Chloé Dominguez

Golden Violin Award winner Chloé Dominguez. / Photo: Owen Egan
Golden Violin Award winner Chloé Dominguez. / Photo: Owen Egan

Homegrown cellist wins Schulich School’s Golden Violin Award

By Chris Chipello

Chloé Dominguez started playing a scaled-down cello as a fourth-grader at l’école Le Plateau, a music-oriented public school in Montreal’s Parc Lafontaine. Now, as a fourth-year doctoral student at McGill, she has won the largest privately funded music scholarship in Canada: the Schulich School of Music’s Golden Violin Award.

Dominguez is the third recipient of the $20,000 award, presented annually to a top McGill string player who is close to completing studies and has demonstrated the potential for a successful performing career. She is the first Quebec-born musician to win the award, which was bestowed by music-school benefactor Seymour Schulich.

Chloé, whose two older sisters also went to l’école le Plateau, became enchanted with the cello after hearing it at one of their school concerts.

“When I started music, especially cello, I knew that this would be for me,” she said in a recent interview.

Dominguez pursued her music studies at l’école secondaire Joseph-François-Perrault and le Conservatoire de Musique du Québec à Montreal.

After finishing at the conservatory “I was wondering if I would go to the States,” she said, since most of her fellow students went off to the U.S. or to Europe. “That was a tough choice,” but “I decided to stay and come to McGill.  I think that was just the best decision I could make – because of all the opportunities it gave me. I’m really, really happy with the way I’ve developed as

a musician.”

Dominguez earned an Artist Diploma and Master’s in music performance before her doctoral program.  Getting attuned to studying in English was a challenge in the beginning.  “The first weeks were quite hard – especially in the cafeteria or (other) loud places,” she recalled, laughing.

The 28-year-old Dominguez is cellist for the Schulich String Quartet and performs often as a soloist with Montreal’s top contemporary ensembles. As a student member of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology, she has worked on a variety of research initiatives – including the Digital Orchestra Project, aimed at developing new digital instruments.

“Chloé has been an inspirational force in the string area at Schulich for the last seven years,” said Don McLean, dean of the music school.

Dominguez’ doctoral research focuses on the evolution of cello music in Quebec. She will hold a lecture-recital in May to explain and demonstrate results of her work.  As a performance student, “you present your project, you talk about it … and then you play.” Her recital will include a solo cello piece, another with piano, and a third with electronics.

“There are wonderful composers in Quebec, that’s for sure.  That’s why I started this project – because I truly believe that we have wonderful music happening here.”

Dominguez expects to complete her doctoral thesis this summer and to continue working as a performer and teacher.  She is already “working, playing a lot in Montreal,” she said. “So basically I don’t think my life after McGill is going to be that different from being at McGill — and that’s a good thing.” While many musicians face a tough adjustment to life after school, “for me, I think the transition is going to be very smooth.”