Plucky Schulich School violinists dominate Canadian contests

Carissa Klopoushak won first prizein the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition on May 3 in Brandon, Manitoba. / Photo: Yakym Oneshuk
Carissa Klopoushak won first prize in the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition. / Photo: Yakym Oneshuk

By Chris Chipello

It’s been a big month for McGill string musicians.

Schulich School of Music violin students won the top two prizes in the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition on May 3 in Brandon, Manitoba. Less than two weeks later, in the Shean Strings Competition

in Edmonton, four other Schulich violinists turned in a remarkable performance of their own, sweeping the first four places.

In the Manitoba competition, Carissa Klopoushak, a doctorate student in performance at Schulich, won first prize – an award that includes $5,000 in cash and a coveted Canada-wide recital tour. Alexander Read, a

fourth-year Bachelor of Music student, took the $3,000 second prize.

Ewald Cheung, a 19-year-old undergraduate, won the $8,000 top prize in the May 14-15 Shean

contest. Schulich students Alissa Cheung (no relation to Ewald), Aaron Schwebel and Emily Westell placed second through fourth.

Klopoushak, Ewald Cheung, Schwebell and Westell study with Schulich violin professor Jonathan Crow, while Read and Alissa Cheung are students of Thomas Williams.

Klopoushak, along with piano collaborator Philip Chiu, will perform in Canadian cities from the Pacific Coast to the Maritimes, mostly in October and November. “That kind of national exposure is what’s enticing

about the prize,” she said in a telephone interview.

The so-called E-Gré Competition, in its 32nd year, champions Canadian music and is open only to Canadian musicians between the ages of 18 and 35. It was created as a tribute to composer, pianist and violinist Sophie-Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté.

The 26-year-old Klopoushak was a unanimous choice for first prize, “as she has the complete package of sensitive and powerful musicianship, effortless technique and a charismatic and engaging stage presence,”

said jury chair Megumi Masaki, an Assistant Professor at the Brandon University School of Music.

Klopoushak, who grew up in Saskatoon, graduated from the Univ. of Saskatchewan and was Principal Second Violin with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra before coming to McGill. Since moving to Montreal, she has

performed frequently with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. She is also a member of the Schulich String Quartet.

Read is the recent winner of both the McGill Concerto Competition of 2008/2009 and the McGill Classical Concerto Competition of 2008/2009. He has performed as soloist with the McGill Symphony Orchestra

this spring and will be a featured soloist in next year’s season as well.

The Shean Strings Competition is open to amateur musicians between 15 and 28 years of age who are residents of Canada, or to non-resident students now studying in Canada for a minimum of two school years.

Shean winner Ewald Cheung began his studies at the age of four at the Suzuki School in Edmonton. “It was nice to get (the Shean award) at home,” he said in a telephone interview from Alberta. “It was special to win it in front of my family,”

Runner-up Alissa Cheung graduated with a BSc (Honours) in Chemistry from the University of Alberta in 2007, before beginning her Bachelor’s program at McGill.