Award-winning 11-year-old violinist is ‘driven’

TORONTO — Eleven-year-old violinist Julia Mirzoev, LEFT, is at once a child and an adult. Asked whether she sometimes tires of practising, she says “of course” in a tone tinged with pre-adolescent exasperation, then she adds, “But I always end up practising, no matter what.”

Perched on the edge of her living room couch in her parents’ Thornhill
home, Julia, wearing a salmon dress and matching headband, talked about
her upcoming performance at the Young Stars of the Young Century
concert. The concert, taking place April 26 at the Toronto Centre for
the Arts, features young musicians from the former Soviet Union and

Julia will be playing Praeludium und Allegro by Gaëtano Kreisler. It’s a piece that requires technical skill and “a lot of guts,” she says. Her brother, Alex, her favourite accompanist, joins her on piano.

Julia’s family set the stage for her musical career. Her mother, Alina, is a pianist, and Mikhail, her father, is a violinist. In 1991, wishing to give their children a Jewish education, they moved from Moscow to Thornhill, Ont., where Julia was born. When she was two years old, her father began teaching her violin.

They then found a second teacher – the renowned violinist Jacob Lakirovich. Worried that Julia was too young to play, Lakirovich agreed to take her as a student only after her mother repeatedly telephoned him.

Lakirovich remembers his first meeting with Julia. “Tiny, little she was,” he recalls. She was so small that her left fingers could not wrap around a violin’s neck to reach the strings. For the first year, she played “open strings,”  moving the bow across the strings without using her left hand. When she was three years old, Julia started playing using both hands.

Julia has a deep understanding of music. Speaking about what she learns from her favourite composers, she says that Mozart teaches her precision:  “[Mozart] has a very gentle way of writing his music. Every single note has to be perfect.”

Julia plans to become a professional violinist, and she hopes to play in top orchestras such as the Toronto and Vienna symphony orchestras.

If awards are a compass for future success, then Julia is well on her way. In 2007, she won the award for the most promising performer in the Golden Menorah’s Fifth International Music Competition, in Berlin. That same year, the Kiwanis Festival awarded her the Sid Oue Memorial Award for the most promising student in strings.

Lakirovich says Julia has a good chance of building a career as a soloist.  “She has talent, she’s driven. I could see a very bright future.”

When you hear her play, you can’t help agreeing with Lakirovich. On this mid-April day, she stands, violin in hand. Her petite silhouette is striking against her brother’s grand piano. Her eyelids, touched with purple eye shadow, mimic purples in Lena Karpinsky’s abstract painting of violins, hanging to Julia’s right.

Julia plays Study 14 by Federigo Fiorillo, a technically challenging exercise. When she plays, her entire being seems focused on the place where bow meets string, where music emerges. She doesn’t yet have an adult’s capacity for rendering a loud sound. But her playing’s pure  full-throated tone – which Lakirovich considers unique – moves everyone who listens.

For tickets to Young Stars of the Young Century ($30-$50), contact Ticketmaster at 416-872-5555 or visit The performers travel to Ottawa’s Dominion-Chalmers United Church on April 27, for a 3 p.m. concert. For more information, visit