Peter Deeb, Ensemble Studio member Claire de Sévigné and General Director Alexander Neef during intermission at the opera.
Peter Deeb is a success story by any measure. As the founder and Chairman of Hampton Securities, one of Canada’s leading investment firms, he has been an active member of Canada’s financial services community for over 20 years, having built a long career on Bay Street. A merchant banker by profession, Peter became well known for proprietary investments in energy, finance, shipping, and mining that over the years grew to become a major industrial portfolio. Peter also became a key figure in the regulatory development of Canada’s investment industry, serving as a past Chairman of the Ontario District Counsel and National Advisory Board of the Investment Industry Regulatory Association of Canada (IIROC).
As successful as Peter Deeb is professionally, it’s his interest in the future of music that really endears him to us. When the music lover and Royal Conservatory alumnus wanted to assist as many young artists as possible, he turned his attention to the Canadian Opera Company, because, as he says, “the COC has become the cultural epicentre of the city.”
Peter has been a generous supporter of the COC since 2008 but last year, he wanted to express his commitment more personally. In 2012/2013 Peter committed a remarkable $1 million for the express purpose of helping to fund the COC’s training program for young opera professionals, the Ensemble Studio.
The 2012/2013 Ensemble Studio members.
As Peter says, “It’s a great honour to participate in a program that offers the chance for aspiring singers to understudy and perform roles, gain intensive vocal, language and acting training, and the chance to be part of master classes taught by famed opera professionals from around the world.”
Each year, the COC accepts only a handful of young artists into the program, starting with a nationwide search every October. Approximately 150 hopefuls participate from across the country. The audition process ends in late November at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts when about 10 finalists perform in front of a public audience and panel of judges at the Ensemble Studio Vocal Competition. Up for grabs are prizes of $1500, $3000 and $5000, as well as coveted invitations to join the Ensemble Studio, a first step toward an international career in opera. Those chosen to join the program begin their journey the following fall.
Winners of the 2012 Ensemble Studio Vocal Competition.
In addition to the extensive individual training available to each participant, each season the company devotes one performance of a mainstage production to Ensemble members who take on the lead roles. Coached by the same director and conductor as the mainstage cast, this mainstage opportunity is vital to their onstage experience and professional development.
In the 2012/2013 season, Ensemble members performed Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, (see left) and will perform the composer’s Così fan tutte in the 2013/2014 season. Not only do they learn these roles, but they also serve as understudies for the mainstage cast, and are even occasionally called on to step onstage in place of ailing singers. Masterpieces like these are a musical feast for young opera singers to sink their teeth into!
“I hope the efforts of the COC in providing this outstanding opportunity to young singers here in our home city will be recognized as an empowering vote of confidence for Canadian artists. The COC has gone above and beyond its mandate with the Ensemble Studio and probably does more than any other company today to ensure the art form has a future,” says Peter, who makes a point of regularly attending all of the company’s performances and often rehearsals as well.
More than 150 young singers, directors, conductors and coaches have passed through the COC’s Ensemble Studio since its establishment in 1980. Beyond the training and practical experience, these young professionals become ambassadors for the COC, and more globally, ambassadors of Canadian talent around the world. Graduates of the Ensemble Studio commend the program for helping them dream bigger than they imagined possible. Many have gone on to successful careers and credit the training they received at the Ensemble Studio for making that happen.
“Every time I attend a performance, it makes me wish I had taken my piano lessons more seriously as a boy. I hope my mother reads this!” says Peter.
The Canadian Opera Company is grateful for the support of underwriter and Major Supporter Peter Deeb. His generous gift directly supports the country’s next generation of Canadian belle voci!
Follow Peter Deeb’s example and explore all the ways there are to support the Canadian Opera Company. Every gift counts.
Photo Credits: (top) (l – r): Peter Deeb, Ensemble Studio member Claire de Sévigné and COC General Director Alexander Neef; (middle) Back row (l – r): Neil Craighead, Jenna Douglas, Mireille Asselin, Claire de Sévigné, Owen McCausland. Front row (l – r): Rihab Chaieb, Timothy Cheung, Ambur Braid, Cameron McPhail, Sasha Djihanian (absent: Christopher Enns). Photo: Chris Hutcheson; (middle) (l – r) Gordon Bintner, Charlotte Burrage, COC General Director Alexander Neef and Andrew Haji at the COC's Ensemble Studio Competition on November 29, 2012 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. Photo: Chris Hutcheson; (bottom) Owen McCausland (front) as Tito and Neil Craighead as Publio in the Ensemble Studio Performance of the COC’s production of La clemenza di Tito, 2013. Photo: Michael Cooper
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Behind the Scenes / comments (0) / permalink
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in 2012/2013 / comments (0) / permalink
Sherry Squires, ASOP Program Partner, St. Christopher House
Meet Sherry Squires, a proud supporter and program partner of the After School Opera Program (ASOP) and the second individual featured in the special blog series commemorating ASOP’s 15th anniversary celebration on June 13, 2013 in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.
Sherry hails from Newfoundland (similarly to ASOP Program Leader Dean Burry – more on him soon!). Her East Coast roots cultivated a deep passion for music and her love of the art has kept her singing and playing piano for more than 42 years! She began teaching piano at St. Christopher House in Toronto in 1987, where she took on the role of the music school co-ordinator in 1998. She's played an integral role in the community for over 25 years.
Sherry is a true champion for music education and community outreach. Her philosophy of music is simple: Sherry believes that music is a positive, healthy and fun activity that allows you to express yourself. Music can be shared or it can remain private – no matter what, it brings people a lot of pleasure. It’s no surprise that Sherry became a strong ambassador of ASOP when the COC partnered with St. Christopher House in 1997. It is thanks to Sherry and her unwavering support of ASOP that the program has had such a rich and vibrant history in the Dundas and Ossington community in Toronto.
After 15 years with ASOP, Sherry has thousands of memories to draw from, but a particular moment that is dear to her heart is ASOP’s 10th anniversary production of The Chronicles of Unum in the fall of 2008. For this performance, participants from all four ASOP locations including the East York Community Centre, Barbara Frum Recreation Centre, St. Christopher House and the Canadian Opera Company venue, came together to collaborate on a joint performance at the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre. In this production Sherry played the role of the Mountain Oracle (which was written specifically for her by ASOP leader and composer, Dean Burry) and felt both honoured and proud to have been a part of ASOP’s historical event: “It was terrific and inspiring to see such a large cast of children so thoroughly focused and eager to perform. Their performance and enthusiasm was truly moving.”
Sherry also fondly remembers the opera Silken Spirits where the children had the opportunity to participate in a workshop on Peking opera by The Little Pear Garden Collective. The Collective strives to promote the richness of Chinese performing arts through presentations and productions. During this workshop the children learned about traditional Chinese dance and dramatic expression, and incorporated these into their performance of Silken Spirits. Sherry recalls that the children “were absolutely mesmerized by [the dancer’s] ability to completely change character by simple, small movements or facial expressions.”
Luckily for Sherry, the current participants of ASOP at the Barbara Frum Recreation Centre location will reprise Silken Spirits at the special 15th anniversary performance of ASOP on June 13!
To Sherry, ASOP is an invaluable addition to the programming offered by St. Christopher House over the past fifteen years. The program has shown children that opera is an acceptable form of expression in the 21st century. In addition to putting on their own opera, the children are also invited to attend a dress rehearsal of one of the COC productions! “It’s terrific to see how attentively they watch and how animatedly and passionately they speak about it after,” says Sherry.
Sherry also loves the variety of topics covered over the ten weeks because it means that each child gets a chance to shine and explore new avenues of artistic expression. They learn to work cooperatively and build confidence throughout the process. This all culminates in a wonderful sense of achievement when the children are ready for their performance. She has also witnessed many children going on to other theatre, music, opera, and arts programs as a result of the positive experience they had in the ASOP. Sherry sees the program as a great investment for the children’s artistic future because “they gain an appreciation for the arts and particularly opera which will continue to give them meaning for the rest of their lives!”
Photo Credits: (top) Sherry Squires as Mountain Oracle in ASOP's 10th anniversary performance of The Chronicles of Unum in 2008; (middle) An ASOP participant wears a mask from the 2005 performance of Silken Spirits. Photos by the COC.
Posted by Danielle D'Ornellas / in Education / comments (2) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001