Performance Academy


Please contact Barbara Worthy, Director of the Music Niagara Performance Academy, for more information.

Music Niagara has embarked on a unique endeavour designed to provide specialized performance training for its young and gifted virtuoso musicians, a Summer Performance Academy, and brainchild of Atis Bankas, Artistic Director of Music Niagara.

Now in its 19th year, Atis Bankas continues to introduce fabulously talented young musician students to the performance world. Music Niagara’s Young Virtuoso morning concerts have long been a firm audience favourite. Many of these students have continued in their careers to earn national and international recognition in a demanding field of excellence.

Unusual in the world of music, Atis Bankas wanted to pair gifted young virtuoso students with senior members of the artistic community in a rare, mentoring, academy environment.

Atis Bankas recognized that here in Niagara-on-the-Lake, home of the Shaw Festival, is a community that can offer invaluable resources in performance skills. He saw the enormous benefits of working together with top professionals who have an intimate knowledge of the benefits of drama, and who can provide unique tools to these young prodigies to complement and enhance their overall music education.

The Academy has been brought to fruition under the guidance of Music Niagara’s Executive Director Chris Blake, and Academy director, Barbara Worthy, herself a Shaw Festival alumna.

Said Bankas, “ We live amongst an amazing resource of phenomenal artists, many of whom enjoy teaching young people – and are very good at it, ” he said. “Most of our faculty are Shaw Festival ensemble players, or senior members of the artistic community. It’s a perfect blend of talented performance and teaching experience, with exceptionally gifted young musicians.”

The Faculty consists of Molly Atkinson, Michelle Cumiskey, Victoria Heart, Patty Jamieson, Ric Reid, Jenny Wright, and Barbara Worthy. Together they offer a fully comprehensive, skill-based curriculum. This includes voice, presentation, Alexander and Laban techniques, singing, improvisation, scenework, stage combat, Shakespearean text, and period dance. It’s full-out participation from the minute they arrive to the second they are collected by their parents.

Local chef Pam Mundy maintains their energy by providing a 5-star menu of home-cooked food throughout their stay here in Niagara, and local Music Niagara supporters billet these young musicians for the duration of the camp.

However it is the students that make this Academy exceptional – they are young, gifted prodigies in the world of music, international award-winning musicians from Canada and the US. But they are still students, young and inexperienced in many aspects of professional presentation.

The Academy runs for ten days, and includes at least three public concerts – and that means the program must include a fair amount of practice time. These students are used to four hours of practice a day – four hours is considered minimum to attain the level of skills that these students display. They age between 12 and 18, and it will come as no surprise to many parents that practice, at certain ages, is harder than others. What is notable about these students, says Atis Bankas, is that they are the ones asking for practice time.

For some of them, this is their first ‘camp’ experience. And while it’s hardly bonfires, marshmallows and camp songs, it is an intensive ten days, dedicated to complete immersion into all aspects of physical and emotional performance.

‘After hours’ are not that many, but students take advantage of visiting The Shaw Festival. Plus shopping for ice cream and exploring the main street in the few breaks they have between classes.

Said Atis, “I always wanted to share resources somehow with the Shaw Festival, and now this is perhaps the most valuable way – a long-lasting legacy that we can share, of teaching and learning. We feel very privileged to have this opportunity – and so do our students and their families.”

The 2016 Academy ran from July 22nd until August 1st.

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