From September 16-21, 28 talented musicians from across the country met in Toronto to audition for a 3-year loan of 18 fine-stringed instruments from the Canada Council Musical Instrument Bank. throughout the week, Joanne Larocque-Poirier, Head of the Canada Council’s Endowments and Prizes section, posted updates to the Canada Council’s Facebook page. In case you missed it, here’s a peek behind the scenes of this exciting competition.
It’s Sunday, September 16, the long-awaited day for auditions for the Musical Instrument Bank competition at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. Jury members are having coffee in the Green Room; the musicians are warming up in a rehearsal room. One by one, they come onto the stage for their audition…
There is utter stillness in the Mazzoleni Hall of The Royal Conservatory as expert listeners – Canada Council jury members – try to single out particular performances. I’m surprised how seven hours can pass so quickly and meaningfully. I was transported to another place during today’s auditions as seven of the twelve cellists performed. (For a jury member’s perspective, read the blog post by Annalee Patipatanakoon)
These musicians have my utmost admiration. They invest time, work and passion in order to become the virtuosos of tomorrow. They need tools to launch an international career as soloists or chamber musicians, and this competition offers them the chance for the loan of an instrument built by a famous instrument-maker. But first, they have to rise to the challenges of very intense competition. I wish them all the success in the world – no matter what the results may be.
After the auditions, come the interviews. The interviews are full of conversational spontaneity. The jury members are gracious and encouraging and the musicians appear to be calm and open to any question. The objective of the interview process is to assess the musical intentions of the musicians. Where do they see themselves in five years? How will a new instrument from the Bank help them achieve their goals?
Some musicians have a clear vision of their future; others are still exploring and finding their way. Several are going to further studies to refine their skills. One thing is clear, they all want to grow and learn and they are all vying for an instrument that will afford them an edge on national or international stages.
At Geo. Heinl & Co., the finalists are given an opportunity to pick up and try the instruments between auditions before any results are communicated.
Ric Heinl is the person with the most intimate relationship with the instruments in the Bank. As a master luthier, he brings to the Canada Council his vast knowledge of the instruments and their makers. He also brings his passion for the profession and the music.
In the spirit of the Musical Instrument Bank, Ric and his staff donate their time. Their close attention and expert care keep the instruments in an excellent state of conservation. They are still doing things largely the way they were done 300 years ago, whether it’s retouching the varnish, replacing the sound post or adjusting the fingerboards. Read more about Ric and the art of the luthier.
I see today just how much one is not born a musician, one becomes a musician. The process requires daily, repetitive and intensive labour, often from a very young age. Technical precision is necessary for these auditions, and this comes only after long years of work. Violinist Nikki Chooi tells me that he practices anywhere from a few hours to… 9 hours a day. That’s discipline!
I heard some captivating performances today. The music sounds sincere when the person who creates it feels it deeply. Now on to the nail-biting selection – a crucial phase of the evaluation process. Today, the jury deliberates and makes final decisions about winning violinists and cellists. One thing is certain, talent is not lacking in Canada.
17 rare instruments and 1 cello bow were given out and the musicians are taking their new companions home. The winning cellists and violinists are the best of the country’s best and now they have beautiful instruments to make their brilliant talents shine. To hear a few of the winning musicians discuss the competition experience and their instruments, watch this video.
Congratulations to the successful musicians and a heartfelt thank you to those who so generously loaned or donated spectacular instruments to the Bank.