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Tuckamore Festival’s educational program kick-starts careers

Tuckamore Festival young artist program alumni Natalie Finn (left), Mado Christie (middle) and Carole Bestvater (right) improvise at the Suncor Energy Hall.
Tuckamore Festival young artist program alumni Natalie Finn (left), Mado Christie (middle) and Carole Bestvater (right) improvise at the Suncor Energy Hall. - Juanita Mercer
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

For 19 years, the Tuckamore Festival has brought world-class chamber music to the province, presenting more than 150 guest artists since 2001.

In that timeframe, the festival has mentored more than 350 young musicians and composers through its Young Artist Program which runs concurrently with the festival.

“Right from the beginning 19 years ago, we really envisioned having both a performance series where we bring in world-class artists alongside this educational program,” said one of the festival’s artistic directors, Nancy Dahn. 

Her husband, Timothy Steeves, is the other artistic director.

Dahn said that when she was a young musician, she attended music festivals such as Tanglewood in Massachusetts, where beginning and established musicians worked alongside one another.

“It was a really transformative and transitional kind of experience in my life, and so we wanted to kind of create something like that here.”

Nearly two decades later, the impact of the Young Artist Program can be felt in the music community in St. John’s and provincewide.

Young artist alumni have won East Coast Music Awards and Juno Awards. 

They’ve performed with the Fitzwilliam String Quartet, Sybarite 5, Vancouver and Calgary symphony orchestras, the Dardanelles and Hey Rosetta.

Depending on the year, up to 50 per cent of the upper string section of the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO) is comprised of Tuckamore Festival alumni.

The Telegram spoke with three Young Artist Program alumni at the Suncor Energy Hall on Friday afternoon about the impact the program has had on their music careers. 

“None of us are from St. John’s, but the impact of the Tuckamore Festival brought us all here,” said Carole Bestvater, who hails from Saskatchewan. 

Bestvater is a violinist with the NSO and artistic director of Strong Harbour Strings, and performs in numerous folk and alt-rock bands. 

The program had a “direct influence” on collaborative pianist Mado Christie’s music career.

Originally from Toronto, Christie was studying with late pianist Peter Longworth, who suggested Christie attend Tuckamore as a young artist.

“And I loved it very much,” Christie said.

“I came back two more times as a young artist, and then eventually one other time after that.”

Today, the 27-year-old is the most sought-after accompanist at Memorial University's school of music.

Natalie Finn is originally from Carbonear, but moved to St. John’s to study at Memorial. She just completed her master's in violin performance/pedagogy, but she first attended the Tuckamore Fedtival when she was 17.

“It opened me up to what’s out there, because there was not a lot going on in Carbonear classical music-wise,” she said.

The festival’s combination of education and performance also makes for a unique audience experience.

“To see the two different sides of the spectrum of being in a music career,” said Bestvater.

“People who are just starting out trying to make a go at it, playing chamber music together because that’s what they love, and honing their craft, and seeing them on the same stage as someone who’s a world-renowned string quartet who's been doing the slog of a music career for decades.

“It’s really cool to sit in the same chair, in the same hall, and watch these people on the stage – it’s a really beautiful thing.”

At the Tuckamore Festival this year, guest artists include Grammy Award winners Parker Quartet, Juno Award winners Duo Concertante, as well as Quartetto Gelato, Bergmann Piano Duo, Erika Raum, David Harding, Florian Hoefner, Duane Andrews, Vernon Regehr and Andrew Staniland.

The two-week chamber music festival runs Aug. 5-18. Tickets are available online at tuckamorefestival.ca.

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com
Twitter: @juanitamercer_

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