Burnaby violinist in spotlight at Orpheum

Jonathan Chan to perform Sunday at Vancouver centre

Last summer, when Burnaby musician Jonathan Chan was practicing his violin in his ground floor apartment in London, England, it was hot, so he opened the patio door.

He was playing some classical piece - Beethoven, or Bach - and the sound carried outside to the street.

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More than one person stopped to listen, which was no surprise to

him, because Chan, 22, isn't just any aspiring violinist; he's been playing since he

was four and performing since age eight, and has given concerts in Europe, China, South Africa and across North America.

He has garnered numerous awards and is a three-time national first grand-prize winner of the Canadian Music Competition, with overall highest marks.

"I never intended to be a musician," he said, on the phone from his apartment in England. "I just happened to be good at it, I guess, and I was very competitive. I loved doing competitions. . I really didn't think about doing music until the last year of high school. I thought, if I'm ever going to do music and pursue this talent, it has to be now. I can't come back to it, like with academics. So I took my shot and realized music's pretty much like a cult - once you're in, you can't get out."

Chan studied at the Vancouver Academy of Music throughout his elementary and high school years.

From there, he was accepted into The Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, where he is now studying for his masters degree.

This weekend, he is home for a special performance with the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra at the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, in partnership with the Vancouver Opera's Young Artist Program and the Vancouver Bach Choir.

Chan will play - along with two fellow alumni from the academy, pianist Naomi Woo and cellist Jonathan Lo - the demanding Triple Concerto from Beethoven's Symphony No. 9.

Performing on stage in front of many people is something he is not only used to by now, but something he relishes.

"I love to perform in any capacity," he said. "That's what I love doing. I love the rush, and I love going on stage and I love to deliver and perform. I guess that is the dream, ultimately - to perform on an international level."

Getting himself one step closer to his dream, this year Chan competed for and won a three-year contract for the use of a 1715 Dominicus Montagnana violin valued at $900,000, from the Canadian Council for the Arts instrument bank.

"It's amazing to play," he said of the nearly 300-year-old antique violin. "It's a one-in-a-million opportunity to be drawing an incredible sound from an incredible piece."

Chan said he recognizes the challenges of being a professional musician; having to ask for sponsorship and the tenuous nature of being paid to perform, but believes a positive attitude and an understanding of how to market oneself, whether as a musician, or athlete or any other type of performer, is the key to success.

"Just apply yourself, even if things don't work out in the short term," he said. "If you just apply yourself and keep to yourself and stay honest about work or whatever in your life, things will work themselves out and it'll be fine."

Chan said the main reason he pursues a career in music is because of what he offers listeners, whether they are sitting in a concert hall, or just walking by his patio door on a summer afternoon.

"There was a great quote from a jazz musician I heard over the summer," Chan said. "I was talking to a professor and this jazz musician told him one time, he asked him, 'Why do you do music?' and he said, 'To ease the suffering.' You know, life is not always going to be up, it's not always going to be great, especially with the economy right now - a lot of people are suffering - but you know, it's almost pain relief. That's what people turn to art for."

And what better example than Beethoven's Symphony No. 9, which ends with the well-known 'Ode To Joy'?

The Beethoven Celebration starts at 7: 30 p.m. on Nov. 18 at the Orpheum, 601 Smithe St.

Tickets are $10 for adults, and $6 for students and seniors, available at the door or online at www.vancouveracademyof music.com/events/beethoven. mreid@burnabynow.com

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