesen

5 years ago
Duration 7:41
Trombonist Brayden Friesen and pianist Victor Cheng play the first movement of Henri Tomasi's Concerto for Trombone (1957). Recorded in CBC Toronto's Studio 211, Friesen is one of CBC Music's 30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30 for 2018. Consult the full list here:

Age: 23
From: Rocky Mountain House, Alta.

Last September, Brayden Friesen got called to fill in (on 25 minutes' notice) for a Toronto Symphony Orchestra trombonist who was stuck in traffic. He hopped on his bike and arrived in time to put on an ill-fitting tux, skim the music (including two new works!) and run onstage to play the concert. "A very exciting and memorable experience," he says.

In fact, Friesen only got serious about the trombone in Grade 12, when its allure finally won out over sports: he played soccer, basketball, football and was a competitive speed skater, winning a silver medal at the Alberta Winter Games. Now, he's a student of the TSO's principal trombonist, Gordon Wolfe, at the Royal Conservatory of Music's Glenn Gould School, having completed his bachelor of music at U of T in 2017. Friesen makes a specialty of contemporary music and is looking forward to performing Oscar Bettison's O Death in Toronto this fall: "this piece is exciting, extremely challenging and I think it will be a unique and rewarding artistic experience." And get this: he says he secretly wishes to play the viola.

Friesen recently dropped by our Toronto studio with pianist Victor Cheng to play a movement from Tomasi's Trombone Concerto.

Brian Mangrum, hornist

Hornist Brian Mangrum won 1st prize in the brass category at the 2017 OSM Manulife Competition. (Natalie Gaynor)

Age: 23
From: Montreal

Meet Brian Mangrum, the new principal hornist of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra. That's just the latest accomplishment for the young Montrealer who, in the past year, took first prize in the brass category of the 2017 OSM Manulife Competition and graduated from Rice University. Not bad for a self-described "accomplished procrastinator!"

Offstage, Mangrum enjoys cooking (in a parallel universe he imagines himself going to culinary school and becoming a chef) and camping in La Mauricie National Park (despite a fear of snakes.) His former teacher, and Montreal Symphony Orchestra principal hornist, John Zirbel, has had a huge influence: "I greatly admire his playing, his work ethic and him as a person." A few things that may surprise you about Mangrum: he was born in Seville, Spain; his younger brother Martin is also an accomplished hornist; he secretly wishes to play the cello; and he does a mean Donald Duck imitation.

Benjamin Morency, flutist

Flutist Benjamin Morency won the grand prize at the 2017 OSM Manulife Competition. (Felice Doynov)

Age: 22
From: Saint-Esprit, Que.

Hockey, golf, softball, cooking, cars, microbrew and flute — these are a few of Benjamin Morency's favourite things. But among these varied interests, flute is definitely coming out on top lately: Morency won first prize in the woodwind category as well as the grand prize at the 2017 OSM Manulife Competition (and played Ibert's Flute Concerto with that orchestra in January as a result). In May, he played Chaminade's Concertino with the Redlands Symphony conducted by Ransom Wilson (Morency's teacher) and he recently graduated with a master's degree from Yale University ("incredibly special").

On Sept. 1, he'll give a recital (Schumann, Hétu and Schubert) as part of the OSM's classical spree, and then in October he joins the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra for Mozart's Flute Concerto No. 2. What keeps him going? "My teachers, family and some amazing friends," he says. Also poutine.

Thomas Nicholson, composer

Thomas Nicholson is currently studying composition with Marc Sabat in Berlin. (Rafal Rawicki)

Age: 22
From: Fredericton

Life in Berlin is a perfect fit for Thomas Nicholson, who's currently working on his master's in composition at the city's Universität der Künste. A steady diet of ("with lots of salt!") is fuelling him to prepare an installation for the Mehr Licht Festival coming up in November, as well as a new trio for New Brunswick's Motion 2 Ensemble. Last September, Nicholson got a big boost when he nabbed two first prizes as well as the John Weinzweig Grand Prize at the annual SOCAN Foundation Awards for Young Composers.

He credits his undergraduate composition lessons with U Vic professor Christopher Butterfield for inspiring him: "They were often more like extended conversations than anything else, which could go in any direction imaginable: music, of course, but also literature, science, Japanese culture, cooking, history, beekeeping, driving your Vespa through the Italian countryside — just to name a few topics. How could I not have found this inspiring?"

Élisabeth Pion, pianist

In May, Élisabeth Pion won first prize at the Shean Piano Competition and gets to perform with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra next season. (TIHMS & Van Velden Fotografie)

Age: 22
From: Otterburn Park, Que.

"I'm excited about discovering the hidden treasures of London and soaking myself in English culture," enthuses Élisabeth Pion, who begins studies with Ronan O'Hora at the Guildhall School of Music in September. The move marks the conclusion of eight years of study at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal (she graduated with high distinction), where her most recent teacher was André Laplante. "He has helped me so much in finding my own sound and freedom at the piano. I'm really grateful for this encounter."

In May, Pion won first prize at the Shean Piano Competition and gets to perform with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra next season. Before then, she'll play Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor ("his music is just so pure and simple") with the recently established Ensemble Volta, under the direction of her friend Thomas Leduc-Moreau. The secret to her success? It could be all the ginger/curcuma kombucha she drinks (ew?), or maybe that she reads almost as much as she practises. "I enjoy learning and discovering, no matter what the medium is."

Carter Johnson, pianist

Carter Johnson won 1st prize in the 2018 Canadian Music Competition's Stepping Stone final. (Michelle Doherty)

Age: 21
From: Vancouver

In the past year, Carter Johnson got married, became a dad (to baby Preston), graduated in piano performance from UBC and won first prize in the Stepping Stone final of the Canadian Music Competition. Phewf! If we didn't know better, we'd suspect divine intervention. (Johnson is a devout Christian who sees himself as a minister in an alternate career path.)

He also worships Vladimir Horowitz, Maria Callas and Carlos Kleiber, and in addition to piano, he plays oboe and harpsichord (his is named Wanda, naturally) and is a trained actor, speaker and singer with an aptitude for languages and a deep love of art song. (Um, guys: he can accompany himself.) In the coming months, he'll prepare for competitions and grad school auditions, and is scheduled to play Schumann's Piano Concerto with the Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra, plus a "whole whack of chamber music recitals," as he puts it.

Julia Mirzoev, violinist

Violinist Julia Mirzoev is going to Yale this fall to continue her training. (Alice Hong)

Age: 21
From: Toronto

Julia Mirzoev's love of violin dates back to her early childhood, when she listened to her parents' records of Yehudi Menuhin and Stéphane Grappelli. "I was exposed very early on to their smooth jazzy tunes and have always tried to recreate that warmth in my playing." These days, her obsession has shifted to Schubert due to her recent experience as an academy fellow at the Toronto Summer Music Festival, where she workshopped and played Schubert's String Quintet in C, whose "level of emotion and expression" astounded her.

In April, she won the $1,000 Marta Hidy Concerto Competition Prize, securing a performance of Glazunov's Violin Concerto with Orchestra Toronto on Dec. 9. Two days before then, she'll play the same work with the U of T Symphony Orchestra. Having just graduated from U of T, Mirzoev is going to Yale this fall to continue her training with Ani Kavafian. And while all of this is very impressive, Mirzoev says she's most excited about being a bridesmaid for the first time at her brother's wedding on Sept. 1.

Tate Zawadiuk, cellist

Tate Zawadiuk Zawadiuk will play Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations with the Vancouver Academy of Music Orchestra in November. (Hugo Escamilla)

Age: 21
From: New Westminster, B.C.

Tate Zawadiuk has serious credentials as a soloist, but it's as a chamber musician that he has lately caught our attention. He's the cellist of the  Viano String Quartet, which won third prize, the Haydn Prize and the Sydney Griller Award for the best performance of the imposed work at the 2018 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition, as well as the silver medal at the Fischoff Competition. The Viano Quartet is based at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, where Zawadiuk is entering his final year as a student of Clive Greensmith.

Zawadiuk will play Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations with the Vancouver Academy of Music Orchestra in November. In January, with the Viano Quartet, he'll play Dvorák's String Quartet No. 12 for Rob Kapilow's What Makes it Great? series. "If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail," says Zawadiuk's mom, whose advice he has evidently followed. But does she know her son secretly wants to be a surfer? (He's got the hair for it!)

Sarah Yang, violinist

Canadian violinist Sarah Yang is currently studying at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater 'Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy' in Leipzig, Germany. (Supplied by Sarah Yang)

Age: 20
From: Vancouver

"Benjamin Britten is so underrated," says Sarah Yang, who played Britten's String Quartet No. 2 in July as a member of the Toronto Summer Music Festival Academy. "I've realized that I don't actually know too many of his works. I'm on a mission now to discover more!" She'll pursue that mission in Leipzig, where she's currently studying at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater "Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy" with Carolin Widmann.

"She's extremely down-to-Earth," Yang says of her teacher, "and also always tries to see the positive side of everything." Earlier this year, Yang took part in a performance of a Bach cantata at St. Thomas's Church in Leipzig ("a refreshing and inspiring experience") and in October, she'll play in the new Freies Orchester Leipzig at the Lichtfest (Festival of Lights), celebrating 100 years of women's rights in Germany. She does all this despite — we can't even imagine — an allergy to caffeine!

Grace Sohn, cellist

In April, cellist Grace Sohn won first prize at the International Anton Rubinstein Cello Competition. (Supplied by Grace Sohn)

Age: 19
From: Vancouver

"It's actually legal for me to drink here in Germany," enthuses Grace Sohn, who moved to Berlin last year to join the class of Troels Svane at the Hanns Eisler Hochschule für Musik. "I have to say, any kind of beer here will make me happy." Not only happy, it turns out, but also highly productive: In April, Sohn won first prize at the International Anton Rubinstein Cello Competition, which includes the use of a French bow made by Victor Thomassin that will sound amazing with her 1880 Neuner & Hornsteiner cello.

These days she's preparing for more competitions, working on Enescu's Octet with her fellow students in Berlin and "trying to become friends with contemporary music and play it as convincingly as possible." Sohn says she'd be a pastry chef if music hadn't taken hold. "Whenever it's someone's birthday in my family, the cake is always on me!"

Jack Li, clarinettist

Clarinettist Jack Li was awarded 1st prize at the Bjorn & Lori Hareid Senior Secondary Competition and the Vancouver Women’s Music Society Scholarship Competition in 2018. (Michelle Doherty)

Age: 18
From: Vancouver

When Jack Li was five, his father picked up an album of Beethoven piano sonatas. "The chaos in the finale of the Moonlight Sonata did more than enough to hook me," he reflects. Now a "retired pianist" (he played a solo recital at age 10 for 600 people), Li's full attention is focused on the clarinet. Or is it? "I love to follow sports, especially soccer," he admits. "If there's a match happening on the other side of the world, count on me to be up live-streaming it in the eerie hours of the night!"

He also excels at math and the natural sciences, and recently wrapped up a research fellowship with the physics department at UBC. Not surprisingly, he's heading to Harvard in September to begin his undergraduate degree — "the perfect place to pursue music and academics in tandem." Last year, he played Weber's Grand Duo Concertant alongside pianist Christopher O'Riley, a performance that was aired across 250 stations of NPR. He has a weakness for Pringles, but his addiction to the "magical allure of the stage" is even stronger. Fans in his hometown can catch him in December performing as part of the Music Friends series.

Kristofer Siy, percussionist

Marimbist Kristofer Siy won 1st prize in the senior division of the VSO School of Music's 2018 Future of Excellence Competition. (Supplied by Evelyn Siy)

Age: 18
From: Vancouver

"My dream as a kid was to be a professional gamer," says Kristofer Siy, "but I discovered the love of music and decided to be a percussionist instead." While he still plays video games in his spare time, that decision is already paying off: he recently won first prize in the senior division of the VSO School of Music's Future of Excellence Competition and is looking forward to playing Rosauro's Concerto No. 1 for Marimba and Orchestra with the VSO next season. "I absolutely love that piece and after each performance I can't wait to perform it again."

In March, he toured the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria with the band from St. George's School, from which he recently graduated. Siy credits his older brother with getting him interested in percussion, and wishes he, himself, had more self-discipline — "I'm lazy and lounge around a lot," he confesses. But that's bound to change when he begins his music studies at UBC this fall.

Naomi Ford, flutist

Flutist Naomi Ford Ford was the grand award winner at the 2017 National Music Festival in Ottawa. (Supplied by Naomi Ford)

Age: 17
From: Riverview, N.B.

Did you know that wind players need to avoid dairy before they practise or perform? (Because phlegm.) "It gets annoying when I really feel like some cheese and crackers," says Naomi Ford, "only to remember that I need to practice in 15 minutes!"

The struggle is real, but worth it: last August, Ford was the grand award winner at the 2017 National Music Festival in Ottawa. That comes with a cash prize of $5,000 and an opportunity to perform as a soloist with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra. This summer, as a member of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, she's touring Germany and Scotland from Aug. 8 to 14.

Offstage, Ford enjoys archery, crocheting, swimming and reading — pursuits we hope she'll have time to continue this fall when she begins her studies at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. She'll return to her home province in May 2019 to play Mozart's Flute Concerto with Symphony New Brunswick.

Da-Wei Chan, violinist

Eleven-year-old violinist Da-Wei Chan is a student of Carla Birston at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music. (Siong Chan)

Age: 11
From: Surrey, B.C.

On one hand, Da-Wei Chan is a typical 11-year-old: he loves root beer and Maynard's Swedish berries and worries about "scary and creepy monsters under my bed or in my room after the lights are turned off." On the other hand, he's busy working on achieving "a perfectly smooth bow change" and says, "I wish I could grow up faster so that I can understand romance and lost love and bring these emotions out in Romantic and beautiful pieces by Bruch, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn." All in good time!

Until then, he's studying hard with Carla Birston ("she challenges me to do better in such an encouraging and supportive way") at the VSO School of Music, where he's the youngest member of the advanced string ensemble, takes part in the chamber music program and won first prize in the junior division of its annual Future of Excellence Competition. Don't miss your chance to hear him play a concerto with the VSO next season.

Emrik Revermann, violinist

In May 2018, Emrik Revermann won the grand prize at the Kocian International Violin Competition in the Czech Republic. (Christina Gapic)

Age: 10
From: Toronto

In May, Emrik Revermann was declared the "absolute laureate" of the 60th Kocian International Violin Competition in the Czech Republic — not bad, considering he was competing in the 10-and-under category! This came just two months after he soloed with the Canadian Sinfonietta as a winner of its Young Artist Competition.

A student of Conrad Chow at the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Revermann says he's currently obsessed with Tchaikovsky ("I really want to play his violin concerto some day, hopefully soon!"), is still trying to master up-bow staccato ("It's hard to make every single note sound very clear") and credits his mom for his prodigious success ("Because she practises with me and tries to help me be better"). This summer, he's playing lots of soccer and tennis and will further his training at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. We asked him what the worst thing about being a musician is: "There is no worst thing," he replied. We predict a bright future.