DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

FEATURE | Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s 2020 Competition Gives Young Musicians More Opportunity

By Anya Wassenberg on November 11, 2020

The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, home to one of Canada’s oldest music competitions, felt it was doubly important to continue the competition this year.

Sarah Willlis (Photo: Gregor Hohenberg)
Sarah Willlis (Photo: Gregor Hohenberg)

In partnership with The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal

The 81st edition of the OSM (Orchestre symphonique de Montréal) Competition is running online in a digital-only version for 2020. The competition officially opened on October 16, and runs until December 12, providing a much-needed opportunity for young Canadian musicians age 25 and under during the pandemic lockdown.

This year’s competition focuses on woodwind and brass instruments, encompassing flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone, horn, trumpet, trombone, bass trombone, and tuba players.

“We shift around the categories each year,” explains competition jury member Paul Merkelo, Juno-nominated Principal Trumpet with the OSM, and a respected soloist who has performed with orchestras around the world.

With stages and live performance shut down across the country, it has created a vacuum of opportunity, particularly for younger musicians. Concerts, festivals, and many other competitions have been cancelled, and looking ahead, next year’s season offers few opportunities for any classical musicians.

That’s one reason why the OSM Competition felt it was doubly important to continue the competition this year. As with most other music competitions around the world, participants perform a selected repertoire in front of a panel of judges — it’s just that, this year, the performances will be executed and viewed on video.

Paul Merkelo (Photo courtesy of the artist)
Paul Merkelo (Photo courtesy of the artist)

“We can’t wait to do it in person,” Merkelo says. Digital technology is a facilitator. “It would have been a shame if we’d had to cancel it.”

The unprecedented situation called for innovation. “That changed opportunities,” he notes. “It’s a huge hurdle, but one that can lead to innovation.” Merkelo points out that, nowadays, an online presence is an essential component of any career as a professional musician, from social media to the video performances required for the competition.

The prizes are substantial for young performers. “We have more than $45,000 in scholarships. I’ve been giving one for over 20 years,” Merkelo says. The scholarships began under the name Paul Merkelo Scholarship, which he established to recognize gifted young brass players. “I want to expand the focus,” he explains.

The competition aims to give young musicians more than just an opportunity to shine in a competitive environment. “If you win a competition, it’s sort of over and done,” Merkelo notes. The OSM Competition offers a more comprehensive experience. “Our initiative is to really propel young musicians to the international stage.”

He points out that the results speak for themselves, including a long list of former competitors who went on to successful professional careers, and even those who didn’t win the top prizes. 2017 First Prize winner Brian Mangrum was appointed Principal Horn of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Ohio at the age of 23.

The judging process for the digital version of the OSM Competition required some adjustments as well. “I’m preparing myself. Sound quality is hard to judge,” Merkelo notes. Still, video can offer a more intimate and close-up view of the performer. “You can tell a lot from a video. Are they making it effortless?” Merkelo has a background of experience teaching online, including a major project in Santa Barbara, where he is on the faculty of the Music Academy of the West.

It also boils down to basics. “We’re going to see who’s been practising,” he says, noting that the pandemic lockdown has provided as well as taken away, if time is used wisely. “This is a great opportunity to work on your fundamentals.”

They’re counting on the innovation and adaptability of young musicians. Making videos is part of any classical musicians career in the 21st century — even pre-COVID.

“The first thing they ask for is your video content,” Merkelo says. “That’s what presenters are looking for. It’s the future of classical music.”

His advice for any competitors is simple. “Enjoy this process. Of course, you want to be as technically perfect as possible,” he notes, “but more important is someone who is able to show their personality and the music on video.”

It shows great artistic vision, and that’s exactly what they’re looking for.

Along with performance, the OSM Competition offers its participants visibility online to audiences across the country via a network of partners. There are also professional development opportunities, including master classes and other exchanges with jury members and musicians of the OSM.

Competition participants are able to participate in valuable networking opportunities for serious students in virtual meetings.

Schools from all over Quebec will be able to participate in a Q&A session with OSM musicians, who will also be featured in a series of inspirational video capsules entitled Confessions of a musician.

Interested audiences can follow the competition as it unfolds from the OSM Competition microsite. The site will be updated on a continuous basis with news, videos and more.

#LUDWIGVAN

Get the daily arts news straight to your inbox.

Sign up for the Ludwig van Daily — classical music and opera in five minutes or less HERE.

Follow me

Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
Follow me
Follow me

Anya Wassenberg

Anya Wassenberg is a Senior Writer and Digital Content Editor at Ludwig Van. She is an experienced freelance writer, blogger and writing instructor with OntarioLearn.
Follow me
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Arvo Pärt’s Choral Devotions Occupy A Space All Their Own

By Norman Lebrecht on November 20, 2020

Alternately hypnotic and uplifting, this recent release spotlights Arvo Pärt's choral work.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

ANALYSIS | Canadian Opera Company Annual Report Shows Impact From COVID-19

By Michael Vincent on November 2, 2020

The Canadian Opera Company's annual performance data shows the impact of COVID-19 could have been much worse.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

FEATURE | Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s 2020 Competition Gives Young Musicians More Opportunity

By Anya Wassenberg on November 11, 2020

The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, home to one of Canada’s oldest music competitions, felt it was doubly important to continue the competition this year.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.