Classical music takes the spotlight

The next concert in an ongoing series presented by the Moncton Community Concert Association features three of Canada’s best up and coming classical music artists.

The concert, set to take place at Moncton’s First Church of the Nazarene on Friday evening, features soprano Simone Osborne, baritone Tyler Duncan and pianist Erika Switzer. The trio’s Hub City performance is the first of 11 shows being presented throughout the Maritime region by Debut Atlantic.

Founded in 1979, Debut Atlantic is one of Canada’s most prestigious classical music touring organizations. The list of Debut Atlantic alumni is an impressive read — pianist Angela Hewitt, cellist Denise Djokic and Baroque orchestra Tafelmusik, among others

Born in Vancouver, Osborne moved to Toronto three years ago to join the young artists program at the Canadian Opera Company.

Osborne says that while she, Switzer and Duncan only recently connected in terms of forging friendships, she says that they each admired the other’s works from afar in the past.

“The three of us attended the University of British Columbia and though we didn’t know one another at the time, I often saw them perform when I was there,” she says. “So while we have known each other from not so far away, we had never had the opportunity to perform together. It is something that I believe each of us are looking forward to.”

Osborne, Switzer and Duncan have all been lauded for their work. The Los Angeles Times called Osborne a “joy to hear” while Switzer has had critics raving about her brilliant and expressive playing style. Baritone vocalist Tyler Duncan enjoys international renown for his musicianship and has earned competition prizes from Naumburg Wigmore Hall in London as well as the ARD, Germany’s largest international music competition.

And though the above is merely a snapshot of the impressive achievements that each performer has earned, Osborne and Switzer came about their careers in music in very different ways.

“I had apparently learned to sing before I could even speak,” Switzer tells The Times & Transcript from her home in New York City. “I ended up starting piano lessons at the age of four and it was something that just stuck. I don’t know why my parents didn’t put me in singing lessons instead,” she laughs.

While Switzer excelled behind the piano, she had briefly considered pursuing a career as a doctor. But the lure of music was too strong and saw her enrolling in the music program at UBC. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Compared to Erika, Osborne’s venture into music was later in life. She enrolled in singing lessons while in high school and worked part-time at a fast food restaurant to help pay for her lessons. Although she had taken part in choir and various musicals while still in school, Osborne says that her decision to make music a full-time venture was cemented after meeting her teacher at UBC.

“Growing up, I believe I had a lack of appreciation for classical music, if only because I hadn’t been exposed to it,” she says. “I recall seeing my first opera and thinking that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I never considered looking back.”

Still, Simone says that had someone even suggested the notion that she would have performed all over the world, and on some of its most renowned stages, by the time she was 25 years old, she would have laughed.

“Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined this happening,” she says. “I have performed all through Europe, Hong Kong and all across Canada. I am going to be making my Carnegie Hall debut next year and have already sung on the Metropolitan Opera Stage. It is really shocking when I stop and think about it. I am so grateful for every one of the experiences.”

Switzer is equally grateful. The Vancouver native has been calling New York City her home for the past four and a half years. She is currently studying for her doctorate degree in musical arts at Julliard, one of the most renowned and respected schools for music anywhere in the world.

As if Switzer’s schedule isn’t already hectic enough, she is also teaching full-time at a college in upstate New York and with soprano Martha Guth, Switzer also co-hosts a bi-weekly podcast Sparks and Wiry Cries, available for download on iTunes.

When talk turns to their upcoming show in Metro Moncton, both Switzer and Osborne express genuine excitement at the prospect of their show.

“Simone is someone that both Tyler (Switzer’s husband) and I have admired for a long time. This show is a little different in that, typically classical artists are chosen to do specific performances. These recitals offer us the opportunity to choose the musical program for the night, meaning we can play what we want rather than being asked or told what to play,” Switzer says.

While Osborne is excited about the performance for many of the same reasons, she also has roots in the province of New Brunswick and so her upcoming trip here has a familial connection.

“My father’s family spent a lot of time in New Brunswick and it’s has been a life-long desire for me to go see where my father is from. I have roots there and am very excited to finally be coming there,” Simone says.

Article published in February 27, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript