Violinist Da-Wei Chan will make his solo debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in their 100th-anniversary season, which begins this fall.
Da-Wei is an energetic performer who prefers technically challenging work to romantic pieces, and enjoys fun, playful pieces more than anything else — all of which makes sense, considering he is 10 years old.
The talented musician who recently won the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) School of Music’s Future of Excellence concerto competition is about to finish his Grade 5 year at Diamond Elementary in Cloverdale.
By winning the concerto competition, Da-Wei has earned a chance to play with the VSO, which is “huge,” explained his violin instructor Carla Birston, string department chair and string ensembles director at the VSO School of Music.
Birston has been Da-Wei’s teacher since he first picked up the instrument at five years old. The fact that he has won the Future of Excellence concerto competition and will get to play with the VSO is incredible, she said.
She describes Da-Wei as a “rare” student, a “beam of sunshine” who never has a negative attitude.
After 33 years of teaching, Carla has seen many situations where talented young musicians are pushed too hard, resulting in an embitterment towards their craft. This isn’t the case with young Da-Wei.
“What makes Da-Wei so special is that he loves every minute of it,” she said.
The date of Da-Wei’s performance is not yet determined, but when it is, and the piece is selected, Birston will work with him on preparation. Her advice to him ahead of his solo debut, is to “keep on laughing. Just bring that positive, positive attitude.”
“We at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music are so very proud of Da-Wei Chan’s fabulous success,” said Angela Elster, vice-president of the VSO School of Music and community programs. “Da-Wei represents all in which we believe.”
The one-of-a-kind opportunity given to students through the concerto competition has helped launch musical careers, said Elster. It’s “life changing.”
Audiences love having the chance to listen to young performers, she said. “Many winners have received standing ovations from sold-out audiences, and we have received feedback from concert-goers that they were simply astounded by the caliber of the young musicians, and felt privileged to get to hear these stars in the making.”
For the competition, Da-Wei played the third movement of Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor.
Bruch’s concerto is complex and technically challenging, explained Da-Wei’s dad, Siong.
“He could have done more of a romantic piece, but the problem is, he’s too young. He’s not able to bring out emotion,” he said. “Pieces that we tend to choose for him now are technically very challenging but not so big emotionally. He doesn’t understand lost love and —“
“—mostly energetic!” said Da-Wei, piping in about his preferred music. “And hyper! And adrenaline pumping!”
Da-Wei doesn’t have a favourite violinist, and finds it difficult to choose one favourite composer. He enjoys Fritz Kreisler’s show pieces and Felix Mendelssohn’s compositions. Mozart’s not really his style.
The Max Bruch concerto he played is “quite challenging,” said Da-Wei.
“It’s very fast and it gets you to work your fingers a lot to hit every note. There’s this one part, kind of at the beginning, that I struggled with. It was like a octave but then it was tenths. I couldn’t make it all the way up — like eight tenths in a row. I found that hard.”
After months of practicing, he “managed to get it proper,” he said.
This year was Da-Wei’s third time entering the concerto competition. He said it felt “pretty good” to win the competition, although he admitted it was bittersweet, as he was going up against students that he knew, and he would have liked to see them win, too.
He’s not sure how to describe how he feels about his solo debut with the VSO. “I’m excited. Like medium excited, because it’s not there yet.
“It’s my first debut and I’m just a kid so I’ve never experienced this kind of big opportunity.”