Praised by the Toronto Star for his “spirited and fiery performances,” Rafael Hoekman’s varied career as a soloist, teacher, chamber musician, and orchestral cellist has taken him on a journey across Canada. He became the Principal Cello of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in 2015.
Rafael grew up in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and began his musical training with his parents at the age of three. His principal teachers were Theo Weber in St. John’s, and Yuli Turovsky in Montreal. He he completed his master’s degree with Shauna Rolston at the University of Toronto. His appointment to the ESO brought Rafael full-circle - his father was born in Lethbridge, and his mother was born in Conrad, Montana, a short drive from the Canadian border.
As a young soloist, Rafael first attracted attention by winning First Prize at the Orford International Competition. This award led to performances of the Boccherini Concerto with I Musici de Montreal and a subsequent CD on the Amberola Label. In quick succession, Rafael garnered awards from competitions including the Montreal Symphony Competition, the CMC Stepping Stone Competition, the Debut Young Artist Competition, and the Quebec Symphony’s Canadian Concerto Competition. In addition to his time with the ESO and I Musici de Montreal, he has appeared as soloist with the Calgary Philharmonic, the Quebec Symphony, the Newfoundland Symphony, Sinfonia Toronto, the Sudbury Symphony, and the Etobicoke Philharmonic.
As a chamber musician and founding member of the Tokai String Quartet, Rafael won Fourth Prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition, as well as the Felix Galimir Chamber Music Award and the Sir Ernest MacMillan Grant for a young Canadian chamber ensemble. Rafael’s chamber music performances have been featured on several national broadcasts for the CBC. He has been heard across Canada on tours for Jeunesses Musicales and Debut Atlantic. His chamber music partners include James Ehnes, Alexander Tselyakov, Anton Kuerti, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.
Rafael is a passionate teacher. He enjoys working with aspiring cellists as a faculty member at the University of Alberta and across the country at festivals, including the Kincardine Music Festival, Southern Ontario Chamber Music Institute, and Music at Port Milford.
Rafael lives in Edmonton with his wife, ESO cellist Meran Currie-Roberts, and their two children, Sam and Anastasia. Rafael gets very excited whenever the ESO plays the music of Dmitri Shostakovich – his music is what got Rafael completely hooked on classical as a teenager.