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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Q&A | 30 Questions for James Ehnes

By Michael Vincent on December 4, 2014

James Ehnes. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega
James Ehnes. Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

Every so often, MT poses 60 questions to a local or visiting artist in Toronto who has made our classical music community that much more interesting. They pick and choose. The minimum response is 20 answers. A kind of Rorschach personality test, if you will.

Grammy Award Winner James Ehnes is one of Canada’s most beloved violinists.  He has performed in over 30 countries on five continents, and appears regularly with some of the most celebrated orchestras and conductors. He has an incredibly large discography of over 35 recordings featuring music ranging from J.S. Bach to John Adams.

James Ehnes plays the “Marsick” Stradivarius of 1715. He currently lives in Bradenton, Florida with his family.


What are three things about Toronto that make you want to live here?

Great friends, great food, and the TSO.

Name the musical equivalent to junk food.

Disco: empty, but addictive, and sometimes it’s just what you want.

Default drink/cocktail of choice?


Name your favourite concert hall/venue in Toronto.

Koerner Hall for the sound, Roy Thompson for the memories.

Name your favourite concert hall/venue anywhere.

Wigmore Hall, London.

Your role models?

My parents.

Your favourite sound?

My children’s voices.

Your least favourite sound?

My alarm clock.

Your favourite smells?

Orange blossom, roasting meat, Vietnamese pho, and violin polish.

First thing that comes to your mind when you think about Toronto

My friends.

The historical personalities, both good and bad, that fascinate you the most?

It’s a long list, but Mozart and Benjamin Franklin would be near the top.

What are the three things you’d like to change about Toronto?

Make it warmer in the winter. That’s the only thing I’d change.

If you could board a plane this afternoon, where would it be taking you?

I am boarding a plane, it’s taking me home, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather go.

The strangest place you’ve ever been to?

South Dakota Badlands – amazing, and unlike anywhere else I’ve been.

The three books that you read that made an impact on you in your formative years?

The Razor’s Edge, David Copperfield, and The Fountainhead.

Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure?

Manchester, UK.

Where did you go to school?

Public school in Brandon, Manitoba, Brandon University Conservatory, and The Juilliard School, New York.

Shoe of choice?

Converse All-Star. I’ve been wearing them for years, and I’m old enough to have been wearing them before they were cool. I had to order them because you couldn’t find them in stores. So there.

Your ancestry?

German, English, Scots-Irish, and a little French.

Your three favourite films?

That’s tough. I have a lot of favorites, but I’ll say The Castle, Star Wars, and Dumb and Dumber.

Television show that you could tolerate re-runs of?

Burn Notice. Best show ever.

What is the best thing about your work?

The amazing music I get to perform.

What is the worst thing about your work?

Spending way too much time in airports and on planes; being away from my family.

The talent that you wish you possessed?

I wish I could draw.

What are you listening to as you answer these questions?

Airport lounge easy-listening musak. It’s awful.

What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?

I’d love to be able to play basically every instrument I’ve ever heard – nothing secret about it.

What sport did you give up and why?

I played a lot of sports growing up, and gave them all up for different reasons, mostly from lack of time. I miss baseball and tennis the most.

What is the game that you’re best at?

Bags. I’m a savant. I’m pretty good at ping-pong too.

The thing that makes you the happiest?

My family.

The thing that makes you the angriest?

When people don’t think through the consequences of actions.

Your first memory?

My third birthday.

The one place that you have the least interest in ever visiting?

The only places I don’t have any interest in visiting are places where I’d be afraid for my safety. Since I’m an optimist, I’d like to think that these places won’t always be like this. I can’t think of anywhere that wouldn’t be interesting in some way.

The best way to die?

Without pain or fear.

Michael Vincent
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Michael Vincent
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