Meet Your 2016 Academy Fellows, Part One!

We are only a few days away from the start of our 2016 Summer Academy and in the next weeks, we will be introducing the talented young musicians attending the Chamber Music Institute and Art of Song program. In this week’s edition of Fellow Fridays, we are proud to feature violinist Daniel Koo, violist Emily Eng, and violinist Sophia Szokolay.

Daniel Koo, violin


1. How did you first get involved with music?

My parents had me while they were both pursuing their doctorate degrees in Chicago. My uncle would come and visit us and would always practice the viola. I believe that is when I first felt the urge to start learning an instrument and since I was a very very small child, my parents started me on violin and I have not let go.

2. Why did you want to spend part of your summer studying at the Toronto Summer Music Academy?

My goal for the summer of 2016 was to play as much chamber repertoire as I could with inspiring musicians. 8 full pieces in 4 weeks with sick players? TSM was the place to go.

3. If you could perform any piece of music in any concert hall in the world, what and where would it be?

It is not quite a concert hall, but I would love to perform Bach Chaconne at the Sistine Chapel.

4. Imagine that you weren’t pursuing a career in music –what would you be doing?

I would be fighting crime as Batman.

5. If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

I would have lunch with Ellen Degeneres… because she is awesome.

Emily Eng

Emily Eng, viola


1. How did you first get involved with music?

As an infant, I was put  in a car seat on top of the piano while my mother was teaching. I have 2 brothers,  (now a violinist and a cellist) and from the earliest age I remember our mother would test our perfect pitch, starting with single notes at a time, then intervals, and eventually picking out notes from chords.  Later, my older brother saw Perlman on Sesame Street and took up violin lessons. Once he grew out of his first tiny instrument, I took the little fiddle determined to play too, and was given 10 minutes of my brother’s lessons.  After a couple of weeks I was given 30 minutes. I was four and a half years old at the time. Fast forward 6 years, my brother and I fought incessantly over who would sit concertmaster in our school orchestra. One day our music teacher handed me a viola, and that settled mostly everything.

2. Why did you want to spend part of your summer studying at the Toronto Summer Music Academy?

I was thrilled to see that TSMA was open to applicants under the age of 35! After working in the industry for some years now, it is such a rare opportunity to be able to attend a festival as a participant, where one can receive lots of constructive criticism while being surrounded by, and playing with musicians with such high integrity from different stages in their careers. Great chamber works and stellar mentors, dedicated and optimistic fellows, this is a rejuvenating and inspirational musical hub I don’t want to miss!

3. If you could perform any piece of music in any concert hall in the world, what and where would it be?

Any Mahler or Brahms symphony at the Konzerthaus Berlin, Berliner Philharmonie, or Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.

4. Imagine that you weren’t pursuing a career in music –what would you be doing?

I would pursue further studies in martial arts and Thai massage, and eventually create a fusion of the two, offering training to girls age 5 to 25 in empowerment, movement and meditation.

5. If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

Ng Mui, (Shaolin nun) or Yim Wing-Chun, (her first disciple) women who, (legend has it) developed and founded the Wing Chun style of Kung Fu. “With her high level of Shaolin martial arts, she created a form of self-defense which could transcend size, weight and gender.”  Or alternatively,  Pablo Casals  🙂

Sophia Szokolay

Sophia Szokolay, violin


1. How did you first get involved with music?

Both my parents are musicians, so it was natural for me to pick an instrument when I was very young. When I was three years old, they invited their musician friends over to show me different instruments, hoping I would like one. Following the violinist’s visit, I repeatedly took two chopsticks, imitating the violin and bow hold. One week later, my parents bought me a real violin.

2. Why did you want to spend part of your summer studying at the Toronto Summer Music Academy?

I have been attending concerts and masterclasses at the Toronto Summer Music Festival for many years. I remember listening to Janos Starker’s cello classes, and watching my friends perform in the fellow concerts. Last summer, I heard the Borromeo QUartet perform Bartok’s complete quartet cycle, which was the highlight of my summer. I have always wanted to be a part of this prestigious program!

3. If you could perform any piece of music in any concert hall in the world, what and where would it be?

I would love to perform Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas, split in two concerts, in Carnegie Hall. When I play recitals, I always try to program a Bach solo sonata or partita, because I love his music so much and it speaks to me on so many levels. Bach knew how to write for violin in a way that brings out all the colours and features a violin can accomplish. His music has taught me so much about purity of sound and musical ideas, and the beauty of form and structure in music. His music also conveys spiritual meaning, regardless of my religious beliefs. Like practicing yoga, listening and playing Bach leaves you feeling refreshed and excited about life, because Bach connects to human nature in a way that no other composer does.

4. Imagine that you weren’t pursuing a career in music –what would you be doing?

If I weren’t pursuing a music career, I would love to work in the culinary industry. Since going vegetarian 4 years ago, I started experimenting with new recipes and flavours. I’ve grown to enjoy cooking very much. It can be therapeutic (both the cooking and eating parts) and immensely rewarding to eat something you’ve laboured to create!

5. If you could have lunch with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

If I could have lunch with anyone, it would be Stradivarius. I’d ask him to make a violin for me.

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