Music

Conductor Nicolas Ellis, 29, has won Canada's biggest music prize

The $125K Mécénat Musica Prix Goyer is awarded every 2 years to an emerging artist in the field of classical music.

The $125K Mécénat Musica Prix Goyer is awarded every 2 years to emerging artists in the classical music field

Nicolas Ellis founded the Montreal-based Orchestre de l'Agora in 2013. (Maxime Girard-Tremblay)

Conductor Nicolas Ellis is the winner of the 2021-22 Mécénat Musica Prix Goyer.

Ellis, 29, is the founding artistic director of the Montreal-based Orchestre de l'Agora, which he established to "reinvent the role of classical musicians in society by giving them the power to collectively increase their impact on the world through their talent and commitment," according to a statement.

Worth $125,000, the Mécénat Musica Prix Goyer is awarded every two years to an emerging artist in the field of classical music. It's the biggest prize of its kind in Canada.

"I am of course deeply honoured to receive the Mécénat Musica Prix Goyer," said Ellis, who was featured on CBC Music's classical "30 under 30" list in 2016. "Since it's attributed to a 'collaborative emerging artist,' I have to thank all the artists, orchestras and cultural institutions with whom I have collaborated in recent years."

Ellis completed his master's degree at McGill University. During the summer of 2019, he was part of the Verbier Festival Academy, as assistant conductor to music director Valery Gergiev. He is currently artistic partner to Yannick Nézet-Séguin's Orchestre Métropolitain. He also collaborates with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec on a regular basis.

"$50,000 of the Mécénat Musica Prix Goyer will go directly into the Mécénat Musica Orchestre de l'Agora perpetuity fund," says Ellis, explaining the financial breakdown of his prize. "The prize also comes with a composition by Mécénat Musica ambassador Matthias Maute (worth $13,500) called Noncerto RR10 Vieux Montréal, which I performed with the Orchestre de l'Agora at La Maison symphonique last July in front of 50 health-care workers. $11,500 is offered in the form of business coaching and, finally, there is $50,000 that will serve for my own artistic development that I will use as I wish."

Mécénat Musica describes itself as "a cultural program by donors for donors," encouraging individuals to donate to arts organizations, then soliciting major philanthropists to make parallel — but exponentially larger — donations. The organization hails this approach as "a major shift in cultural philanthropy." The prize is named for Jean-Pierre Goyer, former chair of the Conseil des arts de Montréal and Orchestre Métropolitain.

The past recipients of the Mécénat Musica Prix Goyer are pianist Philip Chiu (2015-16), violinist Marc Djokic (2017-18) and flutist Lara Deutsch (2019-20).

Below, Ellis conducts a performance of music by J.S. Bach.

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