A Conversation with Cellist Wei Yu

Canadian cellist Tate learning from MMB alumnus and New York Philharmonic cellist Wei Yu.
Canadian cellist Tate learning from MMB alumnus and New York Philharmonic cellist Wei Yu.

How else would a busy cellist with the New York Philharmonic wrap up a performing season? By travelling to Calgary to teach master classes and back-to-back private lessons at Morningside Music Bridge, of course.

New York Philharmonic cellist Wei Yu got his start at Morningside Music Bridge 1998-2000
New York Philharmonic cellist Wei Yu got his start at Morningside Music Bridge 1998-2000

For Wei Yu, returning to teach where his career began is time well spent.
Before the prize-winning musician joined the New York Phil in 2007 at age 26, Wei Yu started studying at Mount Royal Conservatory’s Morningside Music Bridge in 1998 with our John Kadz.

He remained in Calgary for two years, joining our Academy for Gifted Youth program, and later winning the Rose Bowl — the top prize at the annual Calgary Kiwanis Festival in 2000.

From Calgary, the Shanghai-born Yu went to Chicago to further his music study, and later received his master’s degree at the Juilliard School. We can think of no better instructor for our international music training school than the MMB alumnus.

Question: You started playing cello at age four and made your concerto debut with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra when you were just 11 years old. How does that reflect in your teaching style?

Wei Yu: For me as a player, I went through a lot. Teaching what I have learned in my recent history especially  influenced by great teachers like John Kadz,  David Soyer and  Hans Jørgen Jensen helps. I feel like I can really relate to the young players because I feel like I went exactly the same path yesterday.   Physically and mentally, I can relate to the students here based on my experience.

Question: You are returning as faculty for the second year. Why did you want to come back? What is it about the program you like?

Wei Yu: This program has given me so much in the past. This is the starting point of my career, it’s from Music Bridge and from Calgary being at the Academy. I cannot describe with words! I was here 15 years ago as a student and coming back as a faculty member and meeting wonderful teachers here and colleagues… it’s just like a reunion. I think it’s time for me to give back and contribute more.

Question: How important is it to help shape the upcoming generation of classical musicians on the track to professional careers?

Wei Yu: Seeing the young generation of talents emerging — it’s a thrilling experience. It’s grown so much and in a very positive way developed over the past decades. There are so many soloists out there from this program.  I wish everybody in the music world knew about this program. You see a lot of top notch talent return to the program year after year, both faculty and students.

Here’s what Noah, 14, from New York has to say about taking master classes with Wei Yu, who he occasionally sees outside Lincoln Center on his way to Julliard School prep class.

“He’s obviously a great teacher. It was great to get his wisdom and experiences. He’s very focused on making a great sound, relaxing your body so you can make a big sound. He has a good perception on how to create a really melodic and expressive sound.”

Click here for a list of upcoming recitals and concerts until July 31.

By Sherri Zickefoose, July 29 2014

A Conversation With Violinist Jonathan Crow


Canadian violinist Jonathan Crow meets the press, giving an interview about Morningside Music Bridge.
Canadian violinist Jonathan Crow meets the press, giving an interview about Morningside Music Bridge.

Jonathan Crow is a familiar face to Canadian music and symphony lovers who are fans of his

Jonathan Crow, courtesy
Jonathan Crow, courtesy

New Orford String Quartet and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, where he is concertmaster.

As assistant professor of violin at McGill University, Crow knows the value of nurturing young talent. He was just 19 when he joined the Montreal Symphony as associate principal second violin, only to win the associate concertmaster’s chair five months later.

Crow travels to Calgary to teach Mount Royal Conservatory’s Academy for Gifted Youth violinsts, and this summer marks his second year as faculty for our Morningside Music Bridge summer training program.

Question: What’s your teaching philosophy?

Jonathan Crow: The most important thing in teaching is to teach to what the kids need. I’m not a fan of a whole system. There’s many different schools of teaching: Russian, the Franco-Belgian school. For me, while these are great to know about, I think it’s important that you teach to what the students need. If you’re talking technically, everybody has different sizes, different lengths of arms. You find a way to teach technique that fits the body type. You find a way to teach the music that isn’t just inflicting your own ideas upon students but helping them to discover their ideas, and how to make choices about things musically instead of just reciting by rote what they hear from their teacher.

Question: You’ve come to teach at MMB for two years now. What makes this program special?

Jonathan Crow: I think the idea of having people from all across the world learning from each other is important and I think it’s important that we have great teachers here. But it’s just as important that the kids are learning from each other. We have master classes every day. The kids from Canada hear kids from the U.S. hear kids from Poland hear kids from China playing. We all learn different ways of approaching music and we all learn from each other. I think having a critical mass of players and teachers and mentors from all around the world gives us so many opportunities to learn in different ways.

Click here for a list of upcoming recitals and concerts until July 31.

By Sherri Zickefoose, July 24, 2014

Calgary musical prodigy attracts global attention | video

Photo courtesy Calgary Herald, Christina Ryan Mount Royal Conservatory oboe student and composer Trevor Mansell is in demand. The talented teen is off to study at Florida's prestigious Lynn University on a full scholarship.
Photo courtesy Calgary Herald, Christina Ryan Mount Royal Conservatory oboe student and composer Trevor Mansell is in demand. The talented teen is off to study at Florida’s prestigious Lynn University on a full scholarship.

Calgary musical prodigy attracts global attention | video.

Conservatory oboist Trevor Mansell has made front page news.

The 18-year-old Advanced Performance Program student found himself in the middle of a bidding war as four universities were competing to land him with full music scholarships.

In the end, he went with Florida’s prestigious Lynn University in Boca Raton to study under the great Joe Robinson. Student and teacher met in Calgary in recent years after Mount Royal Conservatory invited “Oboe Joe” to teach masterclasses here.

Today’s Calgary Herald reports:

Mansell recently declined multiple Canadian scholarships to study under Robinson at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Once his education is complete, many believe he will go on to perform in the some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras.

“There are special kids, and then there is Trevor,” said Mount Royal Conservatory director Paul Dornian, who considers Mansell a “double threat” because he is as skilled at writing music as he is at playing.

“It’s very rare to be an outstanding instrumentalist and also compose. His talents have many dimensions.”

Trevor’s mother Tina Hazard tells us she’s gaining a new appreciation for Conservatory programming. Through the family’s travels to prospective universities vying for Trevor in recent months, it became clear that his Mount Royal training had prepared him at the highest level.

“I realized going to these universities how special Mount Royal is. Trevor’s already had lessons from those same people, and he’s played most of that repertoire already. He’s already kind of done an undergrad, in a way,” Tina says.

“The quality of Mount Royal’s faculty and the fact they give so much to making those kids better is amazing.”

 By Sherri Zickefoose, May 30, 2014

Future looking bright for gifted Academy grads

Academy grad Maclean Pachkowski reflects on a decade of growth at Mount Royal Conservatory
Academy grad Maclean Pachkowski, heading to study at New York’s Bard College, reflects on a decade of growth at Mount Royal Conservatory. The 2014 Academy for Gifted Youth saw 42 students graduate April 28.

Congratulations Mount Royal Conservatory Academy for Gifted Youth grads.

Some of the 42 members of the class of 2014 have grown up at the Conservatory, spending the last 10 years honing their performance skills.

Many were on stage April 28 performing at the Academy Graduation Recital in the Leacock Theatre.

An impressive future awaits our Academy grads. Many are leaving home to study at universities, including U of C, McGill, Ambrose, University of Victoria, University of Toronto, Queens, UBC, New England and Florida.

And they’re not just continuing their musical studies. Some of our grads say they’ll be studying bio-chemistry, science, kinesiology, engineering, pre-law, communications, and business.

Cellist Maclean Pachkowski says after a decade studying at the Conservatory, he is heading to New York’s Bard College.

He’ll be studying music and bio chemistry, he says.

While he’s excited for the adventures ahead, Pachkowski says he’ll miss the friends he’s made at the Conservatory, especially Academy artistic advisor John Kadz.

“It’s sort of like you’re leaving home. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for the program and Mr. Kadz,” said Pachkowski.

Kadz puts it best: “I think they’re well-equipped to make the best use of music no matter what you do with it. Remember to thank your parents.”


Academy for Gifted Youth (ages 6+)

  • Advanced Performance Program
  • Guitar Academy program
  • Strings, Piano, Winds Academy program
  • Vocal Academy program

The Academy Program for Gifted Youth is an enrichment program providing musical training of the highest quality for gifted young artists.

Since the program began in 1980, participants in the Academy Program for Gifted Youth pay only a nominal registration fee, thanks to generous funding from corporate, government and private donors.

Academy students benefit from:

  • World-class coaches, teachers and famed guest artists
  • One of the finest programs in North America
  • Programs designed for children to young professional musicians
  • Performance-based study that yields results

Academy students up close with the masters


The Conservatory's Academy for Gifted Youth students enjoyed a masterclass with pianist Gabriela Montero March 30, 2014.
The Conservatory’s Academy for Gifted Youth students enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime masterclass with pianist Gabriela Montero March 30, 2014. The Wyatt Artist in Residence Series performer played to a full theatre April 1.

Classical and improvisational pianist Gabriela Montero did more than delight a capacity crowd at her April 1, 2014 recital at Mount Royal University’s Leacock Theatre.

The Wyatt Artist in Residence performer inspired our Academy for Gifted Youth students through a day of masterclasses March 30.

What’s it like playing for one of the world’s most gifted musicians?

We’ll let our Academy students tell you:

Gabriela and Stephen L 1

Stephen Lind, 24:

Q: What was it like playing for Gabriela Montero?
A: It was a great experience, it was especially interesting as I chose to play the C Major Schumann Fantasy without realizing it was on the program for her recital that evening. She mentioned that it is amongst her top five favourite pieces and obviously had a deep understanding of it, which made for a great lesson.

Q: What was the best advice you took away?
A: I’d have to say her approach of technique and being as efficient and relaxed as possible in every movement at the piano.

Jenny and Gabriela

Jenny Z. has been an Academy student for two years, and is currently an APP student. The talented 16-year-old studies with Krzysztof Jablonski.

Q: What piece did you perform for your masterclass with Gabriela Montero?
A:  Ballade No. 1 in G minor Op. 23 by Frederic Chopin

Q: What was the most important lesson she taught you?
A: She offered a lot of technical advice (since we mainly focused on technique), and the major one is: it is best to limit your movements to only what is necessary to produce the sound, because we essentially play by gravity, and once the key is pressed, any extra movements won’t affect the sound. In addition, the closer your fingers are to the keyboard, the more control you have on producing the sound. Even if you feel you need to move “with the music,” like lifting your wrist before beginning the next phrase, just think of how the music goes inside and don’t let it affect your movements.

Q: What was it like working with such a famous classical musician?
A: It’s a great privilege to learn from a world-class pianist. At first, I felt a bit nervous and curious to see what she would say, but in the end, her confidence and knowledge gives me confidence as well: I know I learned something that would definitely improve my performance skills in general. It is also illuminative, as she would mention something that I never thought of, and sometimes what she teaches also converges with my teacher’s words.

Teresa S and Gabriela

Teresa S., age 12

Q: Which piece did you perform?
A: Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody no. 8

Q: What was the best advice from Gabriela Montero?
A: Don’t try to play the piano with a lot of extra motion, or with no motion at all. When you play the piano you should play it and be. It’s like walking, when you walk you don’t walk with stiff legs, but you also don’t walk like you don’t have any bones. You just walk. I thought that was very helpful.

Q: What was the experience of playing for a renowned musical star for the day?
A: I thought it was really cool! It was a great experience, I am very lucky to have had it! That is one of the things I really like about the Academy Program at Mount Royal, you get to have some great once-in-a-lifetime experiences that not a lot of people can have, so I feel really lucky to be one of the students working with these wonderful guest artists.

WATCH: Baritone Russell Braun offering his words of wisdom to Academy students:

baritone Russell Braun offering his advice to our Academy students.

NOTEWORTHY: Season subscriptions to the Wyatt Artist in Residence Series Recitals support the Conservatory’s Academy for Gifted Youth program.

Sherri Zickefoose, April 9, 2014