Celebrating AAPI Heritage & History: Nikki Chooi (Violin ’12)

The award-winning, internationally-acclaimed violinist and Curtis alumnus currently serves as concertmaster of the GRAMMY Award-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

Born in Victoria, British Columbia, internationally-acclaimed violinist and esteemed Curtis alumnus Nikki Chooi (’12) has established himself as an artistic force to be reckoned with and a musician of rare versatility. Praised by Gramophone for performing with “total conviction and assurance” and New York Classical Review for his “warm tone and heartfelt playing” and dazzling “virtuosity,” Mr. Chooi is currently concertmaster of the GRAMMY-winning Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra under music director JoAnn Falletta. Laureate of the Queen Elisabeth and Tchaikovsky Competitions, he was awarded first prize at the Montreal Symphony’s ManuLife Competition, the Klein International Strings Competition, and the Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

At age four, Mr. Chooi began studying the violin in the Suzuki Method at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and became a protege of late Canadian violinist Sydney Humphreys at age nine. His formative musical training continued at Morningside Music Bridge and the National Arts Centre Young Artist Programme. In 2000, at age 12, he made his orchestral debut with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra and recorded Joseph Haydn’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in C major with the Sinfonia Toronto Orchestra, which was broadcast across Canada via CBC Radio. Three years later, in 2003, he entered the Mount Royal Conservatory in the studio of violinist Bill van der Sloot and came to Curtis in 2007, where he studied with Ida Kavafian, the late Joseph Silverstein (Violin 50), and worked closely with Shmuel Ashkenasi, Pamela Frank (’89), and Peter Wiley (Cello ’74), before furthering his training at the Juilliard School under the mentorship of violinist Donald Weilerstein.

Highly in demand as a guest concertmaster, he has performed with the Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Houston, and Sydney symphonies and the Macao Orchestra. Previously concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Mr. Chooi’s solos can be heard through The Met: Live in HD broadcasts in productions of Verdi’s La traviata, Janacek’s Jenufa, and the Grammy-nominated recording of Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier released on the Decca Label. He has made critically acclaimed debuts at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium as soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and at Lincoln Center’s Rose Hall with Orchestra NOW, and has been featured soloist with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Santa Fe Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, and other renowned orchestras.

Nikki Chooi often shares the stage with his prize-winning violinist brother Timothy Chooi (’17), performing as the Chooi Brothers. In this video they collaborate with alumna Michelle Cann (Piano ’13), Eleanor Sokoloff Chair in Piano Studies at Curtis, as part of the Violin Channel‘s Vanguard Concerts Series. 

Additionally, Mr. Chooi has collaborated with esteemed artists such as Yo-Yo Ma; Renee Fleming; Curtis alumnus Eric Owens (Opera ’95), director of vocal studies and Curtis Opera Theatre; and Time for Three. A passionate educator, he has presented classes at Curtis, Morningside Music Program at the New England Conservatory, San Francisco Conservatory, Orchestra of the Americas Academy, Sphinx Academy, Hong Kong Cultural Center, and the University of Auckland. Mr. Chooi has recorded for Naxos, Beau Fleuve, Atoll, and Decca labels. He performs on a 1713 Stradivarius courtesy of CANIMEX INC. from Drummondville, Quebec, Canada, a 1749 G.B Guadagnini on extended loan through the Stradivari Society of Chicago, and a 2016 Joseph Curtin. Mr. Chooi proudly endorses Thomastik-Infeld strings.

To learn more about Nikki Chooi, visit his official website HERE.

Please visit the Curtis Institute of Music Open Archives and Recitals (CIMOAR). Learn more about Curtis’s library and archives HERE.

Photo Credits: 1 & 2.) Portraits of Nikki Chooi by Den Sweeney.  3 & 5.) Courtesy of the Mr. Chooi’s official Facebook page. 4.) Photo of Mr. Chooi and music director JoAnn Falletta in rehearsal with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; courtesy of the artist’s Facebook page.

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