More than $21,000 awarded to young musicians at the 2023 NAC Orchestra Bursary Competition

Seventeen-year-old Franco-Ontarian violinist Justin Saulnier wins the Grand Prize

April 24, 2023 – OTTAWA – On Sunday, April 23, a talented group of music students aged 16 to 26, with ties to the National Capital Region, competed for a chance to win prizes worth more than $21,000 in the 40th annual National Arts Centre Orchestra Bursary Competition.

This year’s Bursary winners are:

  • 2023 NAC Orchestra Bursary ($7,000) – Justin Saulnier, violin
  • Crabtree Foundation Award ($5,000) – Austin Wu, violin
  • Friends of the NAC Orchestra Award ($3,000) – Christoph Chung, viola
  • The NAC Orchestra Vic Pomer Award ($2,000) – Emily Kistemaker, viola
  • The Sturdevant Orchestral Excerpts Prize ($1,500) – Austin Wu, violin
  • Friends of the NAC Orchestra Evelyn Greenberg Award ($1,500) – Maria Krstic, violin
  • The Piccolo Prix ($1,000) – Patrick Paradine, violin
  • Honourable mentions of $350 each were awarded to Aidan Fleet, cello, and Katherine Moran, viola

Winners were evaluated on their performance of short orchestral excerpts and movements from a concerto or sonata written for their instrument. The 2023 Bursary competition was open to emerging young players of strings and harp.

Grand Prize-winner Justin Saulnier expressed, “I feel honoured to have participated in the NACO Bursary Competition and to have been chosen as the first prize winner. I would like to thank my family and circle of friends for their continued support, and my violin teacher, Andrew Wan, for his wisdom and admirable dedication.”

Justin Saulnier is a 17-year-old violinist from Orléans, Ontario. He was the recipient of the Lloyd Carr-Harris String Scholarship to attend McGill University Schulich School of music and is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree in violin performance with Andrew Wan.

Interim Chair of the NAC Orchestra Bursary Committee, Francine Schutzman, noted that: “The competition, established by members of the NAC Orchestra, seeks to encourage and support young musicians at a critical time in their professional development. The need is clearly there, and the competition addresses it directly.”

The jury to select this year’s award winners comprised Interim Chair Francine Schutzman (non-voting); four NAC Orchestra musicians (Stephanie Morin, winds; Lawrence Vine, brass and percussion; Leah Wyber, low strings; and Leah Roseman, upper strings); Christine McLaughlin of the Friends of the NAC Orchestra (non-voting); and two external judges (Angela Schwarzkopf, harpist, and Murielle Bruneau, former NACO double bassist).


The National Arts Centre Orchestra Bursary Competition was first held in 1981. The prime objective of the competition is to encourage the pursuit of excellence on the part of young instrumentalists aspiring to orchestral careers. Each year, a jury identifies deserving recipients through audition and competition.

The Bursary was created in 1979 by members of the NAC Orchestra as a gesture of appreciation to the audiences who supported the Orchestra during its first decade. The bursary is meant to provide recognition and financial support that helps further the development of young musicians who have connections to the National Capital Region (NCR). Funding for the award originally came from two sources: the NAC Orchestra Bursary Fund, created in 1979 by the members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, and from the NAC Orchestra Trust (originally the Capital Trust, founded in 1932 to benefit the Ottawa Philharmonic Society which, on its demise in 1970, transferred the income to the NAC). The fund is now known as the NAC Orchestra Trust Fund.

In 1981, one prize of $1,000 – the NAC Orchestra Bursary – was awarded. In subsequent years, thanks to the growth of the Fund, as well as the generosity of private organizations and individuals, prizes now total more than $21,000.

In 2024, the competition will be open to students of wind, brass, and percussion instruments.


Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre (NAC) 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 NAC Orchestra reflects the fabric and values of Canada, reaching and representing the diverse communities we live in with daring programming, powerful storytelling, inspiring artistry, and innovative partnerships.

Since its inception, the NAC Orchestra has recorded for radio and more than 40 commercial recordings many of the 80+ new works it has commissioned, primarily from Canadian composers. These include:

  • Angela Hewitt’s 2015 JUNO Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Concertos;
  • The ground-breaking Life Reflected, which includes My Name is Amanda Todd by the late Jocelyn Morlock (winner of the 2018 JUNO for Classical Composition of the Year);
  • Ana Sokolović’s Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes, 2019 JUNO Winner for Classical Composition of the Year (from the 2019 JUNO-nominated New Worlds);
  • The 2020 JUNO-nominated The Bounds of Our Dreams, featuring pianist Alain Lefèvre, and;
  • Clara - Robert - Johannes: Lyrical Echoes, nominated for Classical Album of the Year at the 2023 JUNO Awards.

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