This marks another record-setting year for the Sylva Gelber Foundation, which will be offering a total of $245, 000 to young, Canadian musicians –– the highest amount ever awarded by the Foundation. The jury auditioned an especially strong group of contestants, and has selected thirteen of them to receive prizes in recognition of their outstanding talent and career potential. Among the successful applicants are four previous competition-winners as well as a number of new names, together representative of the vibrancy of classical musicianship in Canada and abroad. The Gelber award winners for 2017 are as follows:
Noam Bierstone, 26, Toronto, ON. Noam is a third year Doctor of Music student at McGill University. Working with professors Aiyun Huang and Fabrice Marandola, his research explores the physical and theatrical dimensions of percussion playing, considering how these expand conventional approaches to instrumental performance. Noam is one half of an experimental saxophone and percussion duo called scapegoat, a substitute member of the Paris-based Ensemble Intercontemporain, and artistic director of the NO HAY BANDA concert series, which aims to provide a platform for Montreal’s avant-garde music scene. This award from the Sylva Gelber Foundation will contribute to the completion of Noam’s degree, as well as a series of residencies and recitals in Canada, Europe, and Australia. Through collaborations with such contemporary composers as Mauricio Pauly, Michelle Lou, Zeynep Toraman, and Pierluigi Billone, Bierstone plans to further develop a unique sonic language based on the musical possibilities of different objects, gestures, and images.
Ariane Brisson, 26, Montreal, QC. Ariane stands apart for her skill and imagination as a flutist. She has won numerous competitions, including Grand Prize at the 28th edition of the OSTR competition, the 2013 Prix d’Europe, and the Festival du Musique de Royaume. While a Master’s student at the University of Montreal, Ariane worked under the tutelage of Denis Bluteau. She has since launched a busy career as a freelance musician, performing alongside the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Les Violons du Roy, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. In 2015, she formed the duo Palladium with pianist Olivier Hébert-Bouchard, and in 2016 joined the wind quintet Pintadère. Ariane’s award will enable her to travel to Berlin for a series of classes with Mathieu Dufour, her former teacher at DePaul University in Chicago, now principal flute for the Berlin Philharmonic.
Timothy Chooi, 23, Victoria, BC. Timothy is already well on his way to a distinguished career as a concert violinist. The first half of 2017 brought him onstage with the Southwest Florida Symphony, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the San Luis-Obispo Symphony Orchestra, and the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. As his studies at the Curtis Institute under professor Ida Kavafian draw to a close, Timothy is looking ahead to the start of a two-year Master’s degree at the Julliard School of Music. Beyond his many professional engagements, Timothy participates regularly in residencies and community fundraising initiatives, helping to promote youth engagement in the arts. Timothy counts among his many awards a Bronze Medal at the 2015 Michael Hill International Violin Competition, the Grand Prize at the 2010 Montreal Symphony Standard Life Competition, and the loan of the 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank. He will be receiving his fourth award from the Gelber Foundation this year, a mark of his exceptional virtuosity and promise.
Cameron Crozman, 22, London, ON. Although he is just 22, Cameron’s exceptional sensitivity as a cellist has earned him international repute in competitions and festivals. Last year, he embarked on a national tour of China with Trio Guermantes, and was selected as one of six cellists to take part in Gautier Capuçon’s Classe d’Excellence at the Louis Vuitton Foundation. Cameron is deeply committed to innovation in contemporary music; he has collaborated with composers Kaija Saariaho, Bruno Mantovani, and Kelly-Marie Murphy, whose new piece for solo cello, The Book of Elegant Feelings, he will premiere this summer. He has also premiered new works by Daniel Alvarado (with the Orchestre de Chambre du Luxembourg) and Frédéric Lebel (at the Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music). His talent is well matched by his instrument: a 1696 “Bonjour” Stradavarius, on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts’ Instrument Bank. This is Cameron’s second award from the Gelber Foundation, supporting the continuation of his Artist Diploma in contemporary music and creation at the Paris Conservatoire.
Andrew Erasmus, 24, Victoria, BC. A baritone, Andrew began his longstanding association with Pacific Opera Victoria as a boy soprano in 2005. He has appeared in 19 productions with the company since then. He has played the roles of Starveling in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Antonio in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, and the Imperial Commissioner in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Thanks to his rich voice and unmistakable charisma onstage, Andrew was voted Audience’s Choice at the Metropolitan Opera National Council District Auditions in 2016, and won first place in the 2013 Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival. After five years of study at the Victoria School of Music under Ingrid Attrot and Nancy Argenta, he has been offered direct admission into the Master’s program in Vocal Performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Byungchan Lee, 23, Vancouver, BC. Byungchan studies violin under Masao Kawasaki at the Juilliard School in New York. An experienced soloist and chamber musician, he has appeared with the McGill and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, and at the Toronto Summer Music Festival, McGill International String Quartet Academy, and Music Masters Course Japan.
Other career highlights include performances at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics closing ceremonies and playing alongside Stevie Wonder at the Bell Centre in Montreal. More recently, he acted as concertmaster for the Juilliard Orchestra’s performance of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, receiving coaching from David Chan, concertmaster for the Metropolitan Opera. This summer, Byungchan earned a coveted spot as the mentored-teaching fellow for the Madeline Island Chamber Music Festival. He also performed at the Montreal Chamber Music Festival and will participate in further performances in Montreal, Stockholm, Helsinki and New York. A winner of the Canada Council for the Arts’ 2015 Musical Instrument Bank Competition, Byungchan plays a 1768 Miller Januarius Gagliano violin. His award from the Sylva Gelber Foundation will fund the second year of his Master’s degree at the Juilliard School, and will assist in preparing him for international competitions, orchestral auditions, and fellowship programs.
Shannon Lee, 25, Mississauga, ON; Plano, TX. Shannon recently graduated from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia with the Charles Miller-Fritz Kreisler Award, where she studied with Ida Kavafian and Arnold Steinhardt. Subsequently, she dedicated a year of service through the Curtis ArtistYear Fellowship, working with Cramp Elementary Pre-K and All City Orchestra chamber music programs. Born in Canada, she moved to Texas at two, debuting with the Dallas Symphony when she was just twelve years old and studying under Jan Mark Sloman. She continued lessons with David Nadien while completing a Bachelor’s in Computer Science at Columbia University. Shannon is an active member of the Bicycle String Trio and Symphony in C orchestra, and has performed in Music@Menlo, Music from Angel Fire, Banff Festival Orchestra and Stowe Tango Workshop. With her award from the Sylva Gelber Foundation, Lee will enroll in master classes and attend festivals such as the Krzyzowa Music Festival in Poland and Bartok World Festival Competition in Budapest.
Kerson Leong, 20, Ottawa, ON. Kerson is currently Artist in Residence at the Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel in Belgium, studying violin under Augustin Dumay. Since winning Junior First Prize at the Menuhin Competition at the age of 13, Kerson has established himself as one of the most sought-after violinists of his generation. He has performed with such ensembles as the Oslo Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra Gulbenkian, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Montréal Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre Métropolitain, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada. He has collaborated with such artists as Yannick Nezet-Seguin, Angela Hewitt, Louis Lortie, and Giuliano Carmignola and gave the world premiere of English composer John Rutter’s piece, Visions. Highlights from this year include his debut with the Stavanger Symphony Orchestra and debut recitals at MIRY Concertzaal in Belgium and at the Flâneries musicales in Reims, France. With his award from the Gelber Foundation, Kerson will be wrapping up the third year of his Artist Diploma at Queen Elisabeth, in preparation for a soloist career.
Scott MacIsaac, 25, Calgary, AB. Scott won a second award from the Foundation this year to support his continued studies in piano at the Guildhall School of Music. Grand Prize Winner of the 2015 Montreal Symphony Orchestra Manulife Competition, he has played several concerts in many of London’s top venues, including Barbican Hall, Steinway Hall, Cadogen Hall, and St. John’s Smith Square. Scott has also played recitals throughout North America, Asia, and much of Western Europe, and most recently performed with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra, and the YOA Orchestra of the Americas. Last summer, he made a recording for CBC Radio 2 and was put on their 2016 list of Canada’s “30 hottest classical musicians under 30.” Through ongoing work with professor Ronan O’Hora and participation in international competitions, Scott plans to expand his repertoire as a solo and chamber musician, with the eventual goal of returning home to encourage the development of other young, aspiring classical musicians in Canada.
Iain MacNeil, 26, Toronto, ON. Lauded by critics for his baritone voice of “uncommon beauty…and heartfelt expression” (Musical Toronto), Iain graduated with a Bachelor of Music from Dalhousie University in 2013. He now trains with Wendy Nielsen, Tim Noble and Marlena Malas, and performs regularly with Canadian Opera Company Company, taking on roles such as Le Dancaïre (Carmen), Fiorello (Il barbiere di Siviglia) and the Imperial Commissioner (Madama Butterfly). This spring he debuted with the Vancouver Opera, singing the title role in The Marriage of Figaro, and with the Saskatoon Opera as Don Giovanni. He was a finalist in the Ottawa Choral Society’s New Discoveries contest and the Canadian Opera Company’s Centre Stage competition and a semi-finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Iain will apply his Gelber award toward a European audition tour, as he attempts to develop his reputation internationally.
Meagan Milatz, 24. Weyburn, SK. Meagan recently received a Master of Music degree from McGill University, where she was a student of Ilya Poletaev and Tom Beghin. She placed first in the Grand Awards Competition at the Saskatchewan Music Festival (2011), the CFMTA National Piano Competition (2011), and the Shean Piano Competition (2014), and has appeared as soloist with various orchestras across Canada, including the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, the McGill Symphony Orchestra, and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. She collaborates regularly with other musicians – notably the McGill-based Trio Armonioso and Andrew Wan, concertmaster for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra. Meagan’s future goals involve honing her skills as a collaborative pianist. To this end, she will be attending private classes with previous Gelber award winner Philip Chiu. She is one of seven pianists selected to participate in the prestigious Kneisel Hall Chamber Music School and Festival in Blue Hill, Maine, and will be pursuing a period of study in residence with Canadian violinist and former Gelber award winner Amy Hillis.
Yoanna Prodanova, 25, Montreal, QC. Yoanna began cello lessons in Bulgaria before immigrating to Canada in 2006. She received her Diplome d’etudes superieures from the Conservatoire de musique de Montreal In 2012, where she studied with Denis Brott. She now lives in London where she is completing her Master’s at the Guildhall School, having already obtained a First Class Hons Bachelor Degree under Louise Hopkins. Recently, she has played concerti with the Banbury Symphony, the Amati Orchestra and the Goodensemble in London, as well as the Sinfonia de Lanaudiere, Quebec. She has also given recitals in St Martin in the Fields, Milton Court Hall and Barbican Hall in London. She is a Park Lane Group Artist and cellist with the Barbican quartet; they made their Wigmore Hall debut last February, thanks to the Maisie Lewis Award. A recipient of the Philip and Dorothy Green Award for Young Artists (2016), Yoanna has attended masterclasses at IMS Prussia Cove, the Music Academy of the West, the Kronberg Festival, and the Banff Centre. Passionate about new music, she has premiered music by Benjamin Graves in LSO St Lukes and Ben Smith in Wigmore Hall. Her award from the Gelber Foundation will support graduate studies with Rebecca Gilliver and Richard Lester, and facilitate her participation in international master classes and projects vital for her further musical development.
Elizabeth Skinner, 26, Victoria, BC. Elizabeth is a doctoral candidate at McGill’s Schulich School of Music, studying with Axel Strauss. She collaborates regularly with the piano trio, Trio Armonioso, is the associate concertmaster as well as the orchestra operations manager for Pronto Musica Chamber Orchestra, and will be joining Collectif9 for their 2017-2018 season. In addition to these current projects, Elizabeth has performed in festivals in Canada, the United States, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and Japan. She has won both solo and chamber awards in Canada and the United States, including the McGill Chamber Competition (with Trio Armonioso), first prize in the strings category at the Canadian Music Competition (2015) and the Prix d’Europe Competition (2016) as well as Jeunesses Musicales du Canada’s Peter Mendell Award. Elizabeth’s academic research bears upon new possibilities for the combination of live electronics and violin through the implementation of technology such as motion capture. In addition to supporting her studies, Elizabeth’s award will enable her to perform and pursue solo and chamber projects within North America and conduct research into combining new music and technology at McGill and abroad.