Hailed as a “Rock Star of the Cello” and noted 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.
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, Yuli Turovsky in Montreal, and he completed his Master’s Degree with Shauna Rolston at the University of Toronto. With his appointment to the position of Principal Cello for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Rafael has come 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 Stones Competition, the Debut Young Artist Competition and the Quebec Symphony’s Canadian Concerto Competition. In addition to performing with I Musici de Montreal, Rafael has appeared as soloist with the Edmonton Symphony, 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 all across Canada on tours for Jeunesses Musicales and Debut Atlantic. He counts as his chamber music partners James Ehnes, Alexander Tselyakov, Anton Kuerti, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Prior to joining the Edmonton Symphony as Principal Cello in 2015, Rafael was a member of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra and held assistant principal positions with both the Winnipeg and Windsor Symphony Orchestras. He has also held positions with the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra (Principal Cello), Orchestra London Canada and Sinfonia Toronto (principal cello) and has played frequently with the Detroit and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. He is also currently Principal Cello of the Chamber Orchestra of Edmonton.
Rafael is a passionate teacher and 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. He runs the University of Alberta Cello Seminar each summer. Rafael lives in Edmonton with his wife, cellist Meran Currie-Roberts, and their two children, Sam and Anastasia.