Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Alex Yang: Practicing during hard times

Talent Trust recipient, Alex Yang, has some inspirational words for other young artists on practicing during these difficult times. To watch his video click here.

(Bio from Alex's family)

11-year-old Alex Yang is a grade six student at Halifax Grammar School, and has been a student of Professor Lynn Stodola since 2015. In June, 2019, he won First Place in both piano and violin (age 10 group) in the Canadian Music Competition (CMC) National Final in Calgary, Alberta, and was awarded the overall Grand Prize for all instruments age 7 - 10, having achieved the highest piano mark of 97 in that age division. As the 2019 winner of the Chebucto Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition, he was invited to perform Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 this past November as soloist for their opening 2019/2020 Season Concert. And he was invited to give a full length solo concert in 2020/2021 Cecelia concert series on December, 2020. Recently, he was invited to perform at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York, having won the First prize and Exceptional Young Musician prize in the International Classical Music Competition. In Feb, 2020 he won the Canadian Sinfonietta Young Artist Competition and played with the Orchestra in the 2020 Young Artist Concert in March. In the 2020 Halifax Kiwanis Music Festival, he received the Gordon Murray Rising Star Award for the third year in a row, the Halifax Ladies’ Music Club Junior Award, as well as the George Fleming Memorial Senior String Award for his outstanding performance in the Festival. Alex has been an RCM Gold Medalist (Atlantic Region) in both Piano and Violin, and winner of numerous Nova Scotia Registered Music Teachers Association (NSRMTA) trophies and Scholarship Competitions in piano and violin. As one of the youngest Nova Scotia Talent Trust Scholarship recipients in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, he was invited to perform a solo recital at Government House on their Music on Tuesday Series. Alex also loves playing violin for school musicals, such as “Seussical” and “Newsies” and singing as a member of Halifax Boys Honour Choir. Alex enjoys music composition as well and recently won First Prize in the 2019 NSRMTA Composition Competition. Aside from music, Alex is a straight A+ student in school academics. In sports, He likes tennis, badminton and swimming, as well as reading, computer coding and computer games.

You can find more form Alex here and here.
Both performances are from the 2020 Kiwanis Music Festival and were marked 98, 97. Due to his stunning achievement on both piano and violin in the festival, he was award the following awards:
1) Rising Star Award in Memory of Gordon Murry
2) George Fleming Memorial Senior String Award
3) Halifax Ladies' Musical Club Junior Award
4) Patritia Bryson Piano Prize: Solo-Chopin-Senior

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Katerina Bakolias: My Grandfather's True Stories

Through the National Theatre School’s Art Apart program former Talent Trust recipient, Katerina Bakolis, has a new project being released on Thursday, May 28, 2020.

About the project:
‘My Grandfather’s True Stories,’ is a radio play by Katerina Bakolias which will be released on May 28th. The play runs 30 minutes in length. 
Its purpose is as a tribute to her grandfather, Alexander ‘Alec’ Gillis, a fantastic storyteller and constant source of artistic support. Katerina hopes that these stories will fascinate listeners, both young and old, and evoke pleasant memories of bedtime stories. “My grandfather paints a perfect picture with his words and from the time I was able to understand him he told me stories. Funny stories, ghost stories, and stories that he promised were true. I’ve selected three of my favourites and retold them in my own words with some added theatrical flare, but I’ll leave it to you to decide if they’re true.” - Katerina #artapart

About Katerina Bakolias:
Katerina Bakolias is a Halifax based performer, playwright, and screenwriter. She graduated from Dalhousie University’s Fountain School of Performing Arts with an Honours in Theatre and has been working in the Halifax film and theatre community ever since. Most recently Katerina has appeared as Eric (Lost Kid) in Neptune Theatre's Holiday Pantomime, Peter Pan. Katerina is the recipient of the ‘Best Performer Award’ in the 2017 Halifax Fringe Festival for her portrayal of Callie in Whale Song Theatre’s production of Stop Kiss. Katerina’s play, ’Til Death Do Us Part had a staged reading in the 2018 Eastern Front Theatre Stages Festival, a workshop in the PARC New Play Readings in January 2020, and was scheduled to be produced in May 2020 as part of the Open Spaces program at Neptune Theatre. It will now be rescheduled due to Covid-19.

You can find the project at either of these links:

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Nancy Dahn on Inspiring Arts Students

Thanks to former Talent Trust recipient Nancy Dahn (of Duo Concertante) for sharing her words of wisdom with emerging artists on how to further their practice! Video might not be visible on all devices.

For over twenty years, violinist Nancy Dahn, University Research Professor and fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, has built an international career in the acclaimed Canadian chamber ensemble Duo Concertante with pianist Timothy Steeves. After their first concert in 1997, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald called them “two packages of musical dynamite that would credit any stage on the planet.” Since then, their over 600 performances at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Roy Thompson Hall, and Shanghai City Theatre have become recognized internationally as passionate, subtle, and brilliant, and praised for “artistry, poetry, and impeccable technique” (La Scena Musicale) in “deeply integrated performances that flow naturally as if the music were being created on the spot” (Gramophone). 

Her twelve acclaimed Duo recordings include the complete Beethoven sonatas which received critical praise in German, Austrian, British and Canadian media and is featured almost weekly on CBC, and the 2017 ECMA winner J.S. Bach Sonatas for Violin and Keyboard. Of the Beethoven recording, Gramophone writes that Dahn and Steeves “do Atlantic Canada proud in this splendid new set” and refers to a “miracle of... knowledge and poetry.” Their recording of Murray Schafer’s Duo for Violin and Piano, which he composed for them, won the 2011 Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year. 

Passionate advocates for new music, Dahn has created a lasting legacy through a relentless commissioning program, inspiring a total of 66 new works and original arrangements for violin and piano from Canada’s leading composers. The Duo’s CDs Wild Honey, Wild Bird and Incarnation consist entirely of commissioned Canadian works. CBC picked Incarnation as one of the top ten classical recordings of 2017; it also won the 2018 ECMA for Classical Recording of the Year. The Duo’s Christmas album Perfect Light won the ECMA for Classical Recording of the Year in 2019.

Her commitment to working with young musicians gave rise to the annual Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival, which the Duo founded in 2000. In addition to presenting world-renowned guest artists alongside emerging and well-known local talents, the festival offers an inspiring and intensive educational experience for over 20 young chamber musicians and composers. Through this chamber music festival, the Duo has introduced the highest musical standards to the province, developed free enrichment, outreach, and school touring programs and recruited excellent students to Memorial’s graduate programs. 
Throughout her years of artistic endeavours and achievements, Nancy Dahn has maintained a select studio of over 15 violinists at Memorial University. Hired in 1995 with only one string student enrolled at the university, Dahn now draws students from across North America; some have pursued graduate studies at such institutions as The Juilliard School and Manhattan School. She regularly gives masterclasses across Canada, the US and abroad. 

Duo Concertante’s artistic excellence and contributions throughout their 20-year career extend beyond superb musicianship in live performances and recordings to an intense commitment to reaching audiences, passionate advocacy for new music and a deep dedication to mentorship. She also curates and develops extra musical projects which focus on issues surrounding environment, social justice and history. In these regards, primarily through her work in the acclaimed ensemble Duo Concertante, Nancy has demonstrated an exceptional level of achievement as a researcher/performer, teacher and community leader.

For more information on Nancy Dahn and Duo Concertante visit:

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Meet Mollie Oates-Johnson 2020 Talent Trust Ambassador

“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.”

For Mollie Oates-Johnson (@mllieoj_ballet) this quote, by Jennifer Lee, means never giving up on her goals, despite any fears, obstacles, or uncertainties.

The last few weeks have shown us that art has a special way of bringing us together and helping us to heal during difficult times. And Mollie, now more then ever, is committed to her dreams as she continues to train and dance while sheltering-in.

Mollie Oates-Johnson is a grade 11 student in the Professional Division at the Alberta Ballet School. She previously trained at the Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts (MCPA), Leica Hardy School of Dance, and Halifax Dance. Past summer intensives include: Alberta Ballet School, Colorado Ballet Academy, Ellison Ballet, the Dallas Conservatory, Canada’s National Ballet School, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. She has been accepted to train this summer in Europe, at the Royal Ballet School and the Dutch National Ballet Academy. Last year, she participated in the Genée International Ballet Competition and the Youth American Grand Prix. She has received scholarships from Nova Scotia Talent Trust (NSTT), Alberta Ballet School, the Society of Russian Ballet (The Marijan Bayer Award), and the School of Dance at MCPA. 

Notable performances include: MCPA’s Alice the Ballet, Symphony Nova Scotia’s The Nutcracker (6 seasons), and Ballet Jörgen’s Coppélia and Romeo & Juliet, as a local participant in both. 

She is excited to be chosen as this year’s NSTT Ambassador and is very grateful for the Talent Trusts continued support.

You can watch Mollie dance and train almost every day on her Instagram stories at 

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

2087 Watches: The One Hour Watch Project

2087! That is how many watches former Talent Trust recipient Lee Yuen-Rapati has drawn since 2014. One hour a day, one watch a day!

About the One Hour Watch Project (from Lee):

'I started the One Hour Watch project partly on a whim whilst finishing my undergrad degree at NSCAD University in 2014. I gave myself a challenge to draw something within one hour for technique practice. At the time I was very keen to learn more about watches, so the subject matter was quickly decided. I ended up posting the drawing online with the number 1 in the comments which meant (to me at least) there should be more to come. After drawing another watch the next day I realised the project would and should become a daily undertaking. Since then I have drawn a watch every single day as part of this project.

The project has also focused on designing original watches rather than drawing existing ones, however I occasionally feature creative interpretations of iconic watches. The one hour limit allows for enough time to explore and draw out an original design but it's not so long that I use up a whole day drawing a watch. The drawings mostly use alcohol based markers along with a few different pens and pencils, these materials allow for quick and dynamic colouring. The One Hour Watch project has allowed me to connect with watchmakers and brands in the industry such as Roger Smith, and MING who have both commissioned sets of watch drawings.'.

For more on Lee's One Hour Watch project visit his website or Instagram

You can also find a live-drawing session of Lee creating here.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Dancer, Carrigan MacDonald, trains through COVID-19

Talent Trust Alumna Carrigan MacDonald shares her story of dancing through COVID-19.

"It keeps us connected and it keeps us in shape", she shared with the Montreal Gazette (Dancers on the cusp of professional career innovate to stay in shape).

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Carrigan started dancing at the age of 4. She danced at Halifax Dance from 2008-2015. She moved to Montreal in the Fall of 2015 to attend École Supérieure de Ballet du Québec, where she is currently training. She has had the opportunity to attend summer programs at schools such as The National Ballet School of Canada in 2011 and 2012, and Arts Umbrella in 2018.

While in Montreal, Carrigan has had the chance to work with companies such as Les Grands Ballets Canadiens for their Nutcracker in 2016, 2018, and 2019 and Rubberbandance for theor production Fils de Ville in 2017.

As a choreographer she has created pieces for École Supérieure's choreography competition, in both their junior and senior versions. Her piece Passion Project won the judges choice award in 2019. In the Fall of 2019 she had the chance to perform a duet choreographed by Gaby Baars at the Opera Gala in Regensburg, Germany.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Reeny Smith supports regional hospitals with her new song 'Survive'

photo: Reeny Smith at
Talent Trust alumna Reeny Smith has a special gift for our COVID 19 care workers. 

From her website

“SURVIVE”, singer Reeny Smith’s inspiring anthem about standing strong in the face of adversity, will be sent out to radio across Nova Scotia next week.  

The resulting air play royalties will be donated to our regional hospitals to purchase much-needed supplies in the fight against COVID 19. 

The campaign was inspired last week by simultaneous calls for Reeny to submit videos to CTV’s Live at 5 Quarantunes feature and to the Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation for their own artist-driven on-line campaign in the fight against the pandemic.

Audience response was strong on both fronts.  The song’s message of resilience and strength resonated and it seemed the perfect vehicle to raise-much needed funds for the fight to contain the disease.

“If ‘SURVIVE' can help people get through these painful and frightening times, I’m happy to to be a part of it…”says Reeny from her home in North Preston. “We all need help to get through this together.”

Thank you Reeny!!!

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