Bridge & Wolak: Inspiring and Educating the Next Generation of Artists

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Accordionist Michael Bridge and clarinettist Kornel Wolak are an internationally acclaimed music & comedy duo who work with traditional acoustic instruments and digital technologies to create unique musical experiences. The pair met a few years ago when Bridge’s professor, then touring with Wolak, was looking to reduce his performance schedule and needed a replacement, whom he found in his student. Since then, Bridge and Wolak have performed together in Poland, the Ukraine, the Czech Republic, France, in half of the US states and in every Canadian province. In 2019, they were nominated for the BC Touring Artist of the Year award and were in the middle of a US tour when the pandemic forced them to step back from the stage and put their activities on pause, but only for a very short while. 

Masterclasses having always been a part of their tour itinerary, the duo had been thinking about creating a program that would allow them to mentor young musicians and follow their development over a longer period of time and in a more meaningful way. As the pandemic forced the world to embrace online learning, they seized the opportunity to develop what was to become the B&W Music Mentorship Program.

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Designed for high school students, the program aims to help young musicians find their own answers to fundamental questions such as “Can I be an artist?”,What does it take to be a professional musician?” and “How do I make money with music?”, as well as guide them through the next steps of their musical studies. Addressing these topics with teenagers is important to them because they realize most high school students choose whether or not to pursue musical studies in university without really knowing what their options are academically and, ultimately, professionally.

“The reason why we want to discuss these issues early on is that we realize that most people don’t know how the business side of things in the arts work. We want to make it clear to young people, as well as their parents, that you can have a career and sustain yourself while working being an artist.”, says Wolak. “We are the living example of it. We learned about it and now we want to share what we’ve learned by promoting literacy and healthy conversations. We also want to convey the idea that whatever your passion is, you can turn it into a career. We want to encourage young artists to pursue a formal education at a university level, learn how to monetize their craft and go on the market and start being independent.” 

The first edition of the program will run over 6 months starting in January 2021. It will include 2 activities per month (a video module, and a live interactive group coaching), a small virtual classroom with attention directed to each participant, providing a safe and inclusive space for them to ask questions, plus a wide range of more specific training. Students will also get to learn from professional artists who tour, record and teach, allowing them to have a greater understanding of what a career in the arts can mean. Invited guests include Dr. Arthur McDonald (Nobel Prize Winner, Physics, 2015), Sadaf Amini (Persian music specialist, Santur player) and Dr. Stephanie Lind (Video Game Musicology). 

“One of our motivations in building this program was to help high school students decide if they want to pursue music at a university level and eventually have a career in the arts. We are not looking to teach them music or replace their teachers, we want to help them make informed decisions. That’s why it was important for us to have guests come in and share their experiences, coming from very different backgrounds and professions, all related to the arts one way or the other. You don’t have to be a freelance musician to work in the arts” says Bridge. The curriculum will also include a behind-the-scenes look with the entire production crew of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts. This will include guest Aaron Holmberg, who worked as a recording engineer for the Tragically Hip for 15 years.

Designed to be as low cost as possible (approximately the same cost as that of going to a summer camp or taking private lessons), the program’s tuition is $600 plus tax. Enrollment is open until Friday December 22, 2020 11:59pm and 10 scholarships for Kingston youth are available and have yet to be claimed. Additionally, if a concert society or any organization that receives support from the Canadian government at any level is willing to sponsor a student, their tuition is then half-price. 

“We’ve had so much help and inspiration over the years, from the Canadian government and from our own mentors and teachers, that we want to send the elevator back down and be as generous as we can be. We don’t want to end our relationship with these kids once the program ends, we want to follow them and hear from them wherever they decide to go”, Bridge adds.

The project is sponsored by the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, as well as Queen’s University’s Faculty of Arts & Science and the Dan School of Drama & Music. Michael Bridge and Kornel Wolak are also the recipients of a grant from the Imagine Fund at the Isabel Bader Centre.

For more information and to sign up for the B&W Music Mentorship Program, please visit:



This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


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