2018-2019 Golden Violin Competition Finalists

Justin Almazan, viola Headshot of Justin Almazan finalist in the 2018-19 Golden Violin competition

Where do you call home?

I have family in both Seattle and Vancouver. I call them both home, so luckily, they are only a few hours drive from each other.

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Other than on stage or in the practice room, where might one find you?

Definitely a coffee shop. I love espresso, coffee, and strong tea.

What is one unexpected talent or pastime that you have?

I love traveling. I've been fortunate to visit and perform in a number of countries the past handful of summers. Even if it means taking a train, or being the driver on a long-distance road trip, seeing new landscapes and alternate ways of living really invigorates me.

What would it mean to you to be named the winner of the Golden Violin Competition?

Besides the prizes and recognition, the true lasting impact of winning is the responsibility to continually represent oneself and the Schulich School of Music. Both an honor and a duty, the Golden Violin encourages its winners to hold themselves accountable for their own work and ambitions. For me in particular, it would be a great and unique platform to encourage and reach out to other First Nations students and young artists in Canada. It's an important aspect of my identity, so it's a goal of mine to incorporate my music in tackling this issue.

Who are you studying with and who will be your accompanist?

My teacher is Andre Roy and my collaborative partner is Meagan Milatz.


Elie Boissinot, cello (winner)Headshot of Elie Boissinot, finalist in the Golden Violin 2018-19 competition holding a cello

Where do you call home?

Montreal. I was born in France and moved here at the age of 4.

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What is one unexpected talent or pastime that you have?

I love to play chess and basketball.

What would it mean to you to be named the winner of the Golden Violin Competition?

It would be a dream come true. I have a great deal of admiration for previous winners and participants of this competition and I feel very fortunate already to have been selected to play in the final round.

Who are you studying with and who will be your accompanist?

This will be my 4th year studying with Elizabeth Dolin. She has been a tremendous source of support over these years and has taught me most of what I know about playing the cello. I cannot thank her enough for her invaluable help preparing this competition.

I will be performing next Sunday with Wei-Tang Huang. Apart from being a phenomenal pianist, he is also a great collaborator who is willing to delve deep into the music and discuss interpretation and musical ideas for hours at a time. As always, it will be a pleasure and a privilege to share the stage with him.


Alicia Choi, violinHeadshot of Alicia Choi, 2018-19 Golden Violin finalist holding a violin

Where do you call home?

Queens, NY

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Other than on stage or in the practice room, where might one find you?

Parc La Fontaine

What is one unexpected talent or pastime that you have?

I'm not sure how unexpected this is since I've never met a fellow musician who doesn't love food, but I spend an unusual amount of time on activities revolving around food. I love to cook and eat with friends, discover new restaurants and revisit favorites, read food memoirs, Grubstreet diaries and the NY Times restaurant reviews, and devour shows like Top Chef and Chef's Table. I often amused my parents when I was little by wondering aloud what I wanted to eat the next day as they tucked me into bed. Now, I often tuck myself in with my phone open to a decadent-looking food Instagram account.

What would it mean to you to be named the winner of the Golden Violin Competition?

Winning the Golden Violin Competition would be a great honor. As you can tell from that spelling, I’m not from here, but I feel connected to Montreal because I strongly identify with its dual nature. Moving here coincided with me fully embracing both sides of my Korean and American-ness, as well as returning to school to be able to pursue the parts I loved about my prior professional career. Winning this competition would be an incredible opportunity to further connect my role in the McGill music community to my new path in Montreal and my cultivated roots outside of Canada.

Who are you studying with and who will be your accompanist?

I study with Axel Strauss and Meagan Milatz will be my partner-in-piano.


Elizabeth Skinner, violinHeadshot of Elizabeth Skinner, finalist in the 2018-19 Golden Violin competition

Where do you call home?

Born and raised in Victoria, BC but I have lived in Montreal for the past 5 years so I consider it to be my home now.

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Other than on stage or in the practice room, where might one find you?

I enjoy hanging out and grabbing a drink with friends and checking out some of Montreal’s many awesome shows and concerts. But, currently I’m preparing for my doctoral comprehensive exam so you’ll probably find me at my computer or in the library.

What is one unexpected talent or pastime that you have?

I really enjoy road biking and playing sports, especially soccer, basketball and baseball. I also used to coach baseball.

What would it mean to you to be named the winner of the Golden Violin Competition?

Being named the winner would be wonderful as it would be the realization of a lot of hard work, perseverance and dedication. Over the course of my time at McGill, I feel I have grown so much in how I play my instrument and approach music making through working with my teacher and through partaking in many diverse projects and concerts, and to have this recognized through this competition would be confirmation that I’m on the right track!

Who are you studying with and who will be your accompanist?

I study with Axel Strauss and my accompanist is Olivier Hebert-Bouchard.