On INVOCATION, Véronique Mathieu and Stephanie Chua present a collection of works for violin and piano written by female-identifying composers of unique heritages, backgrounds, and cultures. The wonderfully animated performances within provide a fantastic model for the exploration of these composers’ works.

Today, Véronique and Stephanie are our featured artists in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about each of their fascinations with the wonders of the human mind, and the sound advice they’d give to their younger selves if given the chance…

Véronique Mathieu (VM)

Stephanie Chua (SC)

Tell us about your first performance.

VM: I must have been just about 4 years old when I played for the first time in a solo recital. I played Boccherini’s Minuet and what I remember most vividly is the beautiful white dress that I got to wear for the occasion!

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing?

VM: I often get asked about the “special moment” when I knew I wanted to become a musician. It’s difficult to answer because music has always been part of my life, and I don’t think there was a moment in particular when it was revealed to me that I should be a professional violinist. I could read music and play the violin before reading words — so in my earliest memories, there is music. If I were to choose another career, I would go back to school (for a very long time!), and either study to become a medical biologist to specialize in AIDS research, or I would want to be a psychiatrist. The human mind is a puzzle that has always fascinated me!

SC: I would want to be a neuroscientist! I love reading books about cognitive processes and neuro-plasticity. Even having a small insight into the field has changed the way I think about my own artistic process such as learning new pieces and adjustments made in-real-time during performance. For anyone interested in music, I highly recommend Daniel J. Levitin’s This is Your Brain on Music.

What advice would you give to your younger self if given the chance?

VM: If I was lucky enough to go back in time and be able to give my younger self advice… it would be to keep an open mind at all times, and to see all the amazing opportunities in every situation. I wish I had attended more masterclasses and concerts of other musical styles and instruments. I wish I had been to every performance while at the Lucerne festival or in Salzburg or visited every museum of the cities I stayed in. And learned to make sushi while in Japan. I also seem to wish that every day had more than 24 hours!

SC: If I could give my younger self advice, it would be to know that your career will not follow a straight path. There will be a lot of “side-trails” that you will find immensely rewarding. Ultimately, you’ll discover that you love to collaborate. Working with a huge cross section of artists on a diversity of projects, and instigating, supporting, and participating will be your greatest joy.

What were your first musical experiences?

SC: I have two early musical experiences and they both involve the piano. The first was being in a ballet class with a live pianist accompanying (which is quite unusual these days). I remember being drawn to the sound and when the class took turns doing floor exercises, I would want to sit or stand right beside the piano. I wanted to be inside the sound.

My second experience was when my upright piano was delivered to our house. I examined it and discovered that I could lift the lid. I stood on the piano bench, opened the lid, and enjoyed strumming the strings inside. It was intriguing to me that sound could be produced that way!

  • Stephanie Chua

    Stephanie Chua is an expressive and versatile Canadian pianist devoted to presenting and performing contemporary works through musical insight and innovative programming. She has performed in solo and chamber recitals across Canada, Europe, and Asia. Recent highlights include being a featured performer in Soundstreams’ sold-out 2018 season opener Six Pianos at Koerner Hall (Toronto), a solo recital at SOUL Live Music Project in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) in partnership with Saigon Classical, and Music Toronto’s Discovery Series, and performances at Shanghai New Music Festival and the 21C Festival (Toronto).

  • Véronique Mathieu

    Described as a violinist with “chops to burn, and rock solid musicianship” (The Whole Note, Toronto), Canadian violinist Véronique Mathieu enjoys an exciting career as a soloist, chamber musician, and music educator. An avid contemporary music performer, she has commissioned and premiered numerous works by American, Brazilian, and Canadian composers, and has worked with composers such as Pierre Boulez, Heinz Holliger, and Krzysztof Penderecki. Her album debut of solo works by Boulez, Donatoni, and Lutoslawski was praised as a display of “outstanding violin playing” and “stunning [performance] with amazing technique.”