From Rose Bowl to Juil­liard: Coet­zee tak­ing love of cello as far as she can

Medicine Hat News - - COMMUNITY-WEST - PEGGY REV­ELL pre­v­ell@medicine­hat­ Twit­ter: MHNpre­v­ell

From the Ro­tary Mu­sic Fes­ti­val Rose Bowl to Carnegie Hall and Juil­liard — it’s the jour­ney of 20-yearold Mari Coet­zee from south­ern Al­berta, who has ded­i­cated her life to play­ing the cello.

“I al­ways knew I wanted to be a cel­list, since I was nine,” said Coet­zee, who started mu­sic lessons at the age of five through the Medicine Hat Col­lege Con­ser­va­tory, be­com­ing part of Medicine Hat Col­lege’s acad­emy pro­gram at 12. At 15, she be­gan trav­el­ling to Cal­gary for lessons.

Five years ago, she was also the win­ner of the Ro­tary Mu­sic Fes­ti­val’s Rose Bowl, a recog­ni­tion of the fes­ti­val’s top per­former.

“I’d like to thank Medicine Hat, Medicine Hat Col­lege and the Cul­tural Cen­tre, be­cause it was there that I re­ally started my mu­si­cal jour­ney and found my love for play­ing cello, and was able to ex­plore all the dif­fer­ent things I could do with a cello,” said Coet­zee.

She was named as one of 30 Hot Cana­dian Clas­si­cal Mu­si­cians un­der 30 by CBC Mu­sic in 2015, a recog­ni­tion that fol­lowed her win­ning the 2015 Shean Strings Com­pe­ti­tion in Ed­mon­ton — which in turn led her to play with the Ed­mon­ton Sym­phony Orches­tra two weeks ago.

And Coet­zee is now in her sec­ond year of an un­der­grad­u­ate pro­gram at the pres­ti­gious Juil­liard School in New York, and con­tin­ues to per­form across Canada and in the U.S.

It’s the ed­u­ca­tion and op­por­tu­ni­ties that Coet­zee says she loves about at­tend­ing Juil­liard, in­clud­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions with other stu­dents.

“We have op­por­tu­ni­ties to set up our own con­certs, or do in­no­va­tive projects to­gether ... The peo­ple are open to do­ing all sorts of things. So I’ve also done projects with dancers, and peo­ple from the drama di­vi­sion, and work­ing with com­posers.”

This in­cludes a per­for­mance at Carnegie Hall in Jan­uary with other Cana­dian artists to mark the coun­try’s 150th an­niver­sary.

Ensem­ble Res­o­nance from Cal­gary was do­ing a tour in New York City, in­clud­ing a Carnegie hall con­cert where the group pre­sented dif­fer­ent works of Cana­dian com­posers. They wanted to fea­ture a young Cana­dian string quar­tet, so con­tacted Coet­zee who helped or­ga­nize a group with other Cana­di­ans at Juil­liard.

They played a piece by Nova Sco­tia com­poser Dinuk Wi­jer­atne.

“It was a won­der­ful cel­e­bra­tion of all the va­ri­ety that Cana­dian com­posers have,” said Coet­zee, plus the op­por­tu­nity to work with fel­low Cana­di­ans at­tend­ing the school with her.

A lot of hard work goes into her mu­sic.

Coet­zee says on av­er­age she plays up to eight hours a day, al­most ev­ery day of the week.

She’s not quite sure what she wants to do after grad­u­at­ing. One op­tion is ap­ply­ing for a Mas­ters pro­gram in the U.S. or Europe, and she wants to make sure there’s va­ri­ety in her fu­ture.

“I find it re­ally hard to nar­row it down to one di­rec­tion. I don’t feel like it’s nec­es­sary to do that ei­ther, be­cause mu­sic is so var­ied. So I would want to do a com­bi­na­tion of teach­ing and per­form­ing, and cham­ber mu­sic en­sem­bles, and also travel a lot and see where it takes me.”

She al­ready spends her sum­mers go­ing to as many dif­fer­ent mu­sic fes­ti­vals as pos­si­ble to play for the ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I sim­ply love trav­el­ling as much as I can,” she said. “When­ever I go to a new place or a new city, each city has its own feel­ing and its own cul­ture, and it’s a lot of fun to be able to be in dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ments all the time, and with dif­fer­ent mu­si­cians and play with them.”

And she en­cour­ages other young mu­si­cians fol­low­ing in her foot­steps to stay true to the mu­sic and what they want to ex­press through mu­sic.

“It will take them to places they couldn’t have imag­ined of go­ing be­fore,” she said. “And also pro­vide a way for them to stay pas­sion­ate even when things are harder, when it re­quires a lot of work.”

The Ro­tary Mu­sic Fes­ti­val’s Stars of the Fes­ti­val con­cert is Sun­day, 7 p.m. at the Medicine Hat Col­lege Theatre, and will in­clude pre­sent­ing the win­ner of this year’s Rose Bowl.


Mari Coet­zee was the win­ner of the Medicine Hat Ro­tary Mu­sic Fes­ti­val’s Rose Bowl five years ago. Since then, the cel­list has con­tin­ued to play, and is now in her sec­ond year of stud­ies at the Juil­liard School in New York, and nu­mer­ous con­certs across...

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