Cellist Denise Djokic is a woman full of surprises: her youth, diminutive stature and modest manner belie the fact that she has been praised worldwide for the powerful sound she is able to coax from her instrument.
Still in her twenties, Denise has already collected an armful of distinctions and achievements that most artists twice her age would envy: she was a performer on the 2002 Grammy Awards and was named one of Maclean’s “25 Canadians who are Changing our World”, and one of Elle Magazine’s “Most Powerful Women in Canada”. She was the subject of Paul Kimball’s BRAVO television documentary Seven Days Seven Nights, and has been featured in interviews, including National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, and as keynote speaker at Queens University’s Women in Leadership Conference. All this while maintaining a frenetic concert schedule that takes her across the country and beyond.
Denise’s debut recording with ATMA, the Britten Suites for Solo Cello [ACD 2 2524], was released recently and has already garnered praise from Canada’s top music critics. Two of her frequent musical partners are also ATMA artists: conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, with whom she has performed Prokofiev’s demanding Symphony-Concerto for cello and orchestra, and pianist David Jalbert, who has performed and recorded with her for many years.
Denise was raised in a musical family that has always been sympathetic to her pursuits. Both her parents and brother are musicians, but it was her cellist uncle who encouraged her to seriously consider the instrument when she was in her early teens. She had been playing the violin and piano from the age of four, but explains that over time, “something clicked” on a fundamental level as she became more involved with the cello.
Currently based in Boston, Denise spends more than half the year travelling between engagements, and employs a few tricks to help her cope with the “if-it’s-Tuesday-this-must-be-Sarnia” quality of life on the road: she is an enthusiastic cook who makes a mean coq au vin, and circumstances permitting, tries to whip up nutritious meals for herself whenever possible. Her interest in interior design lends itself to her penchant for rearranging the furniture in each hotel room to her liking. “When you’re spending so much time in different hotel rooms practising and preparing for concerts, it’s really important to feel comfortable in your surroundings.”
The coming months see Denise performing in Toronto, Winnipeg, Montreal, Halifax, San Diego and Tuscon, with a concerto debut in October at New York City’s Town Hall with the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas. She will also perform with the Aachen Symphony in Germany in August.
Perhaps the most anticipated date of all takes her to St. Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia and has nothing to do with concert halls: her wedding at her family’s waterfront cottage later this year.