Calgary Stampede talent search winner combines cello and grunge

It’s not unusual to hear someone playing Nirvana. But it’s not everyday you hear someone playing Nirvana, on the cello.

Cellist Lizzy Munson takes $10,000 Stampede Talent Search prize

Stampede Talent Search winner Lizzy Munson

6 years ago
Duration 5:08
Stampede Talent Search winner Lizzy Munson performs a medley of Nirvana songs on her cello.

It's not unusual to hear someone play Nirvana.

But it's not everyday you hear someone play Nirvana on the cello.

Lizzy Munson combined the classical instrument with the band's grungy sound to beat out roughly 300 other amateur performers and take top spot at this year's Calgary Stampede Talent Search.

"It feels very overwhelming and amazing at the same time," the 21-year-old singer and musician told the Homestretch.

It took three rounds to reach the finals, the pressure building with each one.

"I feel like I was very nervous every round, but for the finals especially," she said.

"Much more was on the line, I guess."

Munson performed a cover of two of the band's biggest hits.

"If you've heard of the 2Cellos, they do a cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit... and I've played that as a cello duet and decided why not add some vocals and make this my own," she said.

"Then Heart Shaped Box, the idea just came to me one day and I just felt this could be something so I decided to go with it."

Lizzy Munson took first place in the 2016 Calgary Stampede Talent Search competition. (Lizzy Munson )

The combination of Nirvana and the cello had some doing a double-take.

"It's different for people because they see a cello and they expect classical, Vivaldi or Bach or something," said Munson. 

"Then they hear the whole rock solo and everything, so I think that was definitely an advantage."

Munson began playing cello at the age of five, but considers herself a singer more than a cellist.

"Vocals just came really naturally to me, not that cello didn't, but I think the cello is more… hard work," she said.

A member of the Young Canadians for the last six years, Munson said that training was pivotal to winning the Talent Search title.

"We're always learning performing techniques and how to really engage a crowd," she said.

"It's 16 hours a week of training."

Grand prize will help

The $10,000 prize could make travel a little easier.

"I was looking at carbon fibre cellos because you can play outdoors, which is a lot different than my wood one," she said.

"The other thing is, when I travel with my good cello, I have to buy a seat for it because it's so precious. Carbon fibre is a little less delicate but they still get the job done."

Some previous winners of the Stampede competition have gone on to solid careers in the music business — Paul Brandt being the most notable — and Munson is hoping to do the same.

"I spent the day today writing new music, and that's what I'm focusing on and performing where I can," she said.

"[Winning] certainly has fast-tracked a lot of things."

With files from the Homestretch