An Interview with Winston Choi

1. When and why did you begin playing piano?
I started when I was six years old, taking lessons with a local piano teacher (Vivienne Bailey) in my hometown, Toronto. There were no musicians in my family – this was simply an extracurricular thing that my parents wanted me to do as a part of a “well-rounded” upbringing.

2. What is your fondest musical memory?
I remember hearing Marc-Andre Hamelin perform in Toronto – one of the first full-length solo piano recitals that I ever heard. His blinding virtuosity and extreme elegance inspired me tremendously.

3. Who are your favorite musicians? Is there anyone that particularly inspires you?
Among my favorite musicians: Murray Perahia, Sviatoslov Richter, Martha Argerich – truly iconic figures that changed how I listened and heard music.

4. Do you get nervous before your performances? If so, do you have any particular routines to calm these nerves?
Instead of trying to fight nerves, I try to “embrace” the symptoms of nervousness. Butterflies in the stomach, slightly cold and shaking hands, fast heart-rate – if you try to hope that these things don’t hit you, they most likely will. Instead, I accept that this will be a part of my performance, and I look forward to the extra focus and adrenaline that I will get as a result. Also, focusing less on myself, and more on my musical ideas helps.

5. How often do you practice? What do you practice ‘exercises, new tunes, hard tunes, etc.?
I mostly practice my repertoire, as frequently as I am able to. For me, what is most important is being able to divide my time equally between immediate projects (that I am about to perform) as well as those performances that are weeks and months away.

6. When you are not playing piano, what could we find you doing? What do you like to do for fun?
I love going to out eat foods that I’ve never heard of, can’t pronounce, or will never be able to find again. For me, extreme innovation in cooking is something that is tremendously exciting. Also, nothing beats chasing around my twin children, Ethan and Lillian, who are 3 years old.

7. Is there anything else you would like to tell the New Philharmonic patrons?
The New Phil is a real treasure of an orchestra, and Kirk Muspratt is one of my favorite collaborators in the whole world. His magnetism, sincere artistry and musicianship always make for an unforgettable night. I look forward to play with him and this orchestra, as well as Marta Aznavoorian again.

Choi will be performing with New Philharmonic at Dueling Pianos on Saturday, April 16 at 7:30p and Sunday, April 17 at 3p. Click here for more information.