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Creation and collaboration: A 5th birthday ode to Toronto's Toy Piano Composers collective

By Open Submission on October 6, 2013

Musicians rehearsing for Toy Piano Composers' fifth birthday concert (Instagram photo).
Musicians rehearsing for Toy Piano Composers’ fifth birthday concert (Instagram photo).

I have a conflicted relationship with new music. I’ve spent considerable time reading about it as a student, learning to perform it as a musician, facilitating it working for Musicworks magazine, and supporting it through the Canadian Music Centre. If you had asked me five years ago to sculpt a caricature of new music in Toronto, I would have put something wonderfully creative into a cardboard box, and hid it in a stairwell.

The hardest part of the concert-going experience is finding an entry point …

Enter the Toy Piano Composers.

This group of 20- and 30-somethings banded together shortly after graduating from composition programs in Toronto, with the realization that if they wanted to make a go of composition in this city, they’d have to create their own opportunities.

Five years later, Monica Pearce and Chris Thornborrow, along with Elisha Denburg, Tim Crouch and a group of dedicated composers and musicians, have established what I would argue to be this city’s most innovative, most successful new music concert series.

What is success? It’s creating opportunities for collaboration and creation between interesting people and their ideas, and then packaging that output in a concert environment that invites people in. Gets them engaged.

Success is packing houses every concert. It’s offering ticket prices that don’t break the bank ($15/$20). It’s accruing leagues of groupies (myself included) that faithfully collect the awesome concert-inspired pins created for every show. It’s building a community of adventure-seekers that chooses a TPC concert out of hundreds of entertainment options on any given evening.

The Toy Piano Composers supply a well-thought-out evening three times a year that is short (often just over an hour — a prelude to further evening escapades), licensed (this is brilliant), and never predictable.

From opera shorts (including a particularly memorable composition by Monica Pearce about a privileged bride-to-be painstakingly selecting her wedding cake to the chagrin of the baker and her hapless fiancé) to compositions inspired by film (including a beautifully evocative piece by Chris Thornborrow based on the Academy Award-nominated short Walking by Ryan Larkin), these performances are feasts for the eyes and ears.

Full stop!

I am floored by the diversity of the Toy Piano Composers’ music and the diversity of their audience. Every time.

Congratulations on 5 great years, Toy Piano Composers. I can’t wait to see where you take us in the next five.


The Toy Piano Collective celebrates its half0decade with TPC TURNS 5 on October 12 at 8 p.m., at Gallery 345 on Sorauren Ave in Parkdale. Details at www.toypianocomposers.com.

Andrea Warren
is former operations manager for Musicworks magazine, which is all about new music. She is now marketing and communications manager for Attila Glatz Concert Productions Inc, in Toronto.

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