TORONTO — Like many 15-year-old boys, Daniel Hass spends his time biking, reading and listening to music. But unlike most kids his age, he also spends about four hours a day practising cello.
“If I get into it, it’s the most fun thing I can do,” said Daniel of the hours he spends playing. “It’s a lot of hard work, but I feel it’s very fulfilling work.”
The hours of hard work have certainly been paying off. Daniel recently won the Orchestra Toronto Concerto Competition Marta Hidy Prize, which awarded him a $1,000 scholarship as well as an opportunity to perform as a soloist with Orchestra Toronto at a concert for young people. Orchestra Toronto operates on a volunteer basis and is Canada’s largest community orchestra.
In the two short years since moving from Tel Aviv to Toronto with his family, Daniel has already made his mark on the music scene in the city. In 2011, he won first prize in the concerto competition of the Toronto Sinfonietta, as well as at the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition. The latter honour gives him the opportunity to make his debut with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra next fall.
“It’s wonderful,” said Daniel’s proud father, Kobi Hass, of his son’s achievements. “We want our kids to know what they want to do and to pursue it,” he added.
Daniel has been surrounded by music his entire life. His father is a professional bass player, and his older siblings play violin and piano. Daniel began playing the cello at four years old, wanting to play what he saw at the time as being a bigger version of his brother’s violin.
“I thought that everybody played the violin because I heard it so much,” said Daniel of growing up in a musical family. He took an immediate liking to the cello, though he has also learned to play the piano.
In Israel, Daniel studied cello with Michael Bezem at the Israel Conservatory of Music, as well as with Zvi Plesser at the Jerusalem Academy of Music. At only eight years old, he became a soloist with the Ashdod Chamber Orchestra. He went on to win national first prize in an Israeli cello competition and later performed with the Israel Camerata Orchestra.
The move to Canada didn’t slow Daniel down at all. He is home-schooled, which allows more time for his practising and performing, and has just completed the equivalent of Grade 9. Since 2010, Daniel has been studying with David Hetherington at the Royal Conservatory of Music in the Young Artist Performance Academy. Daniel is also the principal cellist of the conservatory’s Academy Chamber Orchestra and of the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra.
In the summers, he attends the Perlman Music Program in New York state, a six-week intensive music program for gifted youths from all over the world.
Even with his many accomplishments, the teenaged cellist remains modest and focused. “I just want to be the best musician I can be,” Daniel said, adding that he makes a constant effort to improve his playing. “I always have new goals, and I work hard and try to reach them.”
Daniel confessed that before performing he still gets a bit nervous, but once he begins to play, he is able to focus on the music and forget the stage fright. “The moment you start playing, it’s a lot easier,” he said.
Although he would love to become a professional musician as an adult, he said he’s realistic about the challenges that face many talented musicians who wish to make a living from their art. Nevertheless, he plans to give it his best effort and is committed to continue playing the cello into adulthood. “I’m sure that music will always be a part of my life.”