10-year-old Canadian violinist to debut at Carnegie Hall
Published Monday, November 12, 2012 10:54AM EST
Canadian violinist Mercedes Cheung may only be 10 years old. But the diminutive prodigy from Markham, Ont. has already set a musical record to be envied by older artists.
In May of 2012, Cheung became the youngest violinist in the world to record the entire set of the Paganini 24 Caprices for a new DVD and CD. Not only did she record the difficult pieces, she did so all in one take.
On December 28, the student at The Juilliard School in New York will achieve another first, when she becomes the youngest artist to perform the entire Paganini set at Carnegie Hall.
“I started playing one or two Paganini pieces when I was seven. Then I started to work on all of them last year,” Cheung told CTV’s Canada AM on Monday.
Cheung was originally slated to make her Carnegie debut in November of 2012, but saw the pivotal moment in her career postponed due to Hurricane Sandy.
Despite the delay, this moment will mark a milestone for the little girl who began to play the violin at age two.
“But only for fun,” Cheung explained. “I used to put my violin in with my toys in my play box.”
Indeed, on several occasions Cheung and her parents had to search their home to find her violin because it had been buried under a pile of toys.
Cheung’s interest in the instrument came as no surprise to her family.
Even as an infant, Cheung was surrounded by music in her home.
Her father, Ephraim Cheung, is the music director and conductor of the Markham Symphony orchestra and is a violinist and violist. And Cheung’s mother, Nancy Tye, is a pianist and examiner at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
At age four, however, Cheung’s playful interest morphed into a passion after she heard her father teaching the violin to a student in their home.
“I heard this music that was so sweet and so beautiful,” Cheung said.
“I went downstairs and asked my father if he would teach me. He said okay, but it would be difficult.”
Ready to rise to the challenge, Cheung began to practise up to five hours a day and begged her parents for more practise time whenever possible – even before bedtime.
Such commitment lead to Cheung’s solo debut in 2008 at the Markham Theatre, where she received a standing ovation.
Cheung’s focus and commitment was later rewarded with a full scholarship to Julliard at the ripe old age of eight.
Today, Cheung studies with her dad and Donald Weilerstein, father of the renowned cellist, Alisa Weilerstein and conductor Joshua Weilerstein.
Cheung also travels by bus each week with her father each week to New York for classes and to Boston every other week for sessions with Weilerstein.
The sacrifice is worth it according to Cheung.
“I’m really, really excited to play,” she told Canada AM. “I never knew I was going to do a recording one day. Now I’m the youngest to do it.”