11-year-old violinist becomes youngest soloist to perform with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Da-Wei Chan is like most 11-year-olds. He’s got a goofy sense of humour and an affinity for videos games.

But place a violin under his chin and the true musician crescendos to the surface.

“It takes you on a musical journey and brings you somewhere into your heart,” Chan said, describing how he feels when he plays.

Born into a musical family, Chan first picked up the violin at age five.

His natural talent, love of music and dedication quickly established him as a star student at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) School of Music. He is now also the youngest soloist ever to perform with the VSO at the Orpheum Theatre.

“You don’t get a lot of students like this in a lifetime,” said Carla Birston, head of the school’s strings department.

“He picks up all the little nuances and all the tiny details a lot of other people would not be aware are even there.”

Birston said the most important factor behind Chan’s early success is his family. She said there are no “dragon parents” pushing and pressuring their children, instead music is something that brings them all together.

“Music has basically become the true glue for our family. This is what binds us together,” said Siong Chan, Da-Wei’s father.

Watching his children perform at such a high level is not the only thing that makes this dad proud. Music has taught both of his sons how to handle adversity and how to be team players in an orchestra.

The VSO School of Music offers a unique partnership that allows students to become part of a larger musical family, where professional musicians really take them under their wing.

The VSO’s assistant conductor, William Rowson, said working with young talent like Da-Wei is a gift for them as well.

“It’s nice to be reminded of all those times when we first discovered all that music and here he is playing with us and we get to all share in that together,” Rowson said.

In front of a full-house of 3,000 people, Da-Wei Chan walked on stage and beautifully performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op.26 – 3rd Movement.

“It’s a big hall and the first time to play in a crowd that big can be a huge thing,” said Rowson. “Doesn’t seem to phase him at all.”

With a taste of being front and centre with the VSO, Da-Wei says there’s no doubt this will be his future. He also has some advice for all the young musicians out there.

“I just say keep on practicing and have your heart infused in it,” he said.

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