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Denise Djokic - Cellist

From Rising Star to Shining Star

An interview article by Rosemary Phillips, September 2002

Denise Djokic - Cellist

Denise Djokic

UPDATE 2020: It is such a joy to check in and see how an artist is getting on in their career. When looking at Denise Djokic's web site I see she has travelled far to become that shining star, and life rolls on with everything from her debut at Carnegie Hall, to a Juno nomination, giving masterclasses and lectures, and, to raising a family. The following item was written at a turning point in her career as she signed on for her first major recording. It is but a taste of her life, personality and talent.

INTRO 2002: Denise Djokic is definitely an artist to watch for. In this interview, geared to the opening concert of the Vancouver Island Symphony’s 2002/2003 season “Perfect Harmony”, Denise talked about her last year in music, her very quick rise with both the Sony Classical Records signing and also the Grammy Awards, her performances across North America, and her thoughts on harmony. Not only is Denise a great musician, she is a joy to talk with about her life, her career, and insights into other-than-music.

“Music is an integral part of the world today,” explained Halifax-born cellist Denise Djokic in a recent phone interview. “I feel it’s the one way in which we can all communicate using the same language - it’s universal. At a time when differences are causing difficulties, music can unite us all in a very optimistic and powerful way.”

When describing the 2002/2003 Vancouver Island Symphony season Perfect Harmony, Maestro Wolfe states, “Now more than any other time in history the world is talking about peace and harmony.” What better way to open the season than with a guest artist who only this month has been featured in Maclean’s magazine as one of 25 young Canadians who are already changing the world.

“Music is a huge part of who I am,” added Djokic. “My life and my music go hand in hand.”

Denise Djokic signs with Sony Classical Records

Both have spiralled upwards in this last year. At just 21, Djokic released her first recording with Sony Classical Records and appeared in the Grammy Awards.

“It’s been an incredibly exciting year. I hadn’t expected to come up so suddenly. It’s been a huge motivational pull to spur my career, boost my repertoire, make me travel, even record, and collaborate with pop musicians, things I never thought I would be doing.”

It was her association with Sony that enabled her to be part of the Grammy’s. “Train, the band I played with, is also on Sony Records. That was how the connection was made.”

Playing the Grammy’s was somewhat surreal. “I really couldn’t believe that I was there and I was trying to soak up every moment possible because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Denise Djokic has been playing for years.

Djokic may only be in her 20s yet the rise in her musical career has been a long one of many years, beginning at the age of four. “The violin was the first instrument I picked up,” she explained. “My dad is a violinist. We figured it was the smallest and easiest thing for me to play.”

After a year with the Suzuki program she changed to piano. “The Conservatory was at my school so it became a routine. My piano lessons were a part of my daily life.” Even though both her parents are classical musicians they chose to have her take training with other teachers. “They would tell me every day that I needed to practice but other than that there wasn’t a huge involvement on their part.”

Then one day she heard her uncle on the cello. “He used to come and play chamber music with my parents. As a youngster I was struck by the size and presence of the instrument and the qualities. I really liked the rich sound and the bass. I picked it up for fun, and in the beginning it was a very casual thing.”
As she grew into a teen her cello took on a more serious role in her life. “My parents and teacher thought that the cello was something that I had a special gift for. I became a bit more involved with my cello studies and became closer to the instrument.”

Travelling with a Stradivari cello

Now, after several years of schooling at the Cleveland Institute and the New England Conservatory, Djokic stays very close to her instrument, particularly as she flies back and forth across the continent to perform. “When I’m on the plane it sits next to me - it’s like a headrest. I fall asleep when I’m travelling and lean up against it. I have to keep an eye on it.” The instrument she speaks of is the 1696 Stradivari cello called “Bonjour” she has on loan from the Canada Council.
“Every instrument has a different tonal quality, which is why it’s good to play a lot of instruments. The more you play the more you discover what your preferences and your style are. The Strad is certainly very special and is very deep with a broad range.”

(On Sept. 28 “Bonjour” joined her at centre stage with the VIS at the Port Theatre for Schumann’s “Cello concert Op. 29 in A Minor.”)

“The Schumann is one of my favourite concertos and I love to play it. It really has a special place in my heart. It’s a sort of very moody melancholy piece that has a lot of optimism. I have my own personal feelings and connections with the piece that come out when I’m performing and practicing it. That inspires me when I am playing. I’ve had experience with this piece and the more I play it the more special it is, and more meaningful, as you see more sides of it.”

Denise Djokic practices every day

Djokic practices every day. “I usually practice early in the morning or late at night. I live in an apartment complex and my neighbours put up very well with my playing. So far so good.”

That practicing has polished up a bright new shining star. The audience in Nanaimo this coming Saturday will surely be touched by the light from Denise Djokic’s warm and youthful personality and virtuosic musicianship. “I feel fortunate to be performing as I do, to reach broad audiences across the country,” added Djokic. “I’m getting to know my country very well. This is the beginning of my career and the most special thing to me is to reach people from all walks of life.”

For more information on her schedule, recordings and management visit Denise Djokic's web site.

NOTE: There are many more articles on this site - see Index of Articles.

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