Meet the musician: Gemma Donn

Gemma began her musical studies playing the piano and violin at age 4.  At age 8, she also began to play the cello.  Throughout high school, she played for various organizations such as the Strathcona Symphony Orchestra, the North Island Choral Society, and Rainbow Youth Theatre, all based in her hometown of Comox, B.C.  In 2012, she moved to Vancouver and began her post-secondary studies at Capilano University's Music Diploma program, finishing in 2014.  She played for the West Coast Symphony and Theatre Under the Stars during her years there, and taught at the Kouri Flute Academy and Music Teachers on the Go.  

Gemma now lives in Scarborough and studies at the University of Toronto, where she is working towards completing her Bachelor's Degree in Violin Performance.  She currently plays in the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, The Chinese Arts Society Orchestra, and most recently obtained the position of concertmaster of the Counterpoint Community Orchestra. 

1. When did you start playing your instrument?
I started playing the violin when I was four years old.

2. Who is your biggest musical inspiration?
My biggest musical inspiration would probably be the current conductor of the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Uri Mayer. He has an abundance of knowledge and has high expectations, but he is also very humble and patient. He is able to get the best out of the orchestra with encouragement and not intimidation, which I think makes a good conductor.

3. Who is your favourite composer?
My favourite composer would have to be Cesar Franck. I played his Sonata in A Major for my Third Year Recital and since hearing it for the first time and spending almost a year learning it, it has become my favourite piece of music.

4. If you had to choose only 1 piece to listen to for the rest of your life, what piece would it be? 
Other than the Franck Sonata, I wouldn't mind being stuck listening to Ravel's Jeux D'eau or Dvorak's New World Symphony.

5. If you weren’t a musician, what would you be? 
If I weren't a musician, I would like to be a doctor.

6. What are some of your non-music related pastimes/hobbies? I'm kind of a nerd, so I'm completing a minor in biology while doing my major in music. I love science, so I spend a lot of time studying and volunteering in science-related activities. I also enjoy knitting and painting.

7. What is your life motto? 
My life motto is that it is never too late to start something new or change your path. I'm currently in the process of changing careers, and I think it's important to know that although musicians often spend most of their time perfecting their craft, there is also room to grow and it is ok to have many interests and devote time to those as well.

8. What advice would you give your younger self? 
I would have told my younger self to focus more on activities I enjoyed rather than the ones I felt I was obligated to do. I also would've told my younger self that getting an A in Grade 12 math does not determine my future nor is it an indicator of how smart and capable I am.

9. What piece/song can you not stand? 
I am pretty open to most pieces of music, but I really
can't listen to pieces that stray too far away from a tonal centre.

10. What is your pre-concert routine? 
Before a concert, I try not to over-practice. I listen to the pieces a lot and study the score, and work on small sections that need improvement.


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