Winners of the 2023 Celebrate Youth Award Announced

May 5, 2023

This year the Victoria Conservatory of Music launched the Celebrate Youth Award for Emerging Young Contemporary Music Artists. This new annual award focuses on celebrating youth, especially the emerging singer-songwriter, in support of their journey towards a successful career in the music industry. The award involves a competition with a two-round application/audition process, and with 1st and 2nd place winners receiving a cash prize of $1,000 and $500 respectively.

Final Competition

The final competition round included four very talented finalists, with Aidan Knight and Piers Henwood as adjudicators. The two winners were decided and performed at Daniel Lapp’s Joy of Life – Celebrate Youth concert on Friday, April 28 in Alix Goolden Performance Hall. Congratulations Essencia and Tia!

The Winners

1st Prize: Essencia Leandro (singer/songwriter/pianist) ($1,000)

BIO:Piano has always been a constant throughout my life. Aside from a few years of lessons taken when I was young, I am almost entirely self-taught and began focusing more seriously on her piano studies during my time at Belmont Secondary School, taking part in ensembles offered through their music department. I am currently in my second year of post-secondary studies at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, working primarily with Danuel Tate and Louise Rose. Predominantly performing styles such as Jazz, Jazz Fusion and Contemporary Music. Recently I received the Luke’s Gift Scholarship, as well as the Van Hall Award for Jazz. Furthermore, I am also a songwriter and have performed arrangements of my original compositions such as, “Outer Space” and “Let The Universe Decide,” at recent Victoria Conservatory showcases. With musical influences including Bill Evans, Duke Ellington, Jacob Collier and Casiopeia, I have also been inspired by the teachers and friends who she has worked with along the way. In my younger years, my voice was also a part of the Victoria Children’s Choir from 2012-2017 working with Madeline Humer and David Stratkauskas quite often.

MUSICAL ASPIRATIONS:I think in the next 5 years ideally, I would be continuing to pursue music at a university. It’s hard to pin it into fine detail since I am 20 and still figuring out a lot of things about my life, which is basically what I wrote “Let The Universe Decide” about. However, I have many ideas. I would love to see myself in a career of arranging/composing. I’ve thought about maybe becoming a producer, or possibly arranging for film, songwriters, choirs, orchestras, really wherever life takes me. However I also enjoy playing and performing music, primarily piano and voice. Next year when I return for my third year at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, I hope to study more instruments such as guitar, bass, drums, to help add to my creativity of composing, and my versatility as a performing musician. Overall, during these prime years of life I hope to surround myself with lots of knowledge of music.

2nd Prize: Tia Greenwood (contemporary/folk cellist and composer) ($500)

BIO: Music has been an integral part of my life from the very beginning. As a young child, most of my learning was set to music. My mom invented songs to teach us everything from how to memorize our phone number to the colours of the rainbow. I was also enrolled in a unique playful preschool arts program called Fiddlesticks, led by Verity Murray, where we learned to play the cello in a group setting. My passion for the cello then grew, initially with lessons from Verity and then fueled by summers at Fiddleworks fiddle camp on Salt Spring Island with my family. There, I became infatuated with the energy and how fiddle music could bring people of all ages together for jam sessions and dances. At camp I had the opportunity to learn new tunes and techniques on the cello from some fantastic people including Jeff Faragher and Valerie Thompson. I was hooked. Over the years, I have also taken piano lessons, played flute in school band, played viola in school strings, played electric bass in jazz band, picked up bodhran, sang in choirs, and taught myself violin, but cello remains my main source of musical inspiration. In more recent years, my fiddling abilities on the cello were honed under the direction of two amazing contemporary cellists, Rachel Capon and Eli Bender, under the direction of Daniel Lapp when I joined the BC Fiddle Orchestra, and then with Ivonne Hernandez as a member of Coastline. Through these opportunities I developed improvisation and accompaniment skills and became inspired to write original tunes. I currently teach one contemporary cello student and hope to teach and convert more cellists in the future to the exciting and energetic style of the fiddle genre, as well as continue to perform with fiddlers in small and large ensembles.

MUSICAL ASPIRATIONS: Cellos are a quintessential part of contemporary fiddle music, and right now they are severely underrepresented, so I strive to bring more cellos into the fiddle genre. Cello is a really special instrument because it adds a lot more depth, groove and energy to the music. The cello is extremely versatile and can take on really diverse roles in a band or ensemble: rich melodies, harmonies, complex grooves, rhythms and chopping patterns, percussion, chords, pizzicato, and other unique sounds and textures. The downside is that most fiddle tunes are written for melody instruments with an E-string and there is often a lot of shifting and adaptations cellists have to make in order to play them. I really love writing tunes for cello so I can expand the fiddle repertoire for cellos and experiment with cool techniques that feature some of the unique sounds that cellos can produce. I hope to record a number of albums in future of these original tunes and arrangements, and also have plans to develop resources to teach classically trained cellists the many techniques that they can learn on their instrument that bring fiddle music to life. In addition to songwriting and inspiring people to fall in love with the fiddle genre, the other aspect that I am passionate about is bringing people together. As our technology advances, and especially post-covid, our communities are becoming fragmented. Fiddle music is a really powerful way of bringing communities together. It is so magical to see people of all different backgrounds, ages and abilities, getting together to enjoy, jam and/or create beautiful music with smiles on their faces. I see myself continuing indefinitely to bring people together through performances, by organizing dances and jam sessions, and by teaching lessons and workshops to give people the ability to take this music forward in their own communities. As well, through benefit concerts, I have used my music to bring people together and helped fundraise over $6000 for charitable causes and hope to contribute much more in future to make our world a better place.