George Theophilus Walker (1922-2018) was born in Washington, D.C. June 27, 1922 of West Indian-American parentage.
George Walker became the first Black composer to receive the coveted Pulitzer Prize for music, for his work Lilacs (1996). In 2003 he was selected for inclusion in the Washington Music Hall of Fame (Washington, DC).
He became the first Black composer to be performed at the Cabrillo Festival in 2011. Additional awards in 2011 were received from the National Council of Negro Women and the Newark School for the Arts.
With his “notable” debut, as it was described by the New York Times, he became the first Black instrumentalist to perform in Town Hall, New York. In 1945 he was the first Black instrumentalist to appear with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The second movement of his String Quartet no. 1 (1946), entitled Lyric for Strings, has become the most frequently performed orchestral work by a living American composer. In 1950, George Walker became the first Black instrumentalist to be signed by a major management, the National Concert Artists.
In 1956, he became the first Black recipient of a doctoral degree from the Eastman School of Music as well as an Artist Diploma in Piano.
George Walker has composed over 90 works for orchestra, chamber orchestra, piano, strings, voice, organ, clarinet, guitar, brass, woodwinds, and chorus. His works have been performed by virtually every major orchestra in the United States and by many in England and other countries.
“This composer has finally gotten the recognition he deserves.” Zubin Mehta, conductor (Star Ledger, April 14, 1996)
Jessie Montgomery is an acclaimed composer, violinist, and educator. She is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the ASCAP Foundation, the Sphinx Medal of Excellence, and her works are performed frequently around the world by leading musicians and ensembles. Her music interweaves classical music with elements of vernacular music, improvisation, poetry, and social consciousness, making her an acute interpreter of 21st-century American sound and experience. Her profoundly felt works have been described as “turbulent, wildly colorful and exploding with life” (The Washington Post).
Jessie was born and raised in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the 1980s during a time when the neighborhood was at a major turning point in its history. Artists gravitated to the hotbed of artistic experimentation and community development. Her parents – her father a musician, her mother a theater artist and storyteller – were engaged in the activities of the neighborhood and regularly brought Jessie to rallies, performances, and parties where neighbors, activists, and artists gathered to celebrate and support the movements of the time. It is from this unique experience that Jessie has created a life that merges composing, performance, education, and advocacy.
Since 1999, Jessie has been affiliated with The Sphinx Organization, which supports young African-American and Latinx string players. She currently serves as composer-in-residence for the Sphinx Virtuosi, their Organization’s flagship professional touring ensemble. She was a two-time laureate of the annual Sphinx Competition and was awarded their highest honor, the Sphinx Medal of Excellence. She has received additional grants and awards from the ASCAP Foundation, Chamber Music America, American Composers Orchestra, the Joyce Foundation, and the Sorel Organization.
The New York Philharmonic has selected Jessie as a featured composers for their Project 19, which marks the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, granting equal voting rights in the United States to women. Other forthcoming works include a nonet inspired by the Great Migration, told from the perspective of Montgomery’s great-grandfather William McCauley and to be performed by Imani Winds and the Catalyst Quartet; a cello concerto for Thomas Mesa jointly commissioned by Carnegie Hall, New World Symphony, and The Sphinx Organization; and a new orchestral work for the National Symphony.
Jacques Hétu (1938-2010) was born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He learned piano as a youth and then, in 1955, went to study music for at the University of Ottawa. He went on to study at the prestigious Montreal Conservatory, where won the school's premier prix in composition in 1961. After graduating from the Conservatory, Hétu was awarded a scholarship to continue his studies in Paris.
One of Canada’s most esteemed and frequently performed composers, Hétu’s catalogue includes some 70 works, including symphonies, opera, choral and chamber music, and concertos for numerous instruments.
Hétu's career gained momentum with Glenn Gould’s recording of his Variations, Opus 8 for piano in 1967. In 1976, Hétu’s Fantasy, Opus 21 for piano and orchestra was the set Canadian piece at the Montreal International Music Competition. His Symphony No. 3 - judged by Eric McLean as “one of the most worthwhile creations of a Canadian composer in more than a decade” (Montreal Star, 26 Oct 1977) - appeared on the program of the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s European tour in 1990.
Jacques Hétu garnered many honours, winning SOCAN’s Jan V. Matejcek prize seven times, as well as both a Western Music Award and a Juno for the 2004 recording of Jacques Hétu: Concertos. In 1989 he was made a member of the Royal Society of Canada and in 2001 he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Jacques Hétu taught 1963-77 at Laval University, giving classes in music literature and analysis, introducing an orchestration course, and establishing a composition class. Hétu also taught composition 1972-73 and 1978-79 at the University of Montreal and taught at the Université du Québec à Montréal 1979-2000, where he was director of the Music Department 1980-82 and 1986-88.
Christ Habib (born 1996) started playing classical guitar when he was six years old, and at 10 years old he was accepted at the Conservatory of Music in Gatineau.
Christ has distinguished himself in many competitions, the most recent ones being the National Music Festival in Saskatoon where he won first place, and the music competition of Pierre-de-Saurel, where he won the first prize in classical guitar as well as the chamber music category with his guitar duo partner Félix Dallaire. He was also a finalist in international competitions such as the international competition of the Guitar Academy of Boston where he won the 3rd place and the international guitar competition at Domaine Forget in 2016 and 2019 where he received the 2nd place.
As his career grows, he has made numerous video recordings and recently had his debut concert at the Montreal Place des Arts for the Mélodînes Concert Series (2020) and was recently named one of CBC’s Top 30 Classical Musicians Under 30.
He recently finished his Master’s Degree in music with Patrick Roux at the Conservatory of Music in Gatineau where he received a prize in chamber music and graduated with honours.
Christ plays on a 2017 traditional cedar top classical guitar made by Douglass Scott.
Samuel Barber’s (1910-1981) music, masterfully crafted and built on romantic structures and sensibilities, is at once lyrical, rhythmically complex, and harmonically rich. Born March 9, 1910 in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Barber wrote his first piece at age seven and attempted his first opera at age 10. At the age of 14 he entered the Curtis Institute, where he studied voice, piano, and composition. Later, he studied conducting with Fritz Reiner.
At Curtis, Barber met Gian Carlo Menotti with whom he would form a lifelong personal and professional relationship. Menotti supplied libretti for Barber’s operas Vanessa (for which Barber won the Pulitzer) and A Hand of Bridge. Barber’s music was championed by a remarkable range of renowned artists, musicians, and conductors including Vladimir Horowitz, John Browning, Martha Graham, Arturo Toscanini, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Jennie Tourel and Eleanor Steber. His Antony and Cleopatra was commissioned to open the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in 1966.
Barber was the recipient of numerous awards and prizes including the American Prix de Rome, two Pulitzers, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The intensely lyrical Adagio for Strings has become one of his most recognizable and beloved compositions, both in concerts and films.
Read more here: https://www.wisemusicclassical.com/composer/72/Samuel-Barber/
Canadian Soprano Jonelle Sills has been praised for her “...warm, full, elastic tone.” (Schmopera) Ms. Sills has recently been named as one of CBC Music’s classical “30 under 30” performers for 2020.
Some past roles include Mimì, Musetta (La Bohème), Countess (Le Nozze di Figaro), Roselinde (Die Fledermaus), Micaëla (Carmen) and Female Chorus (The Rape of Lucretia). Sills is a 2019 Dora award winner for “Outstanding performance of an Ensemble” in Vivier’s Kopernikus with Against the Grain Theatre.
Currently based in Toronto, Sills holds an Artist Diploma from the Glenn Gould School at The Royal Conservatory of Music and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from York University. Sills originated the role of Esther in Prestini’s, Vavrek and Strassberger’s Silent Light as a Resident artist at Banff Centre’s Opera in the 21st Century Program. Jonelle is honoured to be joining Vancouver Opera’s Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Program for their 2020/2021 season.
Carlos Simon is a native of Atlanta, Georgia whose music ranges from concert music for large and small ensembles to film scores with influences of jazz, gospel, and neo-romanticism. Simon was named as one of the recipients for the 2021 Sphinx Medal of Excellence.
Simon’s latest album, My Ancestor’s Gift, was released on the Navona Records label in April 2018. Described as an “overall driving force” (Review Graveyard) and featured on Apple Music’s “Albums to Watch”, My Ancestor’s Gift incorporates spoken word and historic recordings to craft a multifaceted program of musical works that are inspired as much by the past as they are the present.
As a part of the Sundance Institute, Simon was named as a Sundance Composer Fellow in 2018. His string quartet, Elegy, honoring the lives of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner was recently performed at the Kennedy Center for the Mason Bates JFK Jukebox Series. With support from the US Embassy in Tokyo and US/Japan Foundation, Simon traveled with the Asia/America New Music Institute (AANMI) in 2018 performing concerts in some of the most sacred temples and concert spaces in Japan.
Simon earned his doctorate degree at the University of Michigan, where he studied with Michael Daugherty and Evan Chambers. He has also received degrees from Georgia State University and Morehouse College. Additionally, he studied in Baden, Austria at the Hollywood Music Workshop with Conrad Pope and at New York University’s Film Scoring Summer Workshop.
Born St. Boniface (now incorporated into Winnipeg), Manitoba, December 14, 1969.
Now living in Vancouver
Jocelyn Morlock received her Bachelor of Music in piano performance at Brandon University, and both a Master’s degree and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of British Columbia. “With its shimmering sheets of harmonics” (Georgia Straight) and an approach that is “deftly idiomatic” (Vancouver Sun), Morlock’s music has received numerous national and international accolades, including Top 10 at the 2002 International Rostrum of Composers, the Mayor’s Arts Award for Music in Vancouver (2016) and the JUNO award for Classical Composition of the Year (My Name Is Amanda Todd, 2018).
Most of Morlock’s compositions are for small ensembles, many of them for unusual combinations like piano and percussion (Quoi?), cello and vibraphone (Shade), bassoon and harp (Nightsong), and an ensemble consisting of clarinet/bass clarinet, trumpet, violin and double bass (Velcro Lizards). Cobalt, a concerto for two violins and orchestra, was her first commission for the National Arts Centre Orchestra, in 2009. Her first full-length CD, also titled Cobalt, was released on the Centrediscs label in 2014. Jocelyn Morlock has been the Vancouver Symphony’s Composer in Residence since 2014.
Yosuke Kawasaki currently serves as Concertmaster of the NAC Orchestra in Canada. His versatile musicianship allows him to pursue a career in orchestra, solo and chamber music. His orchestral career began with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and soon led to Mito Chamber Orchestra, Saito Kinen Orchestra and Japan Century Orchestra all of which he led as Concertmaster. His solo and chamber music career spans five continents, collaborating with artists such as Seiji Ozawa, Pinchas Zukerman and Yo-Yo Ma and appearing in the world's most prestigious halls such as Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall and The Royal Concertgebouw.
Kawasaki's most current ensembles are Trio Ink and the Arkas String Quartet. His passion for chamber music led him to create the short lived Classical Unbound Festival in Prince Edward County, Ontario, which he served as Co-Artistic Director. Subsequently, he has been appointed Music Director to the Affinis Music Festival in Japan. He is also an artistic advisor to a brand new chamber music festival in Bulgaria called The Unbeaten Path.
As an educator Kawasaki has given masterclasses and performed side by side with students in schools across Canada. Well versed in the string quartet literature he was entrusted by Seiji Ozawa as the youngest faculty member of the Ozawa International Chamber Music Academy at the age of 26. He is currently an adjunct professor of violin at the University of Ottawa.
Mr. Kawasaki began his violin studies at the age of six with his father Masao Kawasaki and continued with Setsu Goto. At the age of ten he was accepted into The Juilliard School Pre-College Division and further continued his education and graduated from The Juilliard School in 1998 under the tutorship of Dorothy DeLay, Hyo Kang, Felix Galimir and Joel Smirnoff.
Assistant Principal Cello of the National Arts Centre Orchestra since 2014, Julia MacLaine performs worldwide as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician in music ranging from classical to contemporary and from ‘world’ to her own arrangements and compositions.
Most recently, she has performed with her string quartet Ironwood in Mahone Bay (NS), at the Indian River Festival (PEI), and at their own Classical Unbound Festival in Prince Edward County. The quartet has appeared at the Wolfgang Sessions and MFASA series in Ottawa, at Ritornello Festival (SK), and in Paris. Their programs combine classical warhorses (Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy) with very new music (works by Ana Sokolovic, Nicole Lizée, Bryce Dessner, Philip Glass, Esa‐Pekka Salonen), and occasionally veer off into their own arrangements of original songs and folk music.
During the ten years she spent living in New York City, Julia collaborated frequently with composers, giving voice to new works for solo cello. Most notably, she has been a champion of Pedro Malpica’s Pachamama’s Catharsis. Ms. MacLaine could often be heard on all three stages at Carnegie Hall. As a member of Ensemble Connect (previously ACJW), she performed numerous chamber music concerts at Weill and Zankel Halls, notably as the soloist in Tan Dun’s concerto Elegy: Snow In June. She also played frequently in Stern Auditorium as a member of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and as principal cellist for Osvaldo Golijov’s Pasion selun San Marcos. From 2005 to 2014, she was a member of the Brooklyn‐based chamber orchestra The Knights, with whom she performed the Schumann Cello Concerto in 2012 in Central Park and for live broadcast by WQXR. The Grammy‐nominated ensemble collaborates regularly with artists such as Gil Shaham, Renée Fleming, and Yo‐Yo Ma, and has recorded several albums for, among others, SONY Classical.
An entrepreneurial musician, Ms. MacLaine co‐founded the New York group The Ikarus Chamber Players, an ensemble that married classical chamber music with other art forms in their own concert series in auction houses, art galleries, and other unique venues. With her colleagues in the Academy (Carnegie and Juilliard‐led fellowship connected to Ensemble ACJW/Connect), she formed the chamber music collective Decoda to develop community chamber music residencies around the world. With Decoda, Julia has performed at the Mecklenberg‐Vorpommern Festival in Germany, in Abu Dhabi, at Suntory Hall in Tokyo, and across the United States. She has also appeared at the Lanaudière, Bic, Mostly Mozart, Tanglewood, and Ravinia Festivals.
Julia has performed with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen and Les Violons du Roy, and her chamber music collaborators include Itzhak Perlman, Jackie Parker, Pinchas Zukerman, membres of the Orion String Quartet, Ani and Ida Kavafian, Inon Barnatan, and Cynthia Phelps.
Originally from Prince Edward Island, Julia studied with Antonio Lysy at McGill University (BMus), and with Timothy Eddy at the Mannes College of Music (Artist Diploma) and at The Juilliard School (MMus).
Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. Under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the Orchestra performs a full series of subscription concerts at the National Arts Centre each season, featuring world-class artists such as James Ehnes, Angela Hewitt, Joshua Bell, Xian Zhang, Gabriela Montero, Stewart Goodyear, Jan Lisiecki, and Principal Guest Conductor John Storgårds.
Alexander Shelley began his tenure as Music Director in 2015, following Pinchas Zukerman’s 16 seasons at the helm. Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and former Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (2009 - 2017), he has been in demand around the world, conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic, DSO Berlin, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and Stockholm Philharmonic, among others, and maintains a regular relationship with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie and the German National Youth Orchestra.
National and international tours have been a hallmark of the National Arts Centre Orchestra from the very beginning. The Orchestra has toured 95 times since its inauguration in 1969, visiting 120 cities in Canada, as well as 20 countries and 138 cities internationally. In recent years, the orchestra has undertaken performance and education tours across Canada, as well as the U.K. and China. In 2019, the Orchestra marked its 50th anniversary with a seven-city European tour that included performances and education events in England, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, and that showcased the work of six Canadian composers.
The NAC Orchestra has recorded many of the more than 80 new works commissioned since its inception, for radio and on over 40 commercial recordings. These include Angela Hewitt’s 2015 JUNO Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Concertos; the groundbreaking Life Reflected, which includes My Name is Amanda Todd by Jocelyn Morlock, winner of the 2018 JUNO for Classical Composition of the Year; and from the 2019 JUNO nominated New Worlds, Ana Sokolović’s Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes, 2019 JUNO Winner for Classical Composition of the Year.
The NAC Orchestra reaches a national and international audience through touring, recordings, and extensive educational outreach. The Orchestra performed on Parliament Hill for the 2019 Canada Day noon concert in a live broadcast for CBC Television.
Alexander Shelley succeeded Pinchas Zukerman as Music Director of Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra in September 2015. The ensemble has since been praised as “an orchestra transformed … hungry, bold, and unleashed” (Ottawa Citizen) and Alexander’s programming credited for turning the orchestra “almost overnight … into one of the more audacious orchestras in North America.” (Maclean’s magazine).
Born in London in October 1979, Alexander, the son of celebrated concert pianists, studied cello and conducting in Germany and first gained widespread attention when he was unanimously awarded first prize at the 2005 Leeds Conductors' Competition, with the press describing him as "the most exciting and gifted young conductor to have taken this highly prestigious award. His conducting technique is immaculate, everything crystal clear and a tool to his inborn musicality”. In August 2017 Alexander concluded his tenure as Chief Conductor of the Nürnberger Symphoniker, a position he held since September 2009. The partnership was hailed by press and audience alike as a golden era for the orchestra, where he transformed the ensemble’s playing, education work and international touring activities. These have included concerts in Italy, Belgium, China and a re-invitation to the Musikverein in Vienna.
In January 2015 he assumed the role of Principal Associate Conductor of London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with whom he curates an annual series of concerts at Cadogan Hall and tours both nationally and internationally.
Described as “a natural communicator both on and off the podium” (Daily Telegraph) Alexander works regularly with the leading orchestras of Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australasia, including the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin,, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Gothenburg Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Sao Paulo Symphony and the Melbourne and New Zealand Symphony Orchestras. This season’s collaborations include debuts with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Belgique, Orchestre Metropolitain Montreal, Orquesta Sinfonica de Valencia, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra; alongside returns to MDR Sinfonieorchester Leipzig, Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg and the Tasmanian symphony orchestras. He will also embark on an extensive tour of Europe with the National Arts Centre Orchestra performing in cities such as London, Paris, Stockholm and Copenhagen
Highlights of the previous season include debuts with the Helsinki and Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestras and Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, as well as at the Aspen Festival in Colorado. Re-invitations include Konzerthausorchester Berlin, RTE National Symphony Orchestra and a return to the Tivoli Festival with the Copenhagen Philharmonic.
Alexander’s operatic engagements have included The Merry Widow and Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (Den Kongelige Opera); La Bohème (Opera Lyra/National Arts Centre), Iolanta (Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen), Così fan Tutte (Opéra National de Montpellier), The Marriage of Figaro (Opera North) in 2015 and he led a co-production of Harry Somers’ Louis Riel in 2017 with the NACO and Canadian Opera Company.
Alexander was awarded the ECHO prize in 2016 for his second Deutsche Grammophon recording, “Peter and the Wolf”, and both the ECHO and Deutsche Grunderpreis in his capacity as Artistic Director of the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen’s “Zukunftslabor”, a visionary project of grass-roots engagement, which uses music as a source for social cohesion and integration. Through his work as Founder and Artistic Director of the Schumann Camerata and their ground-breaking “440Hz” series in Dusseldorf, and through his leadership roles in Nuremberg, Bremen and Ottawa, inspiring future generations of classical musicians and listeners has always been central to Alexander’s work. He has led the German National Youth Orchestra on several tours of Germany and works with many thousands of young people a year in outreach projects. He regularly gives informed and passionate pre- and post-concert talks on his programmes, as well as numerous interviews and podcasts on the role of classical music in society. He has a wealth of experience conducting and presenting major open-air events - in Nuremberg alone he has, over the course of nine years, hosted more than half a million people at the annual Klassik Open Air concerts - Europe’s largest classical music event.
The Music Director role is supported by Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, C.M., O.N.L., LL.D. (hc)