Student loaners

For the next three years, Montreal musician Chloe Dominguez will play a McConnell Nicolas Gagliano cello, crafted in Italy in 1824 and worth an estimated $375,000.

Chloe Dominguez with the 1824 McConnell Nicolaus Gagliano cello she received on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts on Thursday.

For the next three years, Montreal musician Chloe Dominguez will play a McConnell Nicolas Gagliano cello, crafted in Italy in 1824 and worth an estimated $375,000.

In other words, it’s an instrument seemingly too fine to haul around on public transit.

“People have been telling me: ‘Oh my god, what are you going to do? You’re never going to take the bus anymore!”’ the 28-year-old said.

Dominguez is among a group of young musicians who received valuable instruments on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts on Thursday.

The 14 instruments given out Thursday — each on a three-year loan — are worth more than $28 million total. A three-person committee chose the winners.

Few of the musicians, who range in age from 20 to 32, said they were nervous about using the expensive pieces.

“We were trained at a very young age to handle our violin with great care, so there’s no nerves about that,” said 24-year-old Sainte-Foy, Que., native Jing Wang, the recipient of a 1902 Enrico Rocca violin worth $214,000.

“It’s actually good for us. When we perform, we’re less nervous because we’re very secure about the instrument we’re playing with. It’s positive in every way.”

Rachel Mercer, however, looked a bit anxious as she held up her prize — a 1696 Bonjour Stradivari cello valued at $8 million — in front of a row of flashing cameras.

“It’s hard not to shake,” said the 31-year-old Edmonton-born musician as she clutched the neck of the cello between her fingers.

“Of course it is (daunting),” said Mercer — a member of Ensemble Made in Canada, the Mercer Trio, Via Salzburg and the Art of Time Ensemble. “I think it’s always something that I’ll have in the back of my mind.”

Montreal native Caroline Chehade was a winner in the competition three years ago, claiming the 1902 Rocca. This time, she nabbed a 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivari violin, valued at $4.3 million.

She said that upgrading to the Rocca made a significant difference in her playing.

“It gave me lots of confidence right away,” said Chehade, who attends the Mannes College of Music in New York.

“The next year I won the Prix d’Europe in Montreal. I had been trying for two years, I always arrived second. Quite surprisingly, right after I won this instrument, I practised for the whole year, worked, searched deeper for colours, and right away that competition I won.”

“It wasn’t a coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidences anyways.”

Renee-Paule Gauthier, meanwhile, was among the competition’s winners for the first time this year.

Until now, the Jonquiere, Que., native has been playing the student violin that her mom purchased for her when she was 14.

That cost: $5,000. The circa 1700 Taft Stradivari violin she claimed on Thursday is valued at an estimated $4.3 million.

“My other violin is a very cheap, cheap instrument but he’s served me well for many years and he got me where I am today, so I’m very grateful,” said the 32-year-old.

“I’ll definitely never part with him — it’s a ’he,’ of course. … But this is a dream come true, it really is.”

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