How the Summer Music Institute helped set the stage for Jan Lisiecki

Jan Lisiecki © Mathias Bothor

When Jan Lisiecki first performed at the NAC, he was only 10. But there are things about that day he still remembers: the maze-like backstage, how the conductor expressed surprise at his hair, and the helpful, friendly nature of the NAC Orchestra. “They were so kind and professional,” recalls Jan. “They let me know my young age didn’t matter, it was all about making music.”

Two years later, Jan was back at the NAC, this time as an eager student in the Young Artist Program of the Summer Music Institute (SMI). It was an unforgettable experience for the promising classical pianist. “We had great teachers at the highest level,” says Jan. “I had the opportunity to work with different people on solo repertoire as well as chamber music. The SMI had an incredible impact on how I play on my own as well as with an orchestra. The encouragement and support I received at such a young age inspired me in ways I can’t describe in words.”   

Every year, talented young artists from across Canada and beyond come to Ottawa for a few weeks of intense learning.  More than 1,000 participants from 39 countries have benefitted from the program since it first began in 1999.

 “The SMI is unparalleled in Canada,” says Jan. “There’s no need for our young musicians to go to American summer camps, not when there is so much talent, fantastic teachers and great facilities here.”

Today, the 19-year-old Jan, is busy touring the world and completing a Bachelor of Music at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto on full scholarship. And he continues to be appreciative of the place and the people who were so instrumental at the start of his luminous career.

“I can’t thank NAC supporters enough,” Jan says. “I’m enormously grateful to you for making it possible for me to study music at such a high level in a beautiful city – to come away with having had an extraordinary experience and many wonderful memories.”

The proud legacy of the Summer Music Institute  

Jan Lisiecki is one of many talented artists to benefit from his time at the Summer Music Institute.  Today, many of the SMI’s past participants are entertaining and touching the hearts of people all over the world. 

Three of our SMI alumni are now valued members of the NAC Orchestra including Jessica Linnebach, Associate Concertmaster; Jethro Marks, Principal Viola; and Sean Rice, second clarinet.  Here’s a look at what some other brilliant artists are doing now:

  • Bryan Wagorn (2001-2005), pianist, is now on staff at the Metropolitan Opera Company as Assistant Conductor. Bryan was also a faculty member of the SMI from 2006-2013.
  • Robert Uchida (2001-2002, 2004), violinist, received an appointment as Concertmaster with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in the summer of 2013, following his tenure as Concertmaster with the Nova Scotia Symphony
  • Adrian Anantawan, violinist (2004-2007), was a member of the SMI Pre-College Faculty from 2008-2013.  Adrian currently at the Music Director at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston.
  • Estelle Choi (2009-2010), cellist, is a member of the award-winning Calidore String Quartet, formed at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles in 2010.
  • Jesús Reina (2003-2005, 2007-2010), violinist, and Anna Margrethe Nilsen, violinist (YAP 2007-2010) co-founded the Malaga Clasica International Chamber Music Festival in May, 2013.  The Festival is held in Malaga, Spain.

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