N e w s

Dedication drives pianist Ricker Choi

Toronto Star, by John Terauds











There is nothing unusual about a summer music festival highlighting its students.  But there is something unusual about one of the students who will be on stage at Walter Hall this afternoon.  The tall, thin 33-year-old, who is about to play Franz Liszt's daunting Mephisto Waltz on the concert Steinway at the Toronto Summer Music festival is not a full-time student or a full-time musician.  He is a project manager for a software company who decided, only three years ago, that he needed more music in his life.  There are thousands of amateur pianists in Toronto but few would have the pluck to place themselves in front of the master-class instructors and university-level piano-performance students from Canada, the United States and farther afield.

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Music Heals - Concert Re​view


Dilettante's Diary, by Patrick Donohue




Ricker Choi, the concert’s organizer, has won distinction by ranking among the top winners in several international competitions for amateur pianists. He now works in the financial industry but he dedicates the gift of his musicianship to the benefit of the community. In the case of this concert, for example, the net proceeds will go to SickKids Foundation.


But the charitable groups he favours aren’t the only beneficiaries. His audiences also reap great rewards in that every piece he plays is a revelation. Take his performance of the two Debussy pieces, Arabesque No 1 and "Clair de Lune" (from "Suite Bergamasque"). Both of these works sometimes sound to me like bits and pieces of disparate fragments but Mr. Choi’s musical mind is so all-encompassing that he melds each work into one coherent whole. In the case of the Arabesque, which I’ve heard many times, Mr. Choi showed that it’s all about rubato. That made it flow convincingly. His tone, meanwhile, was meltingly ravishing. And yet, Mr. Choi never imposed his own personality on the work in a schmaltzy or a sentimental way. You might say that he entered so fully into the composer’s space that he made it seem like his own. 


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Music Heals - Concert Re​view


Dilettante's Diary, by Patrick Donohue




Ricker Choi isn’t your typical financial wiz kid. True, he has an MBA and he works as a business consultant for one of the big banks, specializing in financial risk management. But he’s also a very accomplished pianist. In addition to several other major prizes won over recent years, in 2010 he won second prize in the 2010 Berlin International Amateur Piano Competition and, just this year, he won third prize in the Paris International Competition for Outstanding Piano Amateurs.

As a way of sharing his musical gift, in 2006 Mr. Choi started an organization called "Music Heals", whereby he stages concerts for the benefit of local charities. That first concert, in a church hall, drew about sixty people. Since then, his concerts have been staged for Oxfam, Sick Kids Foundation and World Vision Canada. This most recent concert, the net proceeds of which will go to United Way, drew a sold-out house of over 300 to the Glenn Gould studio.


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In music, unlike when rewiring your house, ‘amateur’ does not mean ‘bad’


Musical Toronto, by John Terauds




Throw the word ‘amateur’ around, and most people think ‘bad.’ It’s time to change that, at least in the world of music. 

DIY home renovations have probably reinforced the amateur-equals-bad association. But anyone even remotely adept at diagnosing and fixing wiring can, through a series of tests and apprenticeships, become a licensed electrician and go on to get more work than he or she can handle. The same holds true for plumbers, welders, carpenters and all the other trades.

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How to Perform a Piano Concerto


Grand Piano Passion, ​by Nancy M. Williams




In 2010, Ricker blazed into Berlin and advanced to the final round of the International Piano Amateur Competition, which called for the six finalists to play a piano concerto with the Sibelius Orchestra Berlin, led by the conductor Stanley Chia-Ming Dodds. Ricker’s dazzling performance garnered him second place.

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​​​​​​​Olga Kern in Toronto Feb. 22-23:  ​   ​​​​​​​Piano​​​ Master Class


The Wholenote, by Peter Kristian Mose




Ricker Choi, about the same age as Kern, presented a fascinating biography. He began the piano at age 13, then dropped it altogether at age 18 for a decade of studies in business and eventual work as a financial analyst.  Nowadays he is back to pursuing the piano with a vengeance, despite his day job in the banking industry.   He is one of the pack of current hotshot adult amateur piano contestants who travel the globe to compete against other part-time pianists in international amateur competitions, and he has the trophies to prove it.

Choi played Liszt’s brash First Mephisto Waltz with clinical precision, spare pedaling, and clear engagement.

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When You Need a Quiet Piano


Grand Piano Passion, ​by Nancy M. Williams




Ricker Choi is an accomplished amateur pianist from Toronto, Ontario.  In the last five years, he has placed in amateur piano competitions from Boston to Berlin.  Yet several years ago, after he received a threatening letter from his neighbors, he worried about his ability to sustain his practice.

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Toronto amateur pianist Ricker Choi gets centre stage at
COC lunchtime concert Nov. 22 


Musical Toronto, by John Terauds




It’s been three years since I met Ricker Choi, financial risk analyst by day, white-knuckle pianist by night.  He’s taken every master class and lesson he can get his fingers on, and competes regularly in amateur piano contests.  He is also living proof that we can achieve pretty much anything we want, if we really, really try hard.

Choi presents an hour-long recital at noon today, as part of the Canadian Opera Company’s regular recital series.  The program is a dramatic sandwich: Sonata No. 5 by Alexander Scriabin, four of the Op. 118 Intermezzi by Johannes Brahms and La Valse by Maurice Ravel.

For more info on the COC’s free concert series, click here.

For a taste of Choi’s chops, check out a lobby recital he gave last week at Classical96 FM.

COC Free Concert - Ricker Choi


A day in the Life of a Torontonian




The Canadian Opera Company continues to sponsor free lunch time concerts at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.  Recently featured pianist Ricker Choi had a back story that is as interesting as his performance was impressive.

Despite being gifted with musical talent, Ricker chose instead to pursue a business career by getting an MBA and working full time as a financial risk consultant.  Yet he still finds enough time to hone his piano skills to place second in the Boston and Berlin International Amateur Piano Competitions and play with the Berlin Philharmonica Orchestra.

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The benefits of studying classical music: Ricker Choi, business consultant

96.3 New Classical FM, by Liz Parker




What instrument(s) did you study, and at what stage in your life?

I had a few piano lessons at age seven, when I was still in Hong Kong. But at that time I hated the piano and I quit very shortly. Then, I entered a school in Hong Kong (St. Paul’s Co-educational College) that requires each student to play at least one musical instrument. I picked a Chinese string instrument called Erhu. I played Erhu between age 11 and 14. It was at this school that I got my first exposures to classical music, and I fell in love immediately! In music classes, l heard my classmates perform classical masterworks such as Chopin Waltzes and Beethoven Sonatas. So I decided to learn the piano myself.

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Fitting Serious Practice Time into a Busy Life
Amateur Pianist Ricker Choi on Preparing for His Upcoming Concert

Grand Piano Passion, by Joanna M. Eng




How does amateur pianist Ricker Choi manage it all? He is preparing to perform a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, accompanied by a full orchestra, for an audience of hundreds. He has won multiple first, second, and third prizes in amateur piano competitions over the past decade; has performed at the 2,500-seat Berlin Philharmonie; and has played live on Toronto’s 96.3 FM classical radio. Ricker is also a full-time business consultant.

Leading up to his next concert, in which he will play the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor with the Ontario Cross-Cultural Music Society Philharmonic Orchestra, we spoke with him about how he balances his business career with maintaining such a high level of piano study and performance. His approach is illuminating for adult piano students at any level who lead busy lives.

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The Perfect World - Interview with Amateur Pianist Ricker Choi: 两全其美的生活﹣ 专访业余钢琴家蔡维纪


QI Post, by LK




蔡維紀(Ricker Choi)是筆者在香港認識的初中同班同學,各自到外國唸書後失去聯絡。近年在社交網絡Facebook重逢,談起舊事,也談起鋼琴來,雖然相隔20多年,卻毫無隔膜。


今天,他攀上了生活藝術的巔峯:白天,他是多倫多宏利金融公司的全職風險系統管理顧問;下班後,他是位鋼琴演奏家,曾在著名的Berlin Philharmonie,於2500名聽眾前演奏李斯特的Totentanz,贏得柏林國際業餘鋼琴比賽第二名。




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Interview: Amateur is just a label for Toronto pianist Ricker Choi


Musical Toronto, by Margaret Lam




While the term ‘amateur’ is often used to describe people who are pretty good at something but don’t make a living doing it, this over-simplification can cause us to overlook the musical gifts around us. 

Toronto analyst-by-day, pianist-by-night Ricker Choi is a case in point.

As a 7-year-old, Choi found his first music lessons so boring that he quit. It wasn’t until he heard his friends play Für Elise and Beethoven sonatas at age 12 that his own interest in playing stirred up. 

​Using what he could remember from the half-dozen or so lessons he had taken, he painstakingly worked out every note in Für Elise. The first page took about a month for him to learn how to play, with the unavoidable wrong notes.


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Piano Practice with High-Frequency Hearing Loss


Grand Piano Passion, ​by Nancy M. Williams




Ricker’s ability to hear and play the music so sensitively doesn’t give away one thing: he has a high-frequency hearing loss.   The amateur pianist, who has garnered several prizes at piano competitions and performed a Liszt concerto with full orchestra, sat down to talk with us about how his hearing affects his piano practice and performance, and vice versa. Read on for some of his ingenious tips for musicians who are concerned with their hearing health.


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2012 CCC Music Festival: Ricker Choi - Festival Grand Prize Winner



Summary in English​

The CCC piano competition concluded yesterday at the Chinese Cultural Center. Ricker Choi was the Festival Grand Prize Winner, sponsored by Scotiabank. Besides Ricker, there were many other great pianists performed in the festival gala yesterday. Ricker started having piano lessons only when he was 13 years old. He is an experienced performer who has won numerous prizes. Ricker said he is most impressed with the high standard and the superb venue and piano in which the competition was held.

2012 Concours International de Grands Amateurs de Piano:

Ricker Choi: 3rd Place Winner - at Salle Gaveau in Paris




Summary in English​

Right Article:
Now living in Canada, but born in Hong Kong, Ricker Choi currently works in banking risk management.  He was the first to appear in the final round of the competition.  He performed Liszt, Brahms, and Ravel's works.  Ricker was emotionally very into his performance, causing him almost lost balance when he took the bow.


Ricker started learning the piano only after he was 13 years old.  Because of university, he stopped piano playing for many years.  He started again only 6 years ago after he felt his career was now steady.  His goal to come to Paris competition is to be able to perform at the prestigious Salle Gaveau in the final round....

Left Article:
March 18th, the 23rd Les Concours des Grands Amateurs de Piano concluded at Paris' prestigious Salle Gaveau....


Some competitors had even gone through vigorous music training and graduated from music academy, but in the end pursued in a non-music career... Ricker who was born in Hong Kong, now working in banking risk management in Canada, was awarded 3rd prize.

Competition's jury are all of high calibre and are renowned international pianists and professors... the level of playing was very high, as explained by one of the jury member Zhang Yun.

Washington’s International Amateur Piano Competition

The Washington Diplomat, by Gail Scott




The top winner of the Sixth Annual Washington International Piano Artists Competition this year was Ricker Choi, a software engineer originally from Hong Kong who is now making his home in Canada.

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Concert pianist is a risk-analytics specialist by day

Investment Executive, by Kate Betts-Wilmott




When Ricker Choi finished high school, he had to decide whether to pursue a career in music or one in business. A student of the piano at the time, he went so far as to apply for auditions for music programs at post-secondary institutions. In the end, he chose to pursue a business degree at York University in Toronto.

Now a risk-analytics program manager for Algorithmics Inc., a provider of risk-management software for the financial services industry in Toronto, Choi, 34, still puts his musical training to good use. An accomplished classical pianist, he organizes concerts featuring himself and other performers to raise money for charitable causes.

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Toronto Star - Ricker Choi