Tenor Andrew Haji answers 20 questions, including the things that make Toronto a great place to live, and his default drink of choice.
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.
Andrew Haji is a tenor whose is making his mark on Toronto’s opera community. Haji first gained notoriety in Rob Ford the Opera where he played the late mayor with a voice that Ford could only dream of. He has since appeared with the Canadian Opera Company as Alfredo in Verdi’s La traviata (October 2015), Count Almaviva in the Ensemble Studio performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (May 2015), Rodriguez in Massenet’s Don Quichotte (May 2014), or as Ferrando in the Ensemble Studio performance of Mozart’s Così fan tutte (February 2014).
No stranger to accolades, Andrew won the Grand Prix, the Press Prize, and the Junior Jury Prize at the 50th International Vocal Competition. He received an Encouragement Award in the Marilyn Horne Song Competition and in November 2012, and was selected as the second prize winner of the Canadian Opera Company’s second annual Ensemble Studio Competition.
What are three things about Toronto that make you want to live here?
Toronto’s got lots of opera, lots of great food, and lots of amazing people. You can’t really ask for more.
What are three things that Toronto doesn’t have but should?
Toronto could use better transit, better roads, and lower rents.
Name the musical equivalent to junk food.
I like to listen to EDM (electronic dance music). It always seems to put me in a good mood—just as a bowl of ice cream would!
Default drink/cocktail of choice?
I enjoy anything sweet, but my go-to drink is usually Crown Royal Black (or a similar whiskey) with Coke Zero.
Name your favourite concert hall/venue in Toronto.
There’s really no debate: The Four Seasons Centre. It’s got incredible acoustics, not only for the listener, but also for the performer. I love singing on that stage
First thing that comes to your mind when you think about Toronto.
The CN Tower and SkyDome (well, the Rogers Centre) are pretty much the centerpieces of the city.
The dumbest thing that you’ve ever done to your hair?
When I was a lot younger, I shaved off all my hair, just to see what I’d look like. I had to basically go into hiding for about a week before it started to grow back.
Where was the last place you traveled to for work or pleasure?
I was most recently in New York City for an audition.
Where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in London, and after a short 2 years at the University of Waterloo, I came to Toronto to study singing/opera at the University of Toronto.
What did you major in as an undergraduate?
Before I started studying music, I took two years of an undergraduate degree in Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. After the first two years I realized it really wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and decided to switch to something else. I’m glad I made the switch!
Shoe of choice?
I love Hush Puppies. They’re ridiculously comfortable.
The different career path that you could have gone on?
I went into Computer Science directly out of high school, but decided to switch into music shortly thereafter. I still do a lot of computer work for friends and family, and I always said that if singing didn’t work out, I could always go back to computers.
My dad was born and raised in Tanzania, and my mom is about as Canadian as you can get. I’m a bit of an interesting mix.
Television show that you could tolerate re-runs of?
Any flavor of Star Trek is fine by me.
What is the worst thing about your work?
Memorizing. I’m not good at memorizing, and I find it can get a bit tedious at times. But the rewards are well worth it.
What musical instrument do you secretly long to play?
I really wish I had learned to play the piano. I took lessons when I was younger but never really put much effort into it. Piano skills would really come in handy for learning new music.
Have you ever fired a gun? If so, what were the circumstances?
I have! My dad is a collector, and he’s taken me to a firing range for target practice. It’s a lot of fun!
The thing that makes you the happiest?
A quiet evening at home with my girlfriend, good food, and a good movie on TV.
The best way to die?
I’d love to die in one of two ways: Either at home, in bed, surrounded by those whom I love, or on the operatic stage, in the middle of an incredible high C.