Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Taylor MacGillivray: Music brings us together

Many thanks to Talent Trust recipient Taylor MacGillivray for taking the time to share about what her art means to her, her mentors, and more!

You can learn more about Taylor on website and her Youtube channel.

What does receiving a Talent Trust scholarship mean to you? 

Receiving a Talent Trust Scholarship means so much to myself and my art. I’m extremely grateful to have the support of this organization, as I, otherwise, wouldn’t be able to pursue my studies to the extent that I have. I’m extremely grateful to the founders, the board members and the jury members who volunteer their time to support Nova Scotian arts and artists!

What quote best describes your commitment to your art? Why?

If I could quote an entire TED talk, I would; but, for the sake of brevity: Benjamin Zander’s The Transformative Power of Classical Music is everything I aspire to with my music. In this talk he says: “I have a definition of success. For me, it's very simple. It's not about wealth and fame and power. It's about how many shining eyes I have around me.”

The joy of music is that we can come together to create something beautiful, that we can share in an experience, and that we can build community. This transcends the realm of classical music. It could be a community orchestra, a school musical, a garage band, a kitchen party, or even a campfire sing-a-long -- all things we miss dearly, but that we will eventually be able to come back to. Music brings us together. It inspires connection. It brings us delight. 

My commitment to music is one based in fostering connection. I write pieces which aim to bring the composer, the performer(s) and the audience together, collaboratively, to explore what we can create.

Who are your mentors and how have they influenced your art/career?

I am fortunate to say that I’ve had many wonderful mentors during my musical journey. The first is my high school band teacher, Nathan Beeler. The school band program was foundational to my understanding of music-- and to some degree, life. Without his support and encouragement I would not have pursued music beyond the band program. With the joy that music brings to my life, I’m extremely grateful that he encouraged me to follow my passions!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my composition professors. Jerome Blais, my first composition teacher, encouraged experimentation: an essential element of the compositional process. With the exploration, he also taught simplification, the ability to communicate your ideas clearly; to both the performer and the audience.

Another one of my mentors is Peter Togni, another amazing composition teacher. Peter taught me about the human side of composition. About being an artist in today’s day-in-age, and about writing music with beauty and compassion.

Teaching and mentorship is a fundamental part of the arts. I’m incredibly thankful that these people are willing to dedicate their time to helping foster young artists and talent. 

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

Currently, my biggest accomplishment is having my composition Radix, performed by Symphony Nova Scotia. This was a piece I wrote for my friend and percussionist, Noah Garnier for a concerto competition. This piece is the longest and largest I’ve undertaken, and was, therefore, quite daunting to write. I was honoured when the Symphony offered to perform it at some of their community outreach concerts last January! 

What program/s are you doing this summer and how have they helped grow your practice?

Last summer, I participated in two programs: The first was the Tuckamore Young Composer Program.This program runs in conjunction with the Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival. Due to the pandemic, it was adapted and held in a virtual format. This program was quite rewarding as we got to meet weekly with the director, Andrew Staniland, as well as the other composers, and discuss all things related to composition. It’s always helpful to discuss your craft with others, as you can learn so much from their experiences and help trouble-shoot your own process, particularly in a domain as isolated as composition, and particularly during a pandemic!

At the end of the program, my piece was premiered virtually by pianist Patrick Cashin. The piece is titled A Trilogy of Curses, Interesting Times, and a recording of the performance can be found on my Youtube page. 

The second program I attended was the Lunenburg Academy of Musical Performance’s (LAMP) Composition Academy. This program was held in-person (with strict safety protocols in place), and was two weeks of masterclasses with composers, masterclasses with performers, composition, rehearsals and at the end, a concert! I learned so much from this program. It has really informed the way I approach the creation of a composition and the way that composition will be interpreted by performers and the audience. 

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Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ross Macintosh: From pipe bands to Yo-Yo Ma to U2 to Mozart and Bach

Thank you to Talent Trust recipient Ross Macintosh for taking the time to share reflections on his music with us.

Instagram: @ross.macintosh


What does receiving a Talent Trust scholarship mean to you?

The support of the Talent Trust has meant lot to me, in many different ways. It has helped me with my university education,  private lessons, and summer programs, and has given me opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. This year in particular, it has helped me get some of the equipment necessary to study online and to enter national and international competitions, and also gave me the opportunity to study with a euphonium soloist who I truly admire, which was absolutely invaluable.

What are your earliest memories of your art?

Music was always a pretty constant thing in my house. My parents are both musicians and music lovers, so I was exposed to a wide variety of music ranging from Pipe Bands to Yo-Yo Ma to U2. I also remember having CDs of Mozart and Bach keyboard music as white noise in my bedroom for most of my childhood. In terms of brass instruments, my first memory is playing a CD my dad had of the Empire Brass Quintet playing arrangements of Medieval music (particularly that of Hildegard von Bingen), as well as my aunt and uncle visiting from Edmonton, where they are professional musicians (trombone and tuba, respectively). 

What quote best describes your commitment to your art? Why?

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”- Thomas Edison 

There are of course quotes that could describe it from an artistic perspective, but this shows an attitude that I feel is essential to a career in a field as unforgiving as music. This feeling was certainly compounded by some of my work experiences, and I know that it has had a huge impact on everything that I do. 

Are there any unexpected positives that have come out of pandemic related to your art?

Yes! The shift to online learning across the world has created a lot of opportunities that I would not have had otherwise. In the first month of Nova Scotia being locked down I was able to have online lessons with Steven Mead and David Thornton (fantastic professors from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester), and of course with the support of the NSTT I was able to have a series of online lessons with one of my heroes, Glenn Van Looy, in Switzerland.  None of this would have been possible in a normal year. I have also felt very fortunate to be here in Nova Scotia during this time, as I have spent the past four months as a Resident Young Artist at the Lunenburg Academy of Music Performance. This has allowed me to keep performing throughout most of this time, and to be hearing and learning from some other fantastic young musicians. 

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

I have probably had more challenges than you’d expect from somebody at this stage of their career.  The main one was an injury I received almost four years ago now; I couldn’t play my instrument for about four months, and it took nearly three years before I felt like I had recovered fully.  On a different level, I think I face the same challenge that almost every artist does in terms of finding their place in the world. But, I read Michael Phelps’ autobiography last year and have found one motto of his very helpful in this regard: “Dream. Plan. Reach.”.  

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

I think most aspects of making music help keep my cup full! I get a great boost when I am performing solo or in small chamber ensembles, but that is a pretty small amount of time compared to my daily practice. I would say that my last practice session of each day is what consistently keeps it full, as I always end with a cool-down for anywhere from 20-45 minutes. The great trombonist Peter Steiner calls it “Lip Yoga”, and this meditative end to the day really prepares me for the next day of work.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Nicole Ross: Early memories and reflections of studying during challenging times

Many thanks to scholarship recipient Nicole
Ross for taking the time to share reflections on her memories, challenges and studying during a pandemic.

Instagram: @nicolealiceross

What does receiving a Talent Trust scholarship mean to you?
It has been a huge honour to receive support from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust. This has been a tremendous help in supporting costs related to my final year of studies at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University.

What are your earliest memories of your art?
My earliest musical memory is from when I was about 5 years old and had just started taking piano lessons. I confess that at this age I was not too keen on practicing, so my first memory is of the elaborate ways I would “lose” my piano books when it was practice time. This makes me chuckle now because practice time has since become very special to me!

What has been your greatest challenge in relation to your art? Why?
For me the biggest challenge in music making has always been perfectionism. It can be very tricky for me to find the line between excellence and perfectionism, while also making room for creativity and expressivity.

Are there any unexpected positives that have come out of pandemic related to your art?
In a very big way, the pandemic has made me aware of all of the musical experiences I was taking for granted. Music, especially for singers, is so deeply rooted in collaboration. The first rehearsal I attended after many months of isolation was such a surreal experience. Even with many safety precautions in place, it was so moving to make music with others, and to hear their artistry happening, live, in the room. I wish I could bottle that feeling up and bring it into future rehearsals for inspiration.

How have you managed practicing your art during the pandemic?
It hasn’t been perfect, but I am amazed by the ways we’ve managed to safely rehearse and perform in these COVID times. At school I’ve been able to rehearse with my colleagues virtually or in small groups and then get together to film or live stream performances. I have been very fortunate to work on digital Opera Projects with Opera McGill in collaboration with Tapestry Opera. I’m also looking forward to performing the role of Flora in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw which will be live streamed by Opera McGill at the end of this month. In some ways, rehearsing virtually can be very advantageous because it allows us to collaborate with colleagues from far and wide. I recently had the opportunity to partake in Lucky Penny Opera’s 48-hour opera project, where I worked with Nova Scotian Composer and Pianist Edward Enman (Talent Trust scholarship recipient too) to create a short opera in 48 hours. We were able to create, record and film this piece fully remotely and not even in the same province, which would never have been possible before.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2021

"Long-Stay Hotel" ft. Claire Campbell

Last week Vienna D'Amato Hall released the music video for 'Long Stay Hotel', which features Talent Trust recipient Claire Campbell. The video is an "Ellis B House" collaboration with singer/songwriter Vienna D'Amato Hall and director Laetitia Demessence. 

Claire was the recipient of the 2011 Canada Games Young Artist of Excellence Award in 2018.

You can see the video here.

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Want to support the next generation of Nova Scotian artists? Donate today!  (smile)