It's hard to believe that Canadian cellist Denise Djokic turned a mere 33 years old last week. She's a bit of a national darling -- we've watched and listened to her grow up on stages across the country and on CBC radio.
The busy artist sat down for an interview when she was in town earlier this month for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Tchaikovsky Festival. She returns Saturday as part of the Boston Trio in the Virtuosi Concert Series at Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall.
The trio itself has been around since 1997, but Djokic only joined a few years ago. "I had just come to Boston to study at the New England Conservatory," says Djokic. "Irina (Muresanu, the trio's violinist) was also studying there." Thus the connection was made and the two joined the only original member of the trio, pianist Heng Jin Park. "We respect each other as colleagues and musicians," she says.
The soft-spoken, articulate Djokic described Saturday's repertoire as a "nice varied program. It's designed with a certain serenity in mind -- not that there isn't a work without conflict; there are some -- mostly in the Schubert and the P§rt. They hold together in that way. This is a great venue for this repertoire."
The program is composed of Arvo P§rt's Mozart-Adagio for violin, cello and piano, Brahms' Scherzo for violin and piano in C minor, Fauré's Papillon for cello and piano Op. 77, Mozart's Piano Trio No. 5 in C major and Schubert's Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat major.
Djokic is in demand as a soloist as well as a chamber musician. After she leaves Winnipeg, she has several solo concerts around Canada and the U.S. But chamber music seems to have a special place in her heart.
"The collaborative process is important," she said. "I learn so much from my colleagues, the discussion. That's rare as a soloist. It's important to have that conversation with colleagues."
Djokic said chamber musicians must try to have an open mind. "You can't get bogged down with your own ego and musical opinions. Sometimes you learn the most from musicians you have little connection with. You just have to let yourself go -- listen to your colleagues' ideas."
Djokic also says it's important to be willing to try anything. "You can't put your foot down during the rehearsal/collaboration process."
It's likely that she learned these important skills at an early age. She grew up in Halifax as part of a musical family -- she began cello lessons with her uncle and both her parents and brother are musicians. "I was lucky to play with family members when I was growing up," she said. "We still sometimes do today. We always had a common goal in mind."
For some young people, growing up in a musical family can come with an inherent pressure. Not so for Djokic.
"I can't say I ever felt pressure on me. In fact, it relieved me of some of the pressures of the outside world, by having my parents as mentors. They have always been very supportive of my decisions. They had a way of telling me about the realities of becoming a musician."
Now she keeps up a busy touring schedule, with the Boston Trio on top of her solo work.
"It's a wonderful group to balance the other people in my life," she says. "When you spend a lot of time together on the road, it's nice to have that closeness."
Djokic's dedication to her calling can be summed up in one sentence: "I feel like I couldn't live without chamber music seriously in my life."