U of O alumnus Bryan Wagorn talks working with the NAC to conducting at the Metropolitan Opera

This June, the National Arts Centre (NAC), stage to some of the world’s finest musicians, actors, and performers, celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Young Artists Program (YAP), an opportunity for musical coaching and instruction offered to promising students.

This year, the NAC along with the University of Ottawa, hosted 70 internationally renowned artists and faculty members to assist with the program, one of whom is U of O alumnus, Bryan Wagorn, assistant conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

As part of the YAP, Wagorn taught a  joint masterclass at the U of O on June 15 with Arianna Zukerman, giving lessons to pianists, as well as chamber music coaching.

Wagorn, an Ottawa native, began his musical journey at a young age, specialising in piano and continued his studies at the U of O, where he was encouraged to apply for the YAP.

It was through the program that Wagorn began working with the Metropolitan Opera as a music coach and, was kept on as an assistant conductor, an achievement he attributes to the everyday grind.

“The newspapers try to make it seem like ‘oh overnight success, star is born,’ not true at all,” Wagorn said.

“You see the progress over a period of time but it has to start somewhere…even if you get a little bit better each day, after months or weeks or years, you’re going to be in a much higher place,” he explained.

“With my career, it was never a big jump, it’s not like I was doing nothing and then suddenly I was a big star…it’s just all these little things.”

According to Wagorn, although “a lot of high level music students want to go to the US,” the U of O was an ideal environment to cultivate his skillset, thanks to scholarship opportunities which allowed him to complete his studies.

“It’s great that we have a music department, and people can learn, no matter what path they take in the end,” he shared, although he does regret not taking advantage of the French opportunities at the U of O. “Having it here and having the chance to grow and study is really special.”

Wagorn also believes strongly in making connections as a student. “When I was studying I thought ok it’s the teachers who are going to make my career, but it’s also the students,” he said. One such example, is Joyce El-Khoury, another U of O alumna and Opera singer who helped Wagorn with the ins and outs of the Metropolitan Opera.

For aspiring musicians, Wagorn’s advice is simple: “Everything you do, do the best you can, with the means you have.”

The Young Artists Program will be running until June 23. For more information about upcoming concerts, you can visit the NAC’s website.