Nikki Chooi impresses his roots with more accolades
Nikki Chooi may be a world-renowned violinist at age 24, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still get nervous.
“For any event, before a performance, you can find me backstage trying to simulate the beginning of the performance — from how I will be holding the my violin before I start to how I would want to the start my first note,” says Chooi. “I will do this sequence of actions over and over for about 20 minutes. I believe that if I am physically comfortable in starting, the rest of the performance will be fine.”
Chooi knows a thing or two about being “fine.” The accomplished Victorian musician is now touring New Zealand in association with Chamber Music New Zealand, performing with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and recording under the Atoll label, after becoming the recent first-prize winner of the prestigious 2013 Michael Hill International Violin Competition.
During an intense match between 18 semi-finalists from around the world, Chooi earned the accolade with his performance of the Sibelius Concerto in D minor with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.
Chooi also happens to be a winner of the 2013 Astral Artists’ Auditions, Laureate of the 2012 Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition, and First Prize Winner of the 2009 Irving M. Klein International String Competition in San Francisco — but who’s counting?
Chooi began his violin studies at the Victoria Conservatory of Music at the ripe age of four. By 14, he was accepted into the Academy Program for Gifted Musicians at the Mount Royal University in Calgary. Then, in 2012, he obtained his Bachelors of Music from the Curtis Institute of Music. Now, Chooi is pursuing graduate studies at the Juilliard School of Music.
“I’ve always enjoyed performing in front of an audience,” says Chooi. “It was probably around the age of 14 when I seriously decided to commit my life to being a musician.”
At that time, Chooi had been invited to study at the Starling-Delay Symposium held at the Juilliard School. He was inspired by the artists at the program, like Itzhak Perlman and Anne Akiko Meyers, and came home telling his parents “I want to move to New York City and study at Juilliard.”
But although Chooi has performed as soloist with many orchestras world-wide, he says the Island will always have a soft spot in his heart. Fans will have to wait until March 2014 to see Chooi again, when he will play the Bach Concerto in D minor for Two Violins with his brother, Timothy.
“Victoria will always be considered ‘home’ to me as I have many friends, family, teachers, and colleagues there — people that I have grown up looking up to,” he says. “I am so grateful to have grown up in such a supportive community.”
Fast forward to the present, and Chooi has some pertinent advice for young young instrumentalists interested in pursuing a similar path.
“Keep loving what you do,” he says. “It is the love and passion for music — or whatever path you choose — that will drive you forward.”
That, and be prepared.
“If I am prepared, then no. If I am not prepared then, yes, I do get uncomfortable,” he says.