He Professed His Love at 16, Then Waited

Julian Schwarz professed his love to Marika Bournaki in 2007 when they were 16 and students at the Aspen Music Festival and School in Colorado.

“I declared my love after curfew and went into her dorm room the night before she left the festival,’’ said Mr. Schwarz, 29, a classical cello soloist and the assistant professor of cello at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va.

“I know you don’t like me now, but you will like me someday,” he said he told her. “And we will get married. We will have children together and perform together.”

She laughed it off, and described him as “cute and goofy.”

“He would invent stories and sing to me in French,’’ said Ms. Bournaki, also 29, and a French Canadian classical piano soloist. Over the past two years, she has performed the complete cycle of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas at Bargemusic in Brooklyn.

They each graduated from Juilliard, from which they also received a master’s degree in performance — she in piano, he in cello. He was two years behind her.

Mr. Schwarz randomly called her over the years, and in 2009 they met, and hung out at the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. (His father is Gerard Schwarz, the conductor and music director).

“I have a picture of me and Julian in Switzerland,” she said. It was on my fridge through college.’’

When Mr. Schwarz transferred to Juilliard from Colburn Conservatory of Music in 2011 they became good friends.

“We were in the friend zone,” Ms. Bournaki said, and three years later, on May 5, when neither was seeing anyone, they had their first date. She recalled thinking, “This could work.”

He took her to baseball games, to his favorite restaurants, and after she noticed cello pieces on his piano they began playing together for fun. They had a long-distance relationship for six months after she returned home to Montreal in mid-June 2014.

“We were compatible musically,” Mr. Schwarz said. In spring 2015, they began working on Poulenc’s “Sonata for Cello and Piano,” which became their signature piece when they toured as a duo.

They performed the piece at a recital at the Austrian Embassy in Washington in April 2015 and at Schloss Rosenegg in Salzburg, Austria, that summer. In 2016, they won first prize in playing it at the Boulder International Chamber Music Competition.

In 2018, Mr. Schwarz got down on one knee and proposed at the National Arts Club in New York, but with their busy concert schedules they never got around to setting a wedding date.

“Our performance schedules were so encompassing we didn’t have time,’’ he said, but after the pandemic outbreak their concerts were canceled and they stayed at their apartment in Winchester, Va. “We had this abundance of time.”

In March, after Ms. Bournaki’s father came down with Covid-19 in Montreal, and was on a respirator (he is now recovered), Mr. Schwarz realized only immediate family could travel to Canada during the travel ban. “I casually looked for ways to get married,” he said, “and called 10 counties for a marriage license and found one.”

On May 5, the sixth anniversary of their first date, they were married at their apartment in Winchester, Va., by Rabbi Scott Sperling.

“Nobody knew we were getting married,” she said. “It was all improvised.”

In two days they put together a homemade wedding, including building a huppah, making a floral crown for her from flowers around the apartment, express delivery of caviar, Champagne from Costco and setting up a video camera on a tripod.

“My teenage prophecy did come true,” he said, “and it was so well worth the wait.”

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