Five Student Musicians Join Canadian Opera Company’s Orchestra Academy Training Program for 2020

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Toronto – The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra Academy welcomes five student musicians to join its seventh annual training intensive, taking place from January 16 – February 8, 2020. Led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus, the program offers its student musicians one-on-one mentorship and practical experience, including one-of-a-kind performance opportunities, opening the door to a career in an opera orchestra.

This year’s cohort, currently studying at The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto, hails from across Canada and around the world. They are: violinists Isabel Lago (GGS) and Ah Young Kim (GGS), violist John Sellick (GGS), cellist Mansur Kadirov (GGS), and bassist Peter Eratostene (UofT). Participants were selected from a pool of candidates put forward by their respective institutions, following auditions at the COC’s administrative headquarters in Toronto.

Over the course of three weeks, the 2020 Orchestra Academy student musicians experience how a performance comes together, how to prepare their part of a score, and the continuing work of an orchestra over the course of rehearsals and performances. The student musicians’ training and performance opportunities in the 2020 Orchestra Academy include:

• Performing with the COC Orchestra for two performances of the COC’s production of Humperdinck’s Hansel & Gretel on February 6 and 8, conducted by COC Music Director Johannes Debus

• A recital of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel and select instrumental chamber works with artists of the COC Ensemble Studio on January 29 as part of the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre

• Coaching sessions, workshops, and masterclasses with COC music staff and COC Orchestra musicians, including COC Concertmaster Marie Bérard and Associate Concertmaster Aaron Schwebel

• An introduction to the physicality of opera through sessions with the COC’s Performance Kinetics Consultant Jennifer Swan

• An exploration of the concept and themes of the opera with Hansel & Gretel Assistant Director and COC Director/Dramaturg-in-Residence Julie McIsaac

• Coachings and ongoing, one-on-one mentorship from a member of the COC Orchestra

• A behind-the-scenes tour of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts led by the COC Associate Technical Director Jake Gow to introduce players to the technical aspects of a production

This year’s Orchestra Academy participants will be paired with mentors from the COC Orchestra, learning from them in a one-on-one capacity. The 2020 mentors are: Marie Bérard and Dominique Laplante, first violin; Aaron Schwebel, second violin; Catherine Gray, viola; Paul Widner, cello; and Tony Flynt, bass. The COC Orchestra is the oldest opera orchestra in Canada, and has received worldwide acclaim for its musical versatility and range of expression. Created in 1977, the orchestra has a permanent membership of more than 50 instrumentalists.

As part of the Orchestra Academy experience, participants will further develop their musicianship by:

  • studying rehearsal and performance etiquette, as well as developing the awareness, coordination, reaction, flexibility and listening skills required to play in an opera orchestra;
  • learning endurance techniques and how to focus for long periods of time;
  • gaining an understanding of sound production, articulation and blending as well as tuning within the orchestra, the section and with the singers, and the subtleties of balancing sound intensity; and
  • studying different styles and levels of expressiveness in musicianship.

Launched in January 2014, the COC Orchestra Academy is an extra-curricular program for string players. It is part of the COC Academy, a pioneering development program to nurture young opera artists, creators and administrators. It aims to foster a vibrant community of Canadian artists and creative professionals and provide its participants with the skills, experiences and resources to thrive in a global opera environment. The COC Orchestra Academy operates in partnership with The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Schulich School of Music of McGill University, the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, and Western University’s Don Wright Faculty of Music.

About the 2020 COC Orchestra Academy Members

Isabel Lago – Violin

Filipino-Canadian violinist Isabel Lago is currently in her third year of undergraduate studies at The Glenn Gould School, where she is a full-tuition recipient of The Michael and Sonja Koerner Scholarships. She has performed as concerto soloist with the Fraser Valley Symphony and the Richmond Symphony Orchestra, as well as played alongside the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the 21C Music Festival and has served as Concertmaster for the GGS Opera’s orchestra in 2019. Ms. Lago has won numerous competitions, including first prize in the Canadian Repertoire class in the BC Performing Arts Provincials and first place in the Abbotsford, Chilliwack, and Vancouver festivals. She has participated in the National Arts Centre Young Artist Program, San Diego Conservatory’s International Youth Symphony Program, and the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchestral Academy in Germany.

Ah Young Kim – Violin

Born in Daejeon, South Korea, award-winning violinist Ah Young Kim is an active solo, chamber and orchestral musician, currently in the Artist Diploma program at The Glenn Gould School. She is an alumna of the Verbier Orchestra and the Institute for Orchestra Studies of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, where she will return in 2020. She has performed with numerous chamber groups, including the Bloor String Quartet and the Verbier Octet. She also served as section violinist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the 21C Music Festival in 2019. Ms. Kim has also performed in international festivals, such as Music Fest Perugia in Italy, Euro Music Festival in Austria and Germany, and the Verbier Festival in Switzerland. Recently, she was selected to join the Quebec Symphony Orchestra.

John Sellick – Viola

Winnipeg-born violist John Sellick received his undergraduate degree from the University of Manitoba and currently studies at The Glenn Gould School. Among his accomplishments, he is the winner of the University of Manitoba competition, and has performed in many competitions and festivals with the Chroma Quartet. He has also played with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. A firm believer in the power of music education to empower and develop young students, Mr. Sellick is also heavily involved with the El Sistema music education program, as an educator, administrator, conductor and arranger.

Mansur Kadirov – Cello

Cellist Mansur Kadirov was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan to a musical family. He has performed around the world, including appearances with the National Symphony of Uzbekistan, Gunma Junior Orchestra, Kinnor Philharmonic, Kansas City Chamber Orchestra, and Royal Conservatory Orchestra. He has also appeared at the Folly Theater, Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, Koerner Hall, Flagey Hall, and Alice Tully Hall. He has competed in numerous prestigious international competitions, winning such awards as first prize in the National Competition of Uzbekistan, the Grand Prix at Naftzger Young Artists in Wichita, Kansas, and The Glenn Gould School’s Tom Thomas Award for promising soloist. He’s currently a Koerner Scholarship recipient in the Artist Diploma Program at The Glenn Gould School, and received his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Park University’s International Center for Music.

Peter Eratostene – Bass
Peter Eratostene, from Toronto, is currently enrolled in the master’s degree program in double bass performance at the University of Toronto. He recently performed with the National Youth Orchestra of Canada for its summer and fall tour and played in the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra for two seasons. He has also played in the Prisma, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and University of British Columbia summer festivals. Mr. Eratostene received his Advanced Certificate of Performance from the University of Toronto and a fine arts degree from York University. In addition to orchestral music, he regularly freelances and plays in musicals, big bands and other ensembles.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The COC Orchestra Academy is generously supported by Keith Ambachtsheer and Virginia Atkin, and Margaret Harriett Cameron and the late Gary Smith.

ABOUT THE CANADIAN OPERA COMPANY

Based in Toronto, the Canadian Opera Company is the largest producer of opera in Canada and one of the largest in North America. The COC enjoys a loyal audience including a dedicated base of subscribers. Under its leadership team of General Director Alexander Neef and Music Director Johannes Debus, the company has an international reputation for artistic excellence and creative innovation. Its diverse repertoire includes new commissions and productions, local and international collaborations with leading opera companies and festivals, and attracts the world’s foremost Canadian and international artists. The COC Academy is an incubator for the future of the art form, nurturing Canada’s new wave of opera creators with customized training and support. The COC performs in its own opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, hailed internationally as one of the finest in the world. For more information, visit coc.ca.

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