Celebration of Music Week marks new directions for The Glenn Gould Prize as Pre-eminent International Arts Award

By Penny Johnson, GGF Contributing Author

Celebrating the legacy of Canadian icon Glenn Gould, in conjunction with the festivities surrounding the presentation of the Eighth Glenn Gould Prize to Dr. José Antonio Abreu (founder of the Venezuelan musical miracle El Sistema) in October of 2009, The Glenn Gould Foundation captured the attention of the world through a four-day series of ambitious and innovative events held in Toronto.

Engaging students from across Ontario, as well as educators, policy-makers, legislators, and arts patrons from eight different countries, The Glenn Gould Foundation signaled a turning point in its efforts not only to celebrate great musical performances, but also to underscore the vital importance of music and arts education as agents of human development.

Gala Concert at The Four Seasons Centre - October 26, 2009

The Celebration of Music Week began with a performance by the 250-piece Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra (SBYO) in their spectacular Canadian debut at The Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.  The orchestra was led by conducting sensation and former El Sistema pupil, Gustavo Dudamel.  Sponsored by The Bay and hosted by CBC legend Andy Barrie, a crowd of 2,000 attendees were delighted with the orchestra’s performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony and a host of Latin American works. The audience nearly raised the roof with their thunderous applause, demanding multiple encores.

Preceding the concert, The Glenn Gould Foundation President, Glenn Morley presented the Eighth Glenn Gould Prize to Dr. Abreu.  Toronto Mayor David Miller presented Maestro Dudamel with The Glenn Gould City of Toronto Protégé Prize.  In addition to their monetary prizes of $50,000 and $15,000 respectively, both Abreu and Dudamel received bronze statues of Glenn Gould designed by artist, Ruth Abernethy, as well as framed artwork by pencil artist, Yuka Zuver.  Other pre-concert events included an open rehearsal with Maestro Dudamel that afternoon and later, an exclusive pre-gala reception in the Jackman Lounge for concert guests.

Educational & Community Outreach Concerts - October 27, 2009

As part of their four-day residency in Toronto, members of the SBYO  visited 9 schools and 5 community venues across the GTA, where they performed and spoke about music to nearly 5,000 students for a total of 14 concerts.

Schools visited included Sir William Osler, Harbord CI, Sir John A Macdonald, Silverthorn CI, Sir Oliver Mowat, Central Commerce, North Albion, Earl Haig, and Humberside.  Community venues visited included Dixon Hall, SKETCH, University Settlement House (Music Gallery), Regent Park School of Music (St. Cyril Church), and Miles Nadal JCC. The community venues provide music and arts education to inner city youth, street kids, and other at-risk youth groups.

The Promise of Music: A One-Day Symposium on Music Education - October 28, 2009

Photo by Chris Young.

With the objective of transforming young minds and lives, sharing ideas, and bringing together the world leaders in music education, this one-day symposium was held at the spectacular new Koerner Hall at The Royal Conservatory and throughout the Conservatory’s new TELUS Centre. Organized by a joint partnership between The Glenn Gould Foundation and The SOCAN Foundation, over 400 people attended and the day featured a keynote address by Glenn Gould Prize Laureate and founder of El Sistema, Dr. José Antonio Abreu.  Hosted by Canadian singer-songwriter, Murray McLauchlan, and with special guests, Linda Ronstadt, Dr. Daniel Levitin, Senator Tommy Banks, the Mully Children’s Choir from Kenya, and various leaders of El Sistema-inspired programs from around the world, the day concluded with the Canadian debut performance of the Venezuelan Brass Ensemble featuring members of the SBYO.

Rogers Centre Student Concert - October 29, 2009

In an unprecedented event at Rogers Centre, more than 12,000 students from schools across Ontario came for a once-in-a-lifetime performance of the SBYO.  A climactic finale to the Celebration of Music Week, the performance offered students a chance to hear exceptional interpretations of classical master works (including Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, performed earlier in the week at the Four Seasons Centre), as well as to recognize the fact that the impressive artistic feats were being generated by people their own age, who, as citizens of a country where 33% of the population live in poverty, have used music as a means of social change.

 Overflowing with youth, vitality, adrenalin, and intensity, the SBYO is a family who also happens to be “the world’s hottest orchestra.”  Ontario students in attendance were out of their seats, dancing to the music of their peers, exhibiting the same magnetism towards the performers as at a rock concert.  In true SBYO fashion, members of the orchestra concluded their performance by hurling their signature red, blue, and yellow Venezuelan athletic jackets to the crowd of frenetic youngsters, who were later to be found outside awaiting their buses and clutching their prized souvenirs, teeming with enthusiasm over the power of music and the potential of youth.

In an effort to help both students and teachers get the most out of their experiences with the SBYO during The Celebration of Music Week, The Glenn Gould Foundation – at the invitation of the Toronto District School Board – collaborated with distinguished educators, Pat McCarthy (Arts in Education Consultant), Mel Hurst (Music Educator, Clinician and Festival Adjudicator), and Kira McCarthy (Teacher, Toronto District School Board) to create a study guide for use nation-wide.  An extensive forty-eight-page document, the study guide provides extensive background information on El Sistema with a Teacher Resource section and a host of pre-performance and post-performance activities designed to engage students at the junior, intermediate, and senior levels.  The instruments of the orchestra are discussed as being capable of creating not only music, but also change, hope, and joy.  The study guide is prefaced by greetings from former Ontario Minister of Education, The Honorable Kathleen Wynne.