30 hot Canadian classical musicians under 30, 2016 edition

Here's our annual roundup of this country's emerging classical music talent.
Pianist Scott MacIsaac won first prize at the 2015 OSM Manulife Competition. (David Fung)

We're pleased to present the 2016 edition of our annual list of Canada's emerging classical music talent.

Yearly since 2013, we've been keeping our ear to the ground, polling conservatories, music competitions and professional training programs from coast to coast, and creating a who's who of the nation's next classical music stars.

Something new this year: all of the young musicians we're celebrating are newcomers to our 30-under-30 list.

Before we meet them, let's take a moment to reflect on the past 12 months, which have been huge for alumni of our 30-under-30 list. History-making, in fact, as the Canadian contingent at the 17th International Fryderyk Chopin Piano Competition achieved unprecedented success with Charles Richard-Hamelin placing second, Tony Yike Yang placing fifth and Annie Zhou reaching the second round.

30-under-30 alum Nikki Chooi was recently named concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and his brother Timothy, also a violinist, won the bronze medal at the 2015 Michael Hill Competition and released a new album.

Cellist Daniel Hass, who appeared on our 2013 list, won the 2016 Michael Measures Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts and nabbed top honours at the Stulberg International String Competition in Kalamazoo, Mich.

And 30-under-30 regular Jan Lisiecki continued being Jan Lisiecki, making his Carnegie Hall debut and playing piano concertos with the best.

But now it's time to get acquainted with this year's batch of young Canadian musicians, presented below in alphabetical order. Watch your local concert listings so you can go hear them in person — they need your support and you'll be able to say "I saw them when." And if there's a rising classical music star you'd like to tell us about, let us know on Twitter via @CBCclassical.

1. Jeanne Amièle, pianist

Age: 26
Hometown: Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Que.

Pianist Jeanne Amièle entered three competitions in 2015-16 and placed in the top 3 of each. She won third prize in the OSM Manulife Competition in November, second prize in the CMC Stepping Stone Competition in June, and in May she placed first in the Shean Piano Competition. As a result of the latter win, she gets to play a full concerto with the Edmonton Symphony, an opportunity she describes as "magical". What makes her such a fierce competitor? It could be her past experience playing keys in a heavy metal group. Or maybe it's just her overall drive: Amièle is in the final stages of her doctorate at the University of Montreal, studying stress-coping strategies for performers, thanks to a substantial Joseph-Armand-Bombardier research grant.

Jeanne Amièle won 1st prize at the 2016 Shean Piano Competition. (Frank Desgagnés)

2. Mikhailo Babiak, hornist

Age: 28
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

Mikhailo Babiak was named principal horn of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra in November and the first thing he had to play when he reported to work was Wagner's Siegfried, with its famously treacherous horn call in Act 2 (nailed that!). Another highlight from his first season in that job was Bizet's Carmen — he calls Russell Thomas's Don José "inspiring and humbling". When he's not in the orchestra pit, you're apt to find Babiak at SPiN (Toronto's ping-pong social club). He also loves to cook, practice yoga, and find quiet places to think around his city. An alumnus of the Royal Conservatory's Glenn Gould School, Babiak is especially looking forward to the COC's 2016-17 productions of Wagner's Götterdämmerung and Bellini's Norma, and to working again with tenor Thomas in the latter opera.

Mikhailo Babiak is principal horn of the Canadian Opera Orchestra. (Margot Schulman)

3. Michael Bridge, accordionist

Age: 23
Hometown: Calgary, Alta.

"Music is not a job, it's a lifestyle." Michael Bridge, the first accordionist ever to grace our 30-under-30 list, says he dedicates all his waking hours to performing, teaching and studying his instrument, and it's paying off. In May he received an Emerging Artist Award from the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. Last season, he performed as soloist with the Ontario Philharmonic String Quartet, the Lethbridge Philharmonic Orchestra, the University of Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Soundstreams. He also toured Ecuador, Poland, France and Canada with Double Double Duo, the group he co-founded with clarinettist Kornel Wolak. Bridge was the subject of a radio documentary on CBC Radio One's The Sunday Edition. Through all of that, he gave the world premiere of 15 new works. Upcoming in 2016-17, he'll finish his master's degree in accordion performance at U of T and play music by Astor Piazzolla and William Bridges with the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra.

In 2015-16, accordionist Michael Bridge played the world premieres of 15 new works. (Benjamin Laird Arts & Photo)

4. JJ Bui, pianist

Age: 12
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

"Your musicality is absolutely marvellous, very personal and you play with an incredibly beautiful sonority." That's high praise from conductor and jury member Yannick Nézet-Séguin upon viewing JJ Bui's Piano Hero video back in January. Bui won the grand prize in that contest and as a result travelled to Montreal to make a couple of music videos (see below) and have a lesson with David Jalbert. Building on that success, he went on to win first prize in the junior category of the Midwest International Piano Competition in Iowa in June. (Second prize was nabbed by another young Canadian, Arthur Wang.) We've said it before and we'll say it again: JJ all the way!

5. Thomas Chartré, cellist

Age: 24
Hometown: Montreal, Que.

Thomas Chartré just completed his master's degree at the Paris Conservatory, where they were no doubt impressed by his beautiful 1841 Charles François "Gand Père" cello, on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts. In 2015, he played Haydn's Concerto in D major with l'Orchestre de la Francophonie, and just last month (on his 24th birthday) he gave a recital at the Elora Festival. But it's as a chamber musician that Chartré, a two-time recipient of a Sylva Gelber Music Foundation grant, is really making his mark. As a member of the Quatuor Miron, he'll play Bach's The Art of Fugue in November at Montreal's Chapelle historique du Bon Pasteur, and back in Paris, he'll perform music from the Belle Époque at the Musée national Jean-Jacques Henner with Trio Zadkine. It's not all serious music-making though: Chartré occasionally lets loose with a good swing-dancing session.

Cellist Thomas Chartré recently completed his master's degree at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (Supplied by Thomas Chartré)

6. Barbara Cole Walton, soprano

Age: 29
Hometown: Chemainus, B.C.

Coloratura soprano Barbara Cole Walton is spending the summer in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire, England, where she's singing in a double bill at Bamptom Opera, including the role of Baucis in Gluck's one-act Philemon and Baucis that will show off her sparkling high Gs. Just another day at the office for this Sylva Gelber Music Foundation award recipient and 2015 graduate of Scotland's Royal Conservatoire, who in February sang "My Illness is the Medicine I Need", a song cycle by Thomas Larcher, with Ensemble Kontraste at the Nürnberg Tafelhalle. Despite all the glamour, Cole Walton loves simple domestic pursuits: she's a former blogger on baking and recently took up crochet. Her latest creation? A shark hat for her sister's cat. 

Soprano Barbara Cole Walton sings Isabella in Rossini's L'Inganno felice. (Amy Turner)

7. Julia Dawson, mezzo-soprano

Age: 27
Hometown: Cobourg, Ont.

Could things be going any better for mezzo-soprano Julia Dawson? In March, she won the $8,700 Anny Schlemm Prize, awarded every five years to a singer on the roster at Oper Frankfurt, where she's been a member of the opera studio since September and made her debut as Tebaldo in Verdi's Don Carlo. She also made her New York and Washington, D.C., debuts this season in Opera Lafayette's production of Vivaldi's Catone in Utica in which she had a blast playing Emilia, her first villainess (the New York Times called her a spitfire!). She returns to Frankfurt next season for roles in Britten's Paul Bunyan, and Verdi's Stiffelio and Rigoletto. Dawson says one of her pastimes is furnishing her friends with cocktails. We'll drink to that!

Julia Dawson was on the roster of Oper Frankfurt for the 2015-16 season. (Hailey Dennis)

8. Emily D'Angelo, mezzo-soprano

Age: 21
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

In March, Emily D'Angelo was one of five winners of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition finals in New York, and at 21, one of the youngest singers ever to receive this distinction. Four months before that, the U of T undergraduate won first prize in Centre Stage, the Canadian Opera Company's annual Ensemble Studio Competition. This followed her European debut at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, as Cherubino in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro under the direction of James Conlon. Not bad for a hyperactive girl who got a C in her Grade 1 music class! If you want to hear for yourself what all the fuss is about, head to Toronto's Koerner Hall on Nov. 11 for D'Angelo's Generation Next recital with pianist Steven Philcox, or catch her Canadian Opera Company debut as the Zweite Dame in Mozart's Magic Flute in January.

In 2016, mezzo-soprano Emily d'Angelo was one of 5 winners of the Metropolitan Opera's National Council Auditions. (Dragonfly Imagery)

9. David Dias da Silva, clarinettist

Age: 29
Hometown: Montreal, Que.

David Dias da Silva concluded his 2015-16 season by winning the Prix d'Europe and taking first prize at the CMC's Stepping Stone Competition. That definitely qualifies as a mic drop, especially since it followed a busy year that saw him playing as a guest of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra in Japan and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. Next year, Dias da Silva will divide his time between Montreal, where he's finishing up his artist diploma at McGill's Schulich School of Music, and Switzerland, where he'll be filling the solo clarinet position in the Sinfonieorchester Basel. In September, also in Basel, he plays one of the principal clarinet parts in the opera Donnerstag aus Licht by Stockhausen — an event we look forward to experiencing vicariously through his prolific group selfies on Facebook. 

Clarinettist David Dias da Silva won the 2016 Prix d'Europe. (Simon Hallström)

10. Lauren Eberwein, mezzo-soprano

Age: 23
Hometown: Qualicum Beach, B.C.

Lauren Eberwein joins the Canadian Opera Company's Ensemble Studio this season after nabbing second prize in its annual Centre Stage competition. She'll sing Wellgunde in its production of Wagner's Götterdämmerung in February and will be part of the COC's school tour of Matthew Aucoin's Second Nature, a children's opera. "I can't wait to be back in Canada making music," she enthuses, after a stellar year in residence at Opera Philadelphia and graduating from the Curtis Institute, where a highlight of the season was performing Maurice Ravel's Shéhérazade with the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Verizon Hall. The best things we learned about Eberwein? She's planning to adopt a dog in the near future and she played elite hockey until age 15 when she decided to focus on music.

Mezzo-soprano Lauren Eberwein is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music. (Andrew Bogard)

11. Taz Eddy, trumpeter

Age: 26
Hometown: Maple Ridge, B.C.

2015-16 was a pretty solid concert season for freelance trumpeter Taz Eddy. He had his first gig with the National Arts Centre Orchestra, played principal trumpet with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens (including 18 sold-out shows of The Nutcracker), went on tour in the U.S. with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at Carnegie Hall was a highlight) and recorded and performed with Half Moon Run for their latest album and Montreal shows. In his rare down time, Eddy likes to cook vegetarian dishes — "so long as what I'm eating didn't have parents, I want to try it" — and make his own repurposed furniture. He's looking forward to performances of Prokofiev's Romeo et Juliette and Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens in 2016-17.

In his spare time, trumpeter Taz Eddy makes his own repurposed furniture. (Francis Leduc-Bélanger)

12. Nicolas Ellis, conductor

Age: 25
Hometown: Chicoutimi, Que.

Nicolas Ellis lists soccer and wine as his two primary interests outside music, so we like him already. He's been assistant conductor in residence at the Quebec Symphony Orchestra since September and in October received the $8,000 Heinz Unger Award from the Ontario Arts Council. Last year he made his debut with the North Czech Philharmonic Teplice at the Rudolfinum in Prague. He founded l'Orchestre symphonique de l'Agora in 2012 to revitalize classical music and raise funds for humanitarian causes and its October 2015 concert with pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin was broadcast by ICI Musique. Ellis will make his debut with l'Orchestre Métropolitain in April/May 2017 and will conduct Symphony No. 1 by Prokofiev — one of his favourite composers — with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra in October.

Nicolas Ellis is assistant conductor in residence of the Quebec Symphony Orchestra. (Stéphane Bourgeois)

13. Matthew Emery, composer

Age: 24
Hometown: London, Ont.

If you sing in a choir, there's a good chance you've sung music by Matthew Emery. He won the 2016 Lloyd Carr-Harris Composers Competition for his piece "O My Love;" his piece "Still Colors (Velvet Shoes)" was performed Dec. 23, 2015, at the White House holiday concert​ (yes, that White House), and in April he did a week-long residency in Doylestown, Pa., where they held a festival of his music. His composition teacher at U of T, Christos Hatzis, calls him "without a doubt [...] one of the most successful choral composers anywhere." Emery is currently working on a commission from the Bach Music Festival of Canada for full orchestra, choir and soloists. In January, Centrediscs will release an album of his choral works. His career is soaring, which may explain why he collects these glass birds but not why he's currently addicted to Pokémon Go.

Composer Matthew Emery was born in London, Ont. (Boyu Wang)

14. Darren Hicks, bassoonist

Age: 26
Hometown: Middleton, N.S.

"I love the outdoors; if I could live in a camper van I would do so in a heartbeat," confides bassoonist Darren Hicks. But since that isn't possible at the moment, he did the next best thing and moved to Miami Beach, Fla., for a fellowship at the New World Symphony (NWS). He just finished his first season there, and says highlights were working with conductors Susanna Mälkki and Michael Tilson Thomas. He also got his contemporary music fix last December playing a challenging program with Continuum Contemporary Music at a Montreal concert ("I was very happy to have a week off to recuperate afterward."). Hicks is already looking forward to next season, when Bernard Labadie will lead the NWS in a baroque and Classical program. Priorities? Yeah, he has those figured out: "Once I've decided that I've had enough of the bassoon, my plan is to move into the country somewhere (like a hermit) and build canoes."

Darren Hicks plays in the New World Symphony. (Nicola Betts)

15. Alan (Xu Kun) Liu, guitarist

Age: 14
Hometown: Xi'An, China. Currently lives in Richmond, B.C.

In June, Alan Liu placed second in the senior division of the Guitar Foundation of America International Youth Competition. He was actually too young to compete in that category, but he had previously won the junior division (14 and under) so what's a guy to do? He also won the adult division of the Northwest Guitar Competition in 2015, among other distinctions. As a laureate of the VSO School of Music's Future of Excellence Competition, Liu played with the VSO in November and has recitals planned in Vancouver and Seattle later this year. His teacher, Daniel Bolshoi, calls him "a once-in-a-generation talent." Did we mention he's also an accomplished pianist? He received his Grade 10 certificate from the Royal Conservatory of Music last year and is now working on his ARCT repertoire. Just wow.

Alan Liu is the the grand award winner of the 2016 Vancouver Kiwanis Music Festival. (Xin Liang Liu)

16. Janaya Lo, pianist

Age: 10
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

Janaya Lo may be the youngest pianist enrolled in the Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists at the Royal Conservatory of Music, where she studies with Dianne Werner, but she's racking up awards like a veteran. She was the grand prize winner in the 7-to-10-year-old category of the 2015 Canadian Music Competition and she placed third in Radio-Canada TV's Virtuose contest, hosted by Gregory Charles. Lo, who regularly entertains the residents of a nursing home in Toronto, admits to being a book worm ("Lots and lots of books!"). Coming up, she'll perform at La Fête de la Musique in Mont-Tremblant, Que., and give a recital — her fourth! — at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Janaya Lo studies at the Phil and Eli Taylor Academy for Performance Artists at the Royal Conservatory of Music. (Julie-Ann Lo)

17. Josh Lovell, tenor

Age: 25
Hometown: Victoria, B.C.

Josh Lovell credits his second-degree black belt in Shotokan karate with the discipline and confidence he brings to his singing. Last season, he sang the lead tenor roles in each of the operas produced at the University of Michigan, where he's working on his master's in voice performance, including Rinuccio in Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, Ferrando in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, and Bao Yu in an opera workshop of Bright Sheng's Dream of the Red Chamber with San Francisco Opera. In May, he placed fifth in the Opera Columbus Cooper-Bing International Vocal Competition. This summer, he's enrolled in the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera. Fans in his hometown will hear him in December singing the tenor solos in Victoria Symphony's Messiah.

Tenor Josh Lovell is a participant at the 2016 Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera. (Cathie Fergusen)

18. Scott MacIsaac, pianist

Age: 24
Hometown: Calgary, Alta.

Scott MacIsaac walked away from the 2015 MSO Manulife Competition $17,500 richer, winning the grand prize, first prize in the senior piano category, the Michèle-Paré Prize and the Stingray Audience Prize. As a result of that strong showing, he performed with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra in February and will give a solo recital at the MSO's Classical Spree on Aug. 13. Recent engagements include Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Guildhall Symphony Orchestra in May and Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 with the YOA Orchestra of the Americas on tour in Sweden in July. When he's not amazing people with his mad pianistic skills, MacIsaac enjoys hiking the Canadian Rockies, playing soccer, swimming, cooking, photography, and reading. In September he will Rach the Rock with the Newfoundland Symphony under Marc David.

Scott MacIsaac won first prize in the senior piano category at the 2015 MSO Manulife Competition. (David Fung)

19. Frédéric-Alexandre Michaud, violinist and conductor

Age: 22
Hometown: Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, Que.

Classical musicians can make easy targets for high school bullies. Add to that a part-time job in the school cafeteria — hair net and all — and you'll wonder how violinist Frédéric-Alexandre Michaud actually survived. But survive he did, and now the young violinist has started his own orchestra, l'Orchestre intemporel, and plays in the band SHYRE, which gave three sold-out shows at this year's Montreal International Jazz Festival. Michaud was also a contestant on the popular Quebec TV show Le Banquier, on a special MSO-themed program (he admits to watching too much TV, but really, who doesn't?). Next season he'll play music by George Onslow alongside Mark Fewer and Ali Kian Yazdanfar at La Chapelle historique du Bon Pasteur in Montreal, on top of his final violin recital at McGill's Schulich School of Music.

Frédéric-Alexandre Michaud studies violin at McGill's Schulich School of Music. (Francis Leduc-Bélanger)

20. Mark Morton, percussionist

Age: 29
Hometown: Halifax, N.S.

The first thing to know about Mark Morton is that he's a reservist member of the Canadian Forces, drumming with the Fusiliers de Mont-Royal. He's also a founding member of Architek Percussion, with whom he's performing this summer in Norway and the U.K., and touring Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes in 2016-17 under the auspices of les Jeunesses Musicales du Canada and Debut Atlantic (if you've never seen Architek's Christmas videos, you've been missing out). A finalist in the 2015 OSM Manulife Competition, Morton is also a mean pianist and a professional chorister at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal. And in case that's not enough, he's a self-described beer and coffee snob and — get this — a municipal planning enthusiast!

Mark Morton is a member of Architek Percussion. (Maud Guay-Jadah)

21. Emily Oulousian, pianist

Age: 16
Hometown: Brossard, Que.

Emily Oulousian got a huge boost last season when she placed first in Radio-Canada TV's Virtuose contest, hosted by Gregory Charles, an experience she describes as "simply incredible" and that resulted in a cross-Quebec concert tour. Oulousian also placed second in the Canadian Music Competition in June in Drummondville, Que., learning the third movement of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2 in one month to play in the competition's final round, and said: "It was extremely stressful, but in the end, it became a great experience."

In her spare time, she plays football — taking care not to hurt her fingers! — and says that while she appears tough on the outside, she's actually an "extremely emotional person." With high school graduation on the horizon, Oulousian is weighing a career in music versus one in medicine.

Pianist Emily Oulousian played a selection from Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals with l'Orchestre Métropolitain in March 2016 at Theatre Outremont. (Courtesy of artist)

22. Matt Poon, composer and pianist

Age: 29
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

You may know Matt Poon as the pianist who won the 2016 Eckhart-Gramatté Competition, but that only tells part of his story. A former oboist and gymnast, and an alumnus of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, Poon is also an accomplished composer. His solo piano work, Shimmering Blue Glass, was featured in the Globe and Mail video Integral House: A space for music designed by a millionaire mathematician. Last season he was a guest artist with gamUT (a contemporary music ensemble at U of T), made his solo recital debut at the Casalmaggiore International Music Festival in Italy, and performed at the Orford Arts Centre. In November, watch for his national Eckhart-Gramatté prize-winning concert tour on which he'll play music by Brian Cherney, Gyorgy Ligeti, James Mobberley, John Cage, André Ristic, Jean Papineau-Couture, Gordon Monahan, Jeffrey Ryan and himself. He's also working on a new work for the Piano and Erhu Project.

Matt Poon won first prize at the 2016 Eckhardt-Gramatté Competition. (Ashley Chui)

23. Philippe Prud'homme, pianist

Age: 24
Hometown: Saint-Jérôme, Que.

Philippe Prud'homme won the grand prize in the senior category of the 2016 Canadian Music Competition, playing Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 in the final round' it's his favourite, along with the rarely heard Piano Concerto, Op. 20, by Alexander Scriabin. In fact, Prud'homme will begin his doctorate in music at the University of Montreal in September, preparing a recital of all 90 Preludes by Scriabin. In the 2015-16 season, he gave an all-Frederic Rzewski concert and performed the world premiere of Trinômes, a three-movement work by Canadian composer François Morel. And since being a piano whiz isn't enough, Prud'homme also wrote the music for an operetta, La Vague Parfaite, for a new production by Théâtre du Futur performed at 12 sold-out shows at Théâtre Espace Libre in Montreal.

Pianist Philippe Prud'homme won the grand prize at the 2016 Canadian Music Competition. (Réjean Beaulieu)

24. Rolston String Quartet

Average age: 28
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

We normally don't include ensembles on our list, but the Rolston String Quartet is on fire. In April, they won first prize at the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition; in May, they took third prize at the inaugural M-Prize Competition at the University of Michigan and received the Prix Durosoir for their performance of Lucien Durosoir's String Quartet No. 3 at the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition. They've been selected as one of 10 competing quartets — and the only fully Canadian ensemble — at the Banff International String Quartet Competition coming up at the end of August. The group is named after violinist Thomas Rolston, founder and longtime director of the Music and Sound Programs at the Banff Centre, and first violinist Luri Lee plays Rolston's violin. They're currently the graduate quartet in residence at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music in Houston, Texas.

Pictured below, the members of the Rolston String Quartet are: Jeff Dyrda (violin), Luri Lee (violin), Hezekiah Leung (viola) and Jonathan Lo (cello).

The Rolston String Quartet won first prize at the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition. (Tianxiao Zhang Photography)

25. Chelsea Rus, soprano

Age: 25
Hometown: Abbostford, B.C.

In February, Chelsea Rus won the inaugural $25,000 Wirth Vocal Prize held at McGill's Schulich School of Music, where she recently completed her master's degree, studying with Joanne Kolomyjec. Earlier in the school year, she made a big impression as Adina in Opera McGill's production of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. In September she joins l'Atelier lyrique of l'Opéra de Montréal and will make her company debut as Frasquita in Bizet's Carmenin May 2017. Rus will make her Toronto recital debut on Dec. 1, singing a program of songs by Schubert, Strauss and Poulenc at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre. While she looks elegant in concert dress, Rus is equally at home mountain climbing, fishing and camping. And don't even bother challenging her to a game of foosball.

Soprano Chelsea Rus won the inaugural Wirth Vocal Prize in February 2016. (Abbye Dahl Photography)

26. Albert Seo, cellist

Age: 18
Hometown: Burnaby, B.C.

Not long after celebrating his 18th birthday, Albert Seo made his debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra playing Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme in July. It was the culmination of an exciting concert season that saw him receive the Bach Award at the 2015 Stulberg International String Competition in Kalamazoo, Mich., win the senior division of the VSO School of Music's 2015 Future of Excellence Competition, and spend his first year studying at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. In his spare time, Seo is a competitive chess player, does origami and dreams of one day building a cello. In addition to brains and talent, he's also got a big heart: with two concerts he raised $2,000 for Operation Smile and KFACE (Kenya Foundation Aiding Children through Education).

Cellist Albert Seo was the VSO School of Music’s Future of Excellence Senior Division Winner in 2015. (Adam Luk)

27. Magali Simard-Galdès, soprano

Age: 25
Hometown: Rimouski, Que.

Magali Simard-Galdès has racked up quite a few honours over the past year: she was a semifinalist at the Wigmore Hall International Song Competition, made her European debut at the Wexford Festival Opera and won the 2016 Vancouver Opera Guild career development grant and the 2016 Maureen Forrester Award from Les Jeunesses Musicales du Canada. With a master's degree from the Conservatoire de Montréal under her belt, she'll make her Opéra de Montréal debut as Soeur Constance de Saint-Denis in Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites in January. Passionate about the environment, Simard-Galdès manages to do all these things while conducting — as much as possible — an eco-friendly lifestyle. (We're green with envy.)

Magali Simard-Galdès won the 2015 Maureen Forrester Award. (Larissa Lognay)

28. Bekah Simms, composer

Age: 26
Hometown: Mount Pearl, Nfld.

Probably one of the main reasons composer Bekah Simms is so hot right now is her probing curiosity: "I get sucked down these information wormholes where I can jump from reading about the origin of birds to humanity's dispersal through Oceania to the amazing landscape of Saturn's moon Enceladus." She's also into a wide range of music, from classical to metal, weird rock and prog, folk and indie. Her string quartet, Murmuring Bones, was one of six Canadian works selected for the International Society of Contemporary Music's 2016 World Music Days in Tongyeong, Korea. Last year was also the inaugural season of Caution Tape Sound Collective, which Simms co-founded and co-directs with August Murphy-King, and they produced two shows. Upcoming projects include a piece for solo soprano saxophone and electronics that she's writing for Chelsea Shanoff, and a collaboration with St. John's-based Duo Concertante on a sesquicentennial commission in 2017.

Composer Bekah Simms hails from Mount Pearl, Nfld. (Josephine Norman)

29. Marina Thibeault, violist

Age: 27
Hometown: Quebec City, Que.

Radio-Canada named violist Marina Thibeault its classical "Révélation" for 2016-17 and part of that designation will be the production of her debut album (Hindemith, Martinu and a new sonata by Ana Sokolovic). Thibeault, who won first prize in the string category of the 2015 Prix d'Europe, played the Schnittke Viola Concerto with the McGill Symphony Orchestra in February, and the Stamitz Viola Concerto with the Camerata Orchestra in Santiago, Chile, in June. She's a founding member of Trio Canoë — with clarinettist Jean-François Normand and pianist and Philip Chiu — and they'll do a Debut Atlantic tour in September and October. Thibeault was recently given the use of a 1854 Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume viola and a W.E. Hill & Sons bow, on generous loan from Canimex. In addition to hearing her play that beautiful instrument, you could also take a Sivananda Yoga class with her (she's a certified teacher). Also, pug dogs? She's a big fan.

Marina Thibeault won first prize in the string category of the 2015 Prix d’Europe. (Mathieu Lavoie)

30. Stephanie Zou, pianist

Age: 14
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.

Stephanie Zou wisely combines her love of travel and her skills on piano by entering competitions in Europe, and she's cleaning up. Last summer, she won first prize in the B category at the 2015 Young Piano Stars International Competition in Königs Wusterhausen, Germany, and in June, she placed second in the E category of the Sixth International Piano Talents Competition in Milan, Italy. A student of Marietta Orlov at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Zou tells us her favourite composer is Beethoven. Her father points out that she has an exceptional memory and is able to instantly recall 16-digit credit card numbers — a skill that could come in handy if you were planning to buy a new grand piano online (just sayin'!). We predict a bright future.

In June 2016, pianist Stephanie Zou placed 2nd at the 6th International Piano Competition in Milan, Italy. (Courtesy of artist)


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