Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Spitting rice and more: Reflections from Flutist Amelia Bruce

Flutist and Talent Trust recipient Amelia Bruce recently took time to share reflections on her music and practice with us.

Amelia is currently completing her Masters in Music Performance from McGill University and is also the recipient of the Talent Trust 2019 Raymond Simpson Award.

What are your earliest memories of your art?

I started playing the flute when I was six years old, and one of the very first memories I have is sitting in my home spitting rice across the living room haha. This was an exercise my first teacher had me do to learn to tongue and make a sound. I remember having so much fun spitting my rice day after day, and for weeks my family and I kept finding hidden grains of rice all over the floor!

Another early memory I have is at a studio recital when I was around 10 years old. I was playing a really difficult piece from memory. I remember being so nervous and thought my fingers would completely forget the piece once I got on stage. I remember it going well and feeling really proud of myself! 

What has been your greatest challenge in relation to your art? Why?

Although there are many challenges that come with being a musician and performer, one of my biggest challenges up to date is consistency in practice time. When holidays, vacations, and especially summer break roll around, I sometimes find it quite difficult to stick to my practice routine. I remember specifically after my first year of my Bachelor's degree in flute performance and coming home for the summer, I really slacked in my practice for those few months. I definitely noticed I had to work longer and harder in September once I went back to school, and since then I've tried to keep a more consistent practice routine, although I definitely still have lots of work to do! A couple of things that I find help me stick to my routine are firstly, keeping a practice journal where the night before I write out a specific practice plan for the following day, and giving myself small breaks throughout my practice for the day.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 year, in relation to your art?

In five years time, I hope to have performance opportunities including chamber and orchestra work, while keeping up with a private flute studio. I have always loved performing so I am hopeful to continue to find performance opportunities in the future. I have also always had a strong interest in teaching, as I have worked with children for many years in various ways such as nannying, music and sport. I am currently teaching private students, and I am excited to continue doing so over the next several years!

What aspect of your art/practices 'fills your cup' the most?

The aspect of my music "fills my cup" the most is giving a performance that I know was the best I could deliver in that moment. Feeling as though my hard work and practice has paid off, along with hoping I touched someone in the audience, gives me confidence, motivation and discipline to keep enjoying and improving myself as a musician!

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

'Don't expect applause': Reflections from cellist and composer India Gailey

India Gailey is a cellist and composer who draws from many eras and genres to craft poetic narratives of sound. Before lockdown, she'd finished her master’s degree at McGill and begun performing solo concerts of new music across the country. She is also a member of New Hermitage, an avant-jazz ensemble that improvises the soundtrack of a post-apocalyptic world. 

She is the recipient of five Nova Scotia Talent Trust Scholarships, including the Yuh Lih and Marion Kuo Award for Instrumental Excellence (2017). 

India recently shared reflections with us on her music, memories, challenges, practicing during a pandemic and more!

What are your earliest memories of music?
I remember living art from a very young age. My mom had started learning to play the cello while she was pregnant with me, and I remember watching her practice. I did a lot of drawing and painting, wrote a lot of stories, and was very into dance and ballet. My parents listened to a pretty diverse array of music, which was great for dancing. When I was three or four, I remember making up songs… I would go into a corner of the yard and sing about dolphins or flowers or sadness in the bushes. I think it was around this time that I started to really love Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and I wanted very much to play the violin so I could play “Spring”. When I was seven, I got to start learning to play a tiny fiddle. Before I began lessons, I remember playing my own very avant-garde version of Vivaldi. I finally arrived at the cello when I was ten. The student cello my mom had been using years earlier was still around, and it was taller than I was, but I wanted to play it. My childhood friend Owen was also learning to play on a giant cello, so he gave me some tips and we played fiddle tunes on our giant cellos together.

What has been your greatest challenge in relation to your music? Why?

Interacting with some of the toxic aspects of our society. Making a living.

I think I am a late bloomer in some ways. Our society likes early bloomers. For a while I was dampened by inadequacy, continuously internalizing the message that I should have already achieved grand impressiveness by the age when I was actually just beginning. After establishing some robust workaholism, I managed to overcome that particular doubt enough to realize that music was what I wanted to do and I could actually do it. Then there was the attitude of, if you want to play a classical instrument well, you have to fit into a particular mould, train in a very particular kind of virtuosity, play the Mendelssohn Scherzo excerpt the very best, play a Haydn Concerto the very best. There is value in that, but I have never been interested in wrapping myself purely in that genre. So was that ok, how would I navigate the world? Then, the rumours are true, it is super tough to make a living as a musician, at least in the young stage I’m at. But I don’t want to just make a living, I want to make art! I am supposed to solidify myself into a product for a world where artists are often expected to give away their work for free. And at the same time, art is so much more than monetary value, so I wish I could give it away for free. But the frustration of operating in a broken system is hard.

How have you managed practicing during the pandemic?

Inspiration has operated in waves much more extreme than in before times. Sometimes I’ve wanted to practice for hours, and other times I’ve played little ditty and called it a day. I have gone through periods of feeling so utterly lost in this realm devoid of live performance that it was like, well, I might as well just be a rock. Just sit here and hibernate while the blazing sun destroys my innards. But it has also been a luxury, to actually honour whatever honesty is arising about motivation or lack-thereof, and when I catch wind of a curiosity, to have the space to explore it. That’s what I’ve been doing, just following my curiosity. Sometimes that’s meant playing drones all afternoon, other times it’s been sight-reading willy-nilly through pieces I never learned, painting with watercolours, or sitting and listening to the birds. Right now I seem to be in a more energetic phase, wanting to compose, practicing the same piece for multiple consecutive days, and working to make projects real.

What quote best describes your commitment to music?

“Don’t expect applause.”

This is one of 59 slogans written by an Indian Buddhist named Atisha who lived about a thousand years ago. It has arisen in my mind a lot. I aspire to make music that touches people and cuts through to the essence of being human. Though, being in a delicate emerging stage of career, I’ve often looked for confirmation from other people. Accolades and recognition are certainly helpful and pleasant, but there were times when, no matter how much encouraging feedback I received, I couldn’t quite believe I was good enough or offering enough. Music is the path I’ve chosen, and I feel that choice is healthy when it is made out of love, not out of a bottomless need to prove my worth or usefulness, just pure love for the music and the world. So, I think “don’t expect applause” is to abandon seeking acknowledgement, which allows so much more appreciation to arise if acknowledgement does come. And of course, this slogan has gained new layers of meaning in the era of COVID. Since March, the only time I’ve heard live applause has been at Black Lives Matter demonstrations. It was magical.

To explore India's music visit:

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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Jane Archibald and Abigail Sinclair: Live from LAMP

Talent Trust recipient and emerging artist, Abigail Sinclair has spent the last few weeks studying with soprano Jane Archibald, who is also a former Talent Trust recipient, at the Lunenbury Academy of Music Performances (LAMP).

From LAMP:

Enjoy a beautiful 20-minute program featuring singers Rhian Merritt, Abigail Sinclair and Emmanuel Solomon and pianist Ian Tomaz performing works by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Gabriel Fauré, John Duke, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Paolo Tosti. To begin, just click here.

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Thursday, July 9, 2020

Becka Barker: VANS Mentorship Program

Former Talent Trust recipient, Becka Barker, is one of four VANS (Visual Arts Nova Scotia) mentors for their 2019-2020 Mentor Program.

Remote Possibilities, the 2019-2020 Mentorship Program Exhibition, runs July 8 - August 2 at the Craig Gallery, with a mentee artist talk Saturday, July 11 at 2 p.m. For more information click here.

Becka Barker won NS Talent Trust scholarships in 1999 and 2000 for Super8 and 16mm film. Her work has screened across North America and throughout several countries across East Asia. She focuses on hand processes and collaboration.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Mike Hirschbach honoured as Remarkable Canadian!

The Talent Trust would like to extend a huge congratulations to former scholarship recipient, and long time friend of the Talent Trust, Mike Hirschbach (Artist Director of Halifax Circus) who has been awarded a Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division)

This honour, one of the highest in the country, “has been conferred upon you (Mike Hirschbach) by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, as a testament to your outstanding achievement and service to the nation.”
The citation reads: “In 2005, Mike Hirschbach started the Circus Circle outreach program, a safe space for youth affected by homelessness, street life, addiction, and mental illness. Unique to Atlantic Canada, it allows participants to experience positive and creative recreation, learn new skills, and build self-confidence, all while establishing meaningful connections and increasing resilience".
Mike told the Talent Trust that "at some time, I’ll be invited to the official ceremony where I’ll receive a medal. In the meantime, I keep thinking of all the supportive people who work beside me every day who make this recognition possible; the wonderful teachers I work with at Halifax Circus, the youth who show up every week despite set-backs in their lives to practice, rehearse, invent and create, and my friends and family who’ve been my rocks during both good and difficult times".
For more information about Halifax Circus you can visit their website. You can also learn more about their social outreach program, Circle Circus, by clicking here.
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Want to support the next generation of Nova Scotian artists? Donate today!  (smile)