He likes to perch in his backyard tree house or ride the 18-speed mountain bike his parents gave him earlier this spring when he turned 15. And like many other adolescents, Corey Cerovsek suffers the indignities of braces and the whims of barbers. But shortly after his birthday, the Vancouver native was engaged in emphatically grown-up pursuits: preparing for upcoming violin concerts and for exams in university-level music, physics and
math. Last month Corey became the youngest student ever to win a bachelor of science degree from the University of Indiana in Bloomington, scoring a perfect 4.0 grade point average. He will begin graduate school this fall.
Since performing his first violin recital at the age of 7, he has stunned and delighted audiences on both sides of the Atlantic with the maturity and precision of his playing. When the young virtuoso made a triumphant London debut at the Royal Festival Hall last January, conductor Rudolph Barshai declared that Corey played Mozart’s Concerto in A major with “absolute perfect style.” In Guelph, Ont., last month Corey looked serene and confident as he joined 71-year-old master Sir Yehudi Menuhin in a performance of Bach’s Double Concerto for Violin. Afterward, Menuhin admonished the youth for the position of his left thumb, but praised him for “real musicality.”
In fact, Corey has attained that artistry despite only three hours of practice most days. Yet the slender, sweetfaced youth, who plans to focus on
performing and keep math as a sideline in the future, winces when he is called a prodigy. Delicately fingering french fries over lunch in Guelph, he told Maclean's, “I want to be good as a musician and not just as a young kid.” Corey, who was accompanied by his mother, Sophia, 40, rolled his eyes when she proudly pulled out a small photo album documenting his career.
Musical gifts seem to run in the family. His great-grandfather was a gypsy minstrel, and Corey’s sister, Katja, now 17, is a talented concert pianist. But when Corey was born in 1972—two years after Sophia and her engineer husband, Helmut, left their native Austria for Vancouver—doctors suspected that he was brain-damaged. By the age of 4, Corey’s gifts had become clear when he began playing the piano. At 5, he switched I to violin. At 12, he won || the gold medal for z highest marks at the Royal Conservatory of 5 Music, and a year later his family moved to Indiana so that Corey could study with Josef Gingold, the noted violin teacher.
Inevitably, Corey’s precociousness— especially during university exams— has produced the occasional family conflict. “On the one hand, he’s a little boy who needs his sleep,” said Sophia. “On the other, he’s taking graduate courses, and all the other students are staying up too.” Corey, who often does math homework in his head, is acutely aware of his position astride the worlds of child and adult. Jumping exuberantly down several steps, he says mischievously, “Uh-oh, I’ve been caught acting my age.”
But clearly he is self-disciplined beyond his years. This summer, while practising new musical works, he is also adding dishes to a culinary repertoire that includes duck à l’orange. Home life is his main anchor in the heady world of concerts and commutative algebra. “He’s a very loving person without being ashamed of it,” said Sophia. “I can talk to him about everything—except his math and physics.”
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