Help Sohrab Attend University of Toronto for Cello

by Bijan Sepanji in Ontario, Canada

Help Sohrab Attend University of Toronto for Cello
We did it
On 28th May 2021 we successfully raised $4,030 with 47 supporters in 39 days

Let's help Sohrab, an immensely talented Persian cellist, raise funds to study at University of Toronto for his Master's degree 2021-2023

by Bijan Sepanji in Ontario, Canada

Hello everyone! 

I helped set up this fundraiser on behalf of Sohrab Malekzadeh and Professor Joseph Johnson. Sohrab is an immensely talented, kind and hard-working cellist from Iran who needs our help to be able to study cello with one of the world's best - principal cellist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Joseph Johnson - here in Toronto, Canada. Mr. Johnson is currently working to raise funds for Sohrab, and bring him to  study at the University of Toronto. 

Sohrab only picked up the cello at the age of 19 and managed to become a fully professional player within a few years! You can read more about Sohrab's story below. I can only imagine how much more accomplished he will become by studying with a GREAT teacher like Professor Johnson.

The cost of tuition is very high (almost 40k/year for international students), and the currency has become practically worthless due to sanctions, so Sohrab needs our help! Please donate any amount you can, and most importantly, SPREAD THE WORD by clicking the "share" button so we can all succeed in helping Sohrab!

Many thanks to all of you,


"I had a wonderful lesson over Zoom with Sohrab several months ago. Throughout the lesson, I was able to work with him on very specific details, as he was eager to accept what I had to say and learn. The pace of the lesson was very fast and intense, and I knew he would be able to handle the Master's Program here at U of T. Over the last few months, I have become aware of Sohrab’s incredible versatility in the different styles of music he performs, as well as some of his wonderful arranging. I think we would learn a lot from each other, and would love to have the opportunity to work with Sohrab over the next two years."

-Joseph Johnson, Principal Cello of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra1618770881_joe-johnson-cello-hr.jpg


Here is what Sohrab has in mind for each and every one of you, as a show of gratitude:

  • Donations of any amount: Personal message from Sohrab and his deepest appreciation for your generosity!
  • $50: ONE ticket to a live cello recital by Sohrab before the end of 2022 in downtown Toronto, at the Heliconian Hall OR a direct link to recital live stream/ recording
  • $100: TWO tickets to Toronto cello recital OR a semi-private 30-minute recital on Zoom (max 6 people)
  • $200: FOUR tickets to Toronto cello recital OR a private 30-minute recital on Zoom
  • $500: FOUR tickets to Toronto cello recital AND private 45-minute house recital in the Toronto area, when it is safe to do so before the end of 2022 OR private 45-minute Zoom recital + high quality video recording to be sent directly to the supporter

NOTE: All donations will firstly go towards Sohrab's student account at the University of Toronto. Any amount raised in excess of his student fees will go towards the cost of living in Toronto. So far, Sohrab has received $7,500 from the University as a scholarship. Sohrab is also doing his best to raise funds from alternate sources such as private scholarships and foundations.

Who I Am

My name is Sohrab Malekzadeh and I'm a 28 years old professional cellist. I'm here to tell you about my journey in music.


Before the Cello

I grew up in a small northern city by the Caspian Sea called Amol with very limited music opportunities. My first musical memory was when I was 11 and I heard my father playing the guitar. Though he was only an amateur player, I was drawn towards his music and his instrument. So much so, that I used to play his guitar without his knowledge every single day I could make time.

One night at a family gathering, my father was asked to play and he declined. So I seized the moment and I started to play and sing. My parents were completely shocked! The following week I took one step towards my dreams: Registering for guitar classes.

Economic conditions in my country do not favour pursuing the arts as a profession, so I studied hard for the university entrance exams for engineering, which are highly competitive. I was admitted to the top university in Isfahan to study computer software engineering.

Although I excelled as an engineering student, I struggled on a personal level. I tried to keep my connection with music, establishing a music club at the University of Isfahan and a music festival called Naghme. I felt I had a very special connection with music, and I recognized my own talent. Yet, I was denying myself the opportunity to follow my dreams to become a professional musician.

After 3 semesters of engineering, and feeling more conflicted with each passing day, I decided to follow my passion for music. I gave up the university and bought a one way ticket home.

Meeting the Cello

In those days, I used to listen to a lot of music by George Kamel and in one of his songs, there was a charming cello solo.

This little song changed my future.

At the age of 19, I touched the cello for the first time and I started cello lessons in secret with the only teacher in our small town, as to not further upset my parents, who hadn’t come to terms with me leaving my engineering degree. Normally, learning a string instrument takes many years and you must start at a very young age to reach a professional level as an adult. But somehow I felt instantly connected to the cello and I learned very quickly. 

Becoming a Professional Cellist

Within a year and half, I took the university entrance exams for a second time - this time for music. I also had to take an audition at the Art University at the University of Tehran, which I only had 6 months to prepare for. Somehow I passed both and I was admitted to the top institution for studying music in my country after only 18 months of playing the cello!

My teacher was very caring and I watched a lot of YouTube videos on how to develop a good tone. I probably practised 6 hours a day on average, and I graduated from the university 4 years later.

I became a successful cellist in Tehran and I also became a member of the cello section of the Tehran Symphony Orchestra while I was still in university. Being a member of this orchestra was a big privilege and I performed many concerts with them.


But I knew my dream was bigger than all of this. I knew my progress was limited in a country so isolated from the rest of the world and where I had exhausted all opportunities to grow. I knew I had the potential to become a much better cellist. I knew there was so much more to learn, and I wanted to find a way to give back to other aspiring cellists in my home country.

Studying Abroad

I made my decision. I left my family and career behind and I moved to Belgium for advanced studies on the cello under the supervision of Professor Judith Ermert at the Royal Conservatorium in Gent.

Unfortunately, this was just around the time that our currency plummeted in value because of heavy international sanctions, so money was extremely tight. In the last 4 years, the Rial has devalued by 700%. However, tuition costs were very low in Belgium and I managed to receive free accommodation. I also earned a small stipend teaching cello students which allowed me to support myself while trying to learn everything I could during my time in Belgium.

I learned a tremendous deal from my wonderful Belgian professor. I also got to perform many recitals and concerts, meeting many other incredible musicians from around the world. Sadly, due the ongoing pandemic I couldn't complete my studies in Belgium but I deeply cherish my time there.

University of Toronto Admission for Master's Degree

Yet, I was fortunate enough to make another special connection with another incredible cellist, Professor Joseph Johnson who teaches at the University of Toronto, in Canada. Professor Johnson offered me a free two-hour lesson on Zoom, and we got to discuss many cello-related things. He recommended that I apply to the University of Toronto to study with him for 2 years. I applied and was accepted into the program!

What I Need

Tuition costs are very high in Canada, especially for international students. With the currency situation not improving in my country, I am unable to afford the tuition fee in Toronto. Professor Johnson is doing his best to get the most scholarship for me from the University of Toronto, and I have been given $7500 towards my tuition of $36,642 per year. However, that still leaves me with over $29,000 for the international tuition rate for my first year.

I can still manage my own visa fees (which includes travel to Turkey as there is currently no Canadian embassy in Tehran), airfare to Canada as well as any immediate expenses upon arrival. However, I would need at least $29,000 CAD in order to qualify for a student visa to come study in Canada.

I will be deeply indebted by each and every one of you who donates to my cause, shares my message, and supports me in reaching my dreams as a Persian cellist and musician. Thank you!

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