Another Gold for Canada

Eric Auerbach


At a time when we’re celebrating our country’s athletic achievements on the podium in Rio, there’s some gold medal achievements worthy of celebration here on home turf. Eric Auerbach is the Canadian National Strings Champion.

Auerbach, who is 26 year old violinist, competed in the Calgary Performing Arts Festival at MRU in the spring, then went on to win at the Provincial level in Edmonton and just capped the triple-crown winning at the National level, also in Edmonton, this August.

“I played the Bach Partita no 2 in D minor, and the Sibelius Violin Concerto,” said the MRU Academy student. With a one-hour time limit on his performance, he describes his performace as, “very exhausting, both mentally and physically. My program was timed at a little under an hour, so I couldn’t take many breaks in between movements or pieces.”

As one of Bill van der Sloot’s string students, Auerback senses some thrilling progress in his playing, “The first time I played the program at the Calgary festival I thought my arms were going to fall off by the time I was done. By the time I reached Nationals, I was able to play the program without getting physically tired, which I am very happy about!”

Not just a solo artist, in the national chamber class, he was joined by Jenny Crane (cello) and Minja Mckenna (viola). Having been on a two-month hiatus before the competition meant that the trio had to make up for lost time. “We were only able to meet a week before Nationals. During that week we met every day, sometimes twice a day, to get our pieces back into shape.”

Auerbach with Crane (cello) and Mckenna (viola)


The hard work paid off as the trio, coached by John Thomson who was in the audience in Edmonton for support, was also awarded with first prize in the chamber music division.

As a gracious victor, Auerbach sites the work of van der Sloot and Thomson, along with previous instructors Ian Swensen and Kevork Mardirossian as the reasons he made the podium, “I would not be where I am without any of these teachers.”

Winning nationals earns the violinist a scholarship which Auerbach plans to use towards his studies. “ I am supporting myself to study here, and the winnings I have received will allow me to continue to do this.”

When asked what the key to his gold-medal success has been, he answers, “I would say having the curiosity to be constantly searching for what you want. I get pretty fascinated and obsessive over the music I am playing, and nurturing this trait lets me take the time and space I need to grow.”

– by JLove

Seven Series Centre Stage



The excitement is electric.

The sound-check’s done and… we’re about to take centre stage.

In 2015, we completed construction and opened the Award-winning Bella Concert Hall and the Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts.  While it still has that ‘new theatre smell’ we’d like to amplify its acoustics by showcasing the finest local, national and international talent to play it.

We would like to announce the debut of SEVEN CONCERT SERIES taking place at the versatile venues in the Mount Royal University Conservatory’s Taylor Centre for the Performing Arts in 2016-17. These concert events will showcase some of the most innovative contemporary artists to bring music to your ears. We want our MRU Insiders to be the first to know what’s up.

Join us on May 13th, 2016 as we announce the line-up.

This will take place at the James Ehnes concert, our final Wyatt Series event for this season.

For tickets, go to or call 403-440-7770.

Our follow us online for up-to-the-moment social media releases. (Follow @MRUConservatory or

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Soundscape Series

The Bella Concert Hall was built on sound.

The Soundscape Series showcases the amplification of these artistic vibrations in their acoustic glory.

* 5 concerts from local, national and international influential artists and ensembles.


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Importing world-class musicians from around the globe. Let’s give them a true Calgarian white-hatted welcome.

* 5 concerts will take audiences on musical adventures in many musical genres.  


Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 2.46.38 PMNorthern Lights Series

2016 is the Year of Music in Calgary.  2017 is Canada’s 150th Birthday.

What better way to celebrate our home and native land than to feature some of its finest artists.

*5 concerts will define our country’s energy, diversity and talent.


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Our celebrated Wyatt Series continues to feature contemporary masters of classical works in performance and mentorship of our music students. This series honours the late Hal and Marnie Wyatt, longtime supporters of the Mount Royal University Conservatory.

* 3 concerts from modern masters.


Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 2.48.22 PMFamily Portrait Series

Music, Speech Arts and Theatre are for all-ages. To ensure that the younger family members, and those who are young at heart, get to experience amazing music and storytelling, we have the Family Portrait Series.

* 2 narrative shows that will inspire imaginations, whether it’s your first or ‘bazillionth’ time at a performance.

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The Spotlight Series showcases our diverse and talented instructors in performance. We’re so proud of our instructors, we want to bring their talents to centre stage. This monthly feature is as varied and exciting as the programs we offer.

Salon Series

Historically, the Salon was a favourite meeting place for musicians of all styles to play, listen and collaborate. We’re bringing it back. Throughout the season, we’ll be offering these opportunities for folks to mix, mingle and enjoy a variety of musical entertainment.

Of course, we’ll still be presenting concert events featuring all of our incredible performance ensembles and programs, including festive favourites Winter Fantasia and Sounds of the Season.

Connect with us on social media for your chance to win tickets to each of the series, or the grand prize, seasons tickets to ALL concert events in our 2016-17 Season!

Like, follow and spread the message to your friends and family.  It’s going to be an inspiring season of sound at the Mount Royal University Conservatory!

– by JLove


Virtuoso Violinist Takes Home International Competition Prizes


15-year-old violinist Isabella Perron is on a roll. She participated in three international competitions this spring and summer and came away with three prizes.

Most recently Isabella won the 11-14 Years Grand Prize at the Canadian Music Competition held in Vancouver from June 19-July 3. She received top marks of 97 percent and had the opportunity to perform with the Vancouver Metropolitan Symphony in a Gala Concert on July 4.

She just returned to MRU to participate in the Conservatory’s Morningside Music Bridge, where she looks forward to studying with distinguished guest faculty including Noah Bendix-Balgley, Tadeusz Gadzina, Ian Swensen, Gwen Hoebig and Shanshan Yao.

Isabella_Klein_blogIsabella was the youngest semi-finalist in the 30th annual Irving M. Klein International String Competition held in San Francisco from June 4-7.

She won the 2015 Elaine M. Klein Second Prize as well as the prize for Best Performance of a Commissioned Work.

The first competition this year was the Johansen International Competition for Young String Players in Washington DC in March, where she reached the semi-finals. She had just turned 15.

“I love travelling,” she says. “Going to visit all of these cities is great.”

Isabella plays a Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume violin 1850 with a Apocyphe de Joseph Guarnerius Cremonae 1737 label and a bow from Nicolas Maline, lent by the company Canimex Inc. of Drummondville, Québec, Canada.

She has been playing violin since the age of 2 and played her first concert at 3. “We are all musicians in the family,” she says. “My grandmother started me.”

Isabella has been a student in the Conservatory’s Academy for Gifted Youth for four years, travelling to Calgary from Montreal for lessons once a month for the first three years.

“It’s definitely worth it,” she says. “The teachers here are absolutely amazing. It’s a great program. You get to perform for guest artists from all over the world and take private lessons and master classes. There’s so much more experience on the stage. I have a few teachers that I’d really love to study with in the future.”

Isabella starts high school in the fall and plans to finish in two years so she can continue her undergraduate music studies in the US followed by her master’s in Europe.

From ages 8-12 Isabella had a burgeoning singing career, appearing on a Montreal television program hosted by Quebec pop/jazz artist Gregory Charles. He became her manager and they produced a pop album together. “I love all genres of music, really,” she says. “I want to get more into jazz. A lot of people think you have to do one or the other, pop or classical. I’m interested in everything and I like to show people that you don’t need to do just one thing to be great at it. You can do as many things as you’d like to.”

One of Isabella's biggest fans is her mother Johanne, who teaches in the Early Childhood Strings program.
One of Isabella’s biggest fans is her mother Johanne, who teaches in the Conservatory’s Early Childhood Strings program.

Along with her classical studies, Isabella plans to pursue her singing and songwriting interests with MRU’s new Songwriting course, part of the Conservatory’s new Popular Music offerings.

Isabella has recorded a CD and will do a concert tour starting in August.

Listen to Isabella Perron on SoundCloud.

Tiny Pianist Dazzles at Calgary Performing Arts Festival


Charlotte Giraudeau piano
Charlotte Giraudeau with one of her biggest fans

Each year, students from Mount Royal Conservatory compete in hundreds of classes at the Calgary Performing Arts Festival (formerly the Kiwanis Festival). By their estimation, 80 to 90 percent receive a combination of first and second place certificates.

Pianist Charlotte Giraudeau is only 6 years old but is already an accomplished pianist, working with teacher Kathy Dornian in the Academy for Gifted Youth at the Conservatory.

“Charlotte competed in 6 classes including one which was her first complete concerto. Most students that age group would enter 1 to 3 classes,” says Kathy Dornian. “She was entered in the 6 years and under classes which are non-competitive (the piano categories are non-competitive up to age 8). She certainly received many accolades from the adjudicators.”

Charlotte Giraudeau
Charlotte ready to perform

“Most of her repertoire was around Grade 4, which is quite remarkable for age 6. Level aside, what makes her unique is that she is already displaying a high level of musicianship and imagination, and I feel that she shows tremendous promise and potential,” Kathy notes. “The cute-as-a-button factor of course is a lovely bonus at this age and she demonstrates a real ease with and love of performing for an audience.”

Charlotte has a sister, Madeleine, who also is a very talented student of the Academy for Gifted Youth. “Madeleine is 10 years old and playing at a Grade 9-10 level. She gave a stunning performance on March 11 of a very complex and difficult Canadian piece and won both the class and a scholarship. She competed in 5 classes, won 3 and placed second in 2,” says Kathy.

Charlotte and Madeleine are both adopted from different orphanages in China and are completely unrelated biologically, yet both obviously have a very strong natural affinity for music. Their parents moved to Calgary from Edmonton a couple of years ago. Their mother is Chinese, and their father is French.

“Charlotte is a joy to teach and lots of fun!” says Kathy. “It is rare to have an hour lesson for that age level but an hour with Charlotte simply flies by and we could probably easily go for two and she would still maintain focus and concentration.”

High River classical concert boasts Conservatory connections


Here’s an amazing concert you won’t want to miss:  two extraordinary Mount Royal Conservatory students — young pianist Kevin Chen, 9, and violinist Isabella Perron, 14, — are set to dazzle in High River Saturday, Sept. 20.

The Conservatory prodigies are opening the southern Alberta town’s annual High River Gift of Music concert series.

If you haven’t witnessed these gifted performers in concert, this is a great opportunity.

Conservatory alumnus Kevin will be performing the world premiere of his commissioned composition about the devastating 2013 southern Alberta flood, River Rhapsody. The full-scale, nine-minute piano piece reflects the flooding’s turmoil but also the resilience of the High River community.

Kevin, a former Conservatory student of Colleen Athparia, has passed Canada’s ARCT piano teacher diploma exam and is currently studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Despite being nine years old, Kevin has composed many pieces (the Abbotsford Youth Orchestra played his Symphony No. 1 last year). He has said he hears music in his head, and enters it directly into his computer.

“Kevin is the most talented all-round musician I’ve ever seen and I’ve taught many so-called prodigies before,” said Athparia. “He comprehends music at such a high level, that I really need only to guide him like a bird taking off in flight.”

Isabella is a gifted and award-winning violinist, singer, and pianist who competes nationally.johanne_concertPic-copy-195x300

Described as a complete musician, Isabella is highly regarded for her stage presence, spark and musical spirit. Isabella comes by these talents naturally: her mother, noted Montreal concert cellist Johanne Perron, teaches master classes and lessons at Mount Royal Conservatory. 

Sherri Zickefoose, Sept. 15, 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

Young violinist to solo at NYC’s Carnegie Hall


Amilia playing

An 11-year-old Mount Royal Conservatory violinist is preparing to play solo at Carnegie Hall in New York City this month.

Read story in Metro here.

Watch Global News story here.

Hear CBC Radio story here.

Young violinist Amilia Hildahl won an honourable mention in this year’s American Protégé International Piano and Strings Competition.

The talent competition sees young musicians ages six to 18 from across North America, Europe, China, Korea, Mongolia, Poland, and Russia vying for top spots.

Amilia is taking to the famed concert hall’s stage May 26.

“It doesn’t feel real when I stop and think about it,” said Amilia, who has been a Conservatory student since she was six years old.

“I really do think I was suprised at the outcome. I didn’t think I didn’t have the potential, but I didn’t think I was there quite yet. But it’s something new and different to try out and it paid off,” she said.

Amilia studies violin under Conservatory faculty member Elisabeth Szojka.

She also plays second violin in the Conservatory’s Junior Orchestra under Benn Neumann.

One of the great advantages of studying at the Conservatory is the extensive array of musical activities that provide a complement to private instruction.

“For our string students, an important adjunct to private lessons is our orchestra program – a series of six string ensembles that progress from a child’s first ensemble experience, culminating in the Calgary Youth Orchestra, a full symphonic orchestra that plays professional repertoire,” says Sheldon Nadler, the Conservatory’s Manager of General and Orchestral Programs.

Amilia’s mother, Violetta, submitted an audition recording of Amilia performing Oskar Rieding’s Concertino in G op. 24, Sonata 4 in D minor variation 1 by Johann Christoph Pepusch and Hornpipe by George Coutts.

“I recorded her playing and thought whatever would happen would happen. I was just looking to see what her potential is,” said Violetta.

“She’s been really happy playing the violin and performing, so we’re just very happy she’d been able to reap the rewards. What she does later is up to her. It’s her choice entirely.”

Music runs in the family for three generations: not only is Amilia’s mother Violetta a piano teacher, but her grandmother Isabella is also a violinist and teacher.

“She’s always been around music,” said Violetta. “We’re very happy she’s been exposed to all this her entire life.”

For Amilia, the experience is worth the hard work and is sure to make a lifelong memory.

“I work hard, that’s typically my goal. I work hard and get something done and get my breaks, do whatever else I need to do,” she said.

“I think the violin will always stay as part of my life regardless if I take it on professionally.”

by Sherri Zickefoose, May 12, 2014

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

Spotlight on Searchlight contender


A chance stop at a garage sale while riding her bicycle last summer is paying off for Kate Phernambucq.

The 14-year-old spotted a used ukulele and just couldn’t resist.

It was the best $10 she’s ever spent.

Teaching herself to play the instrument has become more than a hobby for the Mount Royal Conservatory speech arts and vocal student.

It’s become a songwriting tool.

Now, the talented teen is vying for a top spot on CBC’s Searchlight competition – she’s hoping to get enough online votes for the grand prize.

“It’s been like a firestarter for me,” said Kate, who chatted with us en route to class.

While she’s new to strings, Kate has packed a lot of formal musical education into her 14 years.

She got her musical start as a Kodaly student. Since 2004, Kate has studied harp, voice and speech arts with the Conservatory.

Kate says her years studying drama and speech arts has given her the confidence to perform, most recently at a local café’s open mic night to showcase new songs.

“I love the energy from the audience, and I just love performing,” she said.

Her mother, Lisa, says early childhood music was always a priority for Kate and sister Emily, a former Academy student and national award-winning flutist now studying music at university.

Having both students grow with the Conservatory through the years shows that music and speech arts sets young people up for success.



Conservatory student Phoebe Powell to perform at ProArts

ProArts presents

Joined by Edward Powell (violin) and Karen Neary (piano), Phoebe Powell showcases the harp’s capacity to depict musical character, structure, and emotion with melodious eloquence and incisive contrapuntal clarity.
Along with her guests, Phoebe invites you to meet the five composers represented in this Neo-classically inspired programme:

-the delicately-ornamented conversation of C.Ph. E. Bach‘s Sonata in G for solo harp,
-the refined lyric passion of Massenet‘s Meditation from Thais for violin and harp,
-the witty, melancholic joie-de-vivre of Tailleferre‘s Sonate for solo harp,
-the bold percussiveness of John Weinzweig‘s Quarks for solo harp,
-and the alternately lush and puckish moods of Debussy‘s seductive Danses sacrées et profanes for harp and piano!

This concert is the final performance in a series of six performances this season by Emerging Young Artists presented with the generous support of the Harry and Martha Cohen Foundation.