School of Music holds undergraduate singing competition

 Photo by Marta Kierkus

They have more talent and training than your typical American Idol contestant. However as music students, the School of Music’s Chamber Competition contestants are better equipped as they compete for bursaries, experience, and a little bit of campus fame.

Returning this year, the Chamber Competition, supported by Ottawa’s local music publisher the Leading Note, is an extension of the Noon Hour Concert Series scheduled weekly on Wednesdays in Freiman Hall in Pérez Hall.

It starts with preliminary rounds on March 12 and 19 at 12 p.m. from which the finalists will be chosen to perform in the final on March 26 at 12 p.m. One panel of music professors will choose the finalists and a completely new panel will judge the finalists and choose the winners. Each winner will be given a bursary upon the competition’s completion: first place will receive $300, second place $200, and third place receives $100.

Pascal Viens, an undergraduate student majoring in voice and one of this year’s competitors says, “It’s always nice to have a scholarship opportunity, so the general concept of the competition is great.”

Though the final decision is up to a panel, audience members attending the preliminaries vote for the fifth member of the final round. In the competition two years ago, Alice Liu was voted to the finals and won first prize. Arts_PerezIdol_AliceLiuWEB

Liu is currently completing her first year of a master’s in piano performance at the U of O. She said the $300 bursary she won in 2012 was essential to funding her attendance at the Orford Arts Centre in Quebec during the summer of that year. Orford gives its participants the chance to participate in master classes and coaching with world-renowned artists.

Liu said the competition was “a great opportunity to perform a new piece in an environment where you know almost everyone and get professional feedback.”

This year she’ll be performing her first master’s recital on April 8 at 8 p.m. in Huguette Labelle Hall in Tabaret Hall.

Kevin Burke, currently completing a bachelor of music in horn, with a specialty in voice, performs in the preliminary on March 19.

“I think the prizes are a nice incentive, but I’m really more interested in the opportunity to perform and see how I measure up against my peers,” he said. “We’re in a competitive industry and it’s crucial to build experience in a more casual setting before we hit the job market.”

Viens agreed, saying the competition gives every student more incentive to practice. His one criticism was that anyone in the School of Music can participate, giving senior students an edge over the younger contestants.

“The playing field isn’t exactly level,” he said. “Which would probably be very irksome for the younger students whose goal is to win it.”

Even though the competition is limited to undergraduates it will still be tough. This year’s audience vote could be crucial to see younger participants in the final on March 26.