• Meet the new members of the Orchestra Academy!

    By Meighan Szigeti

    The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra Academy welcomes five student musicians to its annual three-week intensive training program. 

    Led by COC Music Director Johannes Debus, and developed in collaboration with The Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music and the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, the COC Orchestra Academy offers its student musicians professional insight and experience in their pursuit of a career in an opera orchestra.

    The five student players who join the Academy this year were selected from a pool of 12 musicians who auditioned in October 2015 for Debus, COC Orchestra Academy Director Nina Draganic and members of the COC Orchestra: GGS cellist Drew Comstock, GGS violinist Hua-Chu Huang, GGS violinist Yada Lee, GGS bassist Doug Ohashi and UofT violist Meagan Turner.

    As part of the Academy experience, students are featured in multiple public performances. This year those appearances include playing with the COC Orchestra at the company’s 2016/2017 season launch event on January 13 and a recital in the COC’s Free Concert Series in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on January 21, performing Fauré’s La bonne chanson with COC Ensemble Studio tenor Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure and Mendelssohn’s Octet with their COC Orchestra mentors. Academy students also join the COC Orchestra in the pit of the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on January 23 for opening night of the COC’s winter production of Wagner’s Siegfried, playing one of the most complex and stirring scores in the operatic canon.

    New to the 2016 Orchestra Academy program are additional public performances with the COC Orchestra and opera singers from the COC, and masterclasses and private sessions with opera singers, production personnel and visiting music staff. 

    “It’s wonderful to see how we’ve grown the COC Orchestra Academy since it began in 2014. Every year we build it up just a little more, moving from strength to strength,” says COC Music Director Johannes Debus. “This year we’ve added the season launch event to the program and we’ve been fortunate enough to have interest from great artists like Christine Goerke and Russell Braun on how they can get involved with the Orchestra Academy. These experiences, at such an early point in these musicians’ careers, are the opportunities of a lifetime.”

    Watch Johannes talk about the Orchestra Academy in the video below!

    The COC Orchestra Academy is an extra-curricular program that launched in January 2014 as a pilot program with the intention of growing the initiative to include more students and members of the COC Orchestra. There is no official credit attached to the students’ participation. Members of the COC Orchestra participate in the COC Orchestra Academy voluntarily. 

    2016 COC Orchestra Academy Members

    Cellist Drew Comstock began cello lessons at the age of four. He completed his undergraduate studies at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Yeesun Kim, and recently finished his Master of Music at McGill University where he worked with Brian Manker. He has performed in masterclasses for Ralph Kirshbaum, Phillipe Muller, Laurence Lesser, and Raphael Pidoux. As a chamber musician, he has worked with members of the Takács, Alban Berg, and Miró string quartets. He has also performed with Boston’s critically acclaimed Discovery Ensemble, the North Carolina Symphony, and the McGill Chamber Orchestra. Comstock is currently pursuing an artist diploma at The Glenn Gould School under Desmond Hoebig and Andrés Díaz.

    Violinist Hua-Chu Huang was born in Taiwan and moved to Canada in 2007. Since starting the violin at age nine, he has won numerous prizes from national competitions in Taiwan, the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra Concerto competition, and recently placed silver in the 2015 Canadian Music Competition. Huang has performed as a featured soloist in the Dalhousie Concerto Night as well as with the Chebucto Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Nova Scotia. He studied with Philippe Djokic at Dalhousie University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in violin performance. Huang is currently pursuing an artist diploma under Paul Kantor and Barry Shiffman at The Glenn Gould School.

    Violinist Yada Lee has won numerous competitions and awards. She has performed concerti with Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall, New York, as well as with orchestras in Thailand and around the world. She has been a member of Verbier Festival Orchestra and Bangkok Symphony Orchestra and has served as concertmaster and principal for both Oberlin and Mannes orchestras. Lee holds a master’s degree from Mannes School of Music and a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. She is currently at The Glenn Gould School, studying with Paul Kantor, Barry Shiffman, Laurie Smukler and David Bowlin.

    Bassist Doug Ohashi is currently completing the final year of his artist diploma at The Glenn Gould School, studying with Jeffrey Beecher, principal bassist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Ohashi aspires to perform in a professional orchestra and has participated in several training programs to serve that goal, including the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and Orford Academy. He is a recipient of the James Craig Opera Orchestra Award.

    Praised for her imagination and musical instinct, Toronto-based violist Meagan Turner recently completed her undergraduate studies as a scholarship student at the University of Toronto. Turner has held principal positions with numerous orchestras and performed in masterclasses for renowned artists including Henning Kraggerud, Atar Arad, and the Brentano and Belcea quartets. In addition to her studies at U of T, Turner has studied chamber music with the St. Lawrence, Cecilia, and New Orford quartets and will continue her orchestral training at the New York String Orchestra Seminar this December. Turner is currently pursuing an advanced certificate in performance at UofT, in the studio of Eric Nowlin.


    The COC Orchestra Academy is an initiative of the COC Orchestra with the agreement of the Toronto Musicians' Association.

    Photo credit: (l-r) cellist Drew Comstock, violinist Hua-Chu Huang, violinist Yada Lee, bassist Doug Ohashi and violist Meagan Turner


    Posted in Orchestra Academy


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