Oboist Luca Ortolani wins NACO Bursary Competition

In an exciting weekend of spirited competition, a talented group of emerging musicians gathered on the University of Ottawa campus for the National Arts Centre Orchestra’s Bursary Competition. The competition, held from April 5 to 7, 2024, welcomed 16 aspiring brass and wind players, aged 16 to 26, with ties to the National Capital Region. The young artists competed for more than $24,000 in Bursary prizes.

Jury members selected eight finalists to compete at the University of Ottawa’s Freiman Hall on April 7. After vigorous deliberations, the jury named 24-year-old oboist Luca Ortolani the Grand Prize Winner. Ortolani will take home the Bursary’s top prize of $8,000 in addition to the Sturdevant Prize for Orchestral Excerpts ($1,500).

Ortolani was delighted with the win: “I’m so thrilled to have been awarded this year’s NAC Orchestra Bursary. This award is very meaningful to me because I grew up attending NACO concerts. The orchestra is the reason I fell in love with classical music and remains a constant source of inspiration. It’s especially moving for me to have also been awarded the Sturdevant Orchestral Excerpts Prize as it was Pace Sturdevant himself who, early on, encouraged me to pursue a life in music. Thank you to the judges and organizers who made this wonderful competition possible. Also, much gratitude to my teachers throughout the years — Titus Underwood, Sarah Jeffrey, Anna Petersen and Angela Casagrande, as well as my family and friends for many years of support.”

Luca Ortolani completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. He is currently concluding a Master’s degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of Titus Underwood. In Fall 2024, he will be returning to Toronto to pursue an Artist’s Diploma at The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music, under the tutelage of Sarah Jeffrey.

Bursary, awards and prizes

The remaining Bursary prizes, totalling $14,700, were awarded to the other finalists: Annie Noël-de-Tilly (flute), Nadia Ingalls (bassoon), Xudong Zheng (flute), Dylan Pinette (oboe), Shaw Nicholson (trumpet), Constance Prost (trombone), as well as an honourable mention to Nabeel Ansari (oboe).

In addition to monetary prizes, these young artists experience many benefits, including learning how to prepare for a professional, high-stakes orchestral audition; gaining real-life experience in their career progression; and the opportunity for financial support that will allow them to continue their studies. The Bursary Competition is aimed at emerging artists who have ties to the National Capital Region, in a gesture of thanks to NACO’s home community for its continued support.

This year’s jury comprised Bursary Committee Chair Christina Cameron (non-voting); four NAC Orchestra musicians (Stephanie Morin, winds; Steven van Gulik, brass and percussion; Marc-André Riberdy, lower strings; and Leah Roseman, upper strings); and two external judges (Jo Ann Simpson, bassoonist, and Doug Burden, former NACO trombonist).

In 2025, the competition will be open to students of stringed instruments and harp.

About the Bursary

The first National Arts Centre Orchestra Bursary Competition was held in 1981 with the prime objective of encouraging the pursuit of excellence by 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 were so supportive of the Orchestra during its first decade. It is meant to provide recognition and financial support to help 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, a single prize of $1,000 – the NAC Orchestra Bursary – was awarded. In subsequent years, the Fund has grown, thanks to the generosity of private organizations and individuals, and prizes now total more than $24,000.

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