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Meet the 2016-17 Rebanks Fellows

2016-17 Rebanks Fellows

Seven extraordinary concert artists from around the world have been selected for The Royal Conservatory's prestigious Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency Program.

Unique in Canada, The Rebanks Family Fellowship Program is a one-year program of our Glenn Gould School. Created for artists on the cusp of a professional career, it offers a rich curriculum including: private study with exceptional faculty and guest artists; concert presentations; career coaching; and marketing training and support. Each Rebanks Fellow also participates in a funded international residency.

The 2016-17 Rebanks Fellows include singers and instrumentalists who have performed on the world's great stages and have won prizes around the world. They share a passion for performance, a keenness to collaborate, and a deep desire to connect with audience members. When we sat down to interview them, we discovered they also have an incredibly diverse set of influences, ranging from Rodgers and Hammerstein to the music of the Maori.

Bradley Christensen, baritone

Since immigrating to Canada five years ago, Bradley has completed a Master’s Degree from the University of Toronto and performed with orchestras throughout Ontario. The finalist of the New Zealand Aria Competition has a voice described by the Ottawa Citizen as “focused, rich, and sympathetically communicative."

For Bradley, the most appealing part of The Rebanks Family Fellowship Program is its focus on helping young musicians navigate the transition from student to performer. "The difficulty when an artist graduates is to find enough time to work on their craft while still working to pay the bills. This fellowship allows me to work more on my singing and performing.”

A proud New Zealander, Bradley still feels the pull of Kiwi culture, especially the songs of the Maori. "There is something incredibly touching about their music and any time I hear it I get a little homesick."

Geoffrey Conquer, piano

Geoffrey's relationship to music may be best summed up in four words: “I love to perform!”

That love of performance has led to top prizes at many competitions, including the McGill Symphony Concerto Competition, the Siegfried Weishaupt International Piano Competition in Germany, and the Canadian Music Competition.

“I feel very lucky that my days include me working at the piano, practicing, teaching, and rehearsing beautiful music,” Geoffrey adds. “Every piece I study, to me, is like intensive research into the mind of that composer when he or she wrote it, and I find this work to be absolutely fascinating and inspiring.”

For Geoffrey, Toronto's lively, active music scene is one of the major benefits of The Rebanks Family Fellowship Program. “I hope to work with many [local] artists and share my passion for concert music with them, and I would also like to perform as much as possible to connect with concertgoers in the city.”

Adanya Dunn, soprano

If you ask Adanya what inspired her to pursue a career in music, you're likely to get a classic, cheeky response: “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” However, her fascination with music was first fostered at a very early age by being surrounded with music in the family home.

The Canadian-Bulgarian soprano has worked with Dawn Upshaw at the Bard College Conservatory of Music and was a voice fellow for two years at Marilyn Horne’s Music Academy of the West. The University of Toronto graduate and two-time grant recipient from the Canada Council for the Arts made her Carnegie Hall debut in 2015.

The personalized approach of The Rebanks Family Fellowship Program holds huge appeal for Adanya. "The program is carefully tailored," she observes. "Through individualized mentorship and guidance, faculty members work with us to create the kinds of opportunities that best match our interests, helping us realize our projects, goals, and dreams."

Ellen McAteer, soprano

"You could do it."

Those four words, delivered matter-of-factly by a supportive choir director, inspired Ellen to embark on a career as a professional musician. She has gone on to perform wide-ranging operatic repertoire throughout North America, winning myriad awards and earning (twice!) the Richard Bradshaw Graduate Fellowship in Opera.

Ellen has always been struck by music's ability to empower; she first experienced this as a young chorister. "I quickly fell in love with the beautiful melodies and the power the [choir] had upon its listeners. I developed a sense of accomplishment and responsibility that motivated me to always do my best not only in choir, but in every aspect of life."

The Rebanks Family Fellowship Program is, in Ellen's words, “perfectly suited" to her at this point in her career. Having completed intensive academic study, including a Masters in Voice at the University of Toronto, she's looking forward to spending the next year honing her skills as a performer.

Jennifer Murphy, violin

For as long as she can remember, Jennifer has loved performing, listening to, and learning about music. This love is informed by a strong belief in music's communicative power. "To me, it is the most important avenue of communication between all walks of life. I am excited to spend my life developing a career that allows me to connect with people through performances, teaching, and outreach work."

A native of Dundalk, Ireland, Jennifer has performed throughout North America and Europe, with several of her performances being broadcast on the BBC and CBC. She has worked with many internationally acclaimed artists, including David Geringas and Maxim Vengerov. In fact, her favourite part of studying music is collaborating with other musicians.

The opportunity to collaborate with the students, faculty, and guest artists of The Glenn Gould School is, for Jennifer, one of the many benefits of The Rebanks Family Fellowship Program. She also loves the program's unique blend of structure and flexibility. "We are presented with a wonderful balance of receiving support from The Royal Conservatory, along with the freedom to explore and create projects and initiatives of our own.”

Elizabeth Polese, soprano

Elizabeth never had any doubt she would pursue music as a career. She grew up singing in the Toronto Children’s Chorus; the experience instilled into her a lifelong desire to communicate through her voice. She confesses to having sung “anything and everything” as a teenager before falling in love with opera.

Opera also seems to be falling in love with her. Elizabeth has won the top prize at the Toronto Mozart Competition and the University of Toronto Concerto Competition, and was a finalist at the 2016 Jeunes Ambassadeurs Lyriques competition. She has also performed in operas in communities across Canada, earning accolades along the way—the Mississauga native has been described by Opera Canada as a singer with “power to spare.”

Elizabeth was drawn to The Rebanks Family Fellowship Program because it’s designed exactly for an artist like her, facing the challenges of a nascent career. “This can be a difficult stage of a young artist's career,” she notes. “[One] still needs to continue developing artistry and honing technical skills, but is also ready to get out into the world and start working as a professional.” Elizabeth is thrilled with the level of financial, artistic, and professional support offered by the program. “It is truly one of a kind.”

Joanna Wu, flute

Joanna has given solo, orchestral, and chamber performances throughout North America at internationally acclaimed venues including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. She's a past recipient of the Thomas Daniel Nyfenger Prize from the Yale School of Music - her alma mater - and has won top prizes at the National Flute Association Young Artist Competition and Musicians Club of Women competition.

Given Joanna's ample accolades, it might come as a surprise to read that the Taiwanese-American comes from a non-musical family. She began on the piano - it had cachet with her parents - but would later discover that the flute was a perfect fit. "The flute came naturally, but required a certain work ethic to perform it well, which...drew me in," Joanna noted. Music wasn't encouraged as a career, but she knew it was a passion she had to pursue. "I knew I loved it enough to try."

Joanna is looking forward to the freedom she will experience as a Rebanks Fellow. “I love the opportunities The Rebanks Family Fellowship Program allows for us to form projects and give concert presentations, especially with outreach recitals.” A first-time visitor to Canada, she is especially keen to connect with Toronto's vibrant musical scene. “[I'm] looking forward to getting involved as much as I can.”

Rebanks Fellows will perform two free concerts, on December 7 and April 12, as part of The Royal Conservatory’s 2016-17 performance season. Members of the public can reserve tickets 30 days before each concert at performance.rcmusic.ca.

The Royal Conservatory is grateful to the Rebanks Family and The W. Garfield Weston Foundation who have made The Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency Program possible through their generous support.

The Glenn Gould School is supported by funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage through the Canada Arts Training Fund, and from the Ontario Arts Council.

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Synopsis

Seven extraordinary concert artists from around the world have been selected for The Royal Conservatory's prestigious Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency Program.