On Saturday, May 29, at 2 p.m., music students aged 16-27 from the National Capital Region competed for a chance to win prizes worth more than $21,000 in the 40th annual National Arts Centre Orchestra Bursary Competition. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 edition was postponed to 2021 when it was held in a virtual format for the very first time.

This year’s winners are:

  • 2021 NAC Orchestra Bursary ($7,000) – David Baik, violin
  • Crabtree Foundation Award ($5,000) – Aiden Russell, cello
  • Friends of the NAC Orchestra Award ($3,000) – Jaewon Seo, violin
  • The NAC Orchestra Vic Pomer Award ($2,000) – Carolyn Farnand, viola
  • The Sturdevant Orchestral Excerpts Prize ($1,500) – David Baik, violin
  • The Friends of the NAC Orchestra Evelyn Greenberg Award ($1,500) (new this year) - Tovin Allers, viola
  • The Piccolo Prix ($1,000) – Liana Fonseca, violin
  • Honourable mentions ($350 each) –
    • Olivia Moaddel, violin
    • Ember-Leah Reed, violin

Roderick Bell, Chairman of the NAC Orchestra Bursary Committee said, “The 2021 NACO Bursary Competition marks the 40th anniversary of the competition and its first virtual appearance. But above all it celebrates the remarkable talent and hard work of so many young musicians of the National Capital Region. The Bursary continues to provide support and encouragement as they develop their talent to the professional orchestral level. For these talented young people, the Bursary makes a difference.”

Winners were evaluated based on their performance of short orchestral excerpts and movements from a concerto or sonata written for their instrument.

The 2021 Bursary competition was open to students of strings and harp. In 2022, it will be open to wind, brass and percussion instruments.

Finalists were selected by a jury from pre-recorded Bach, concerto and excerpt videos in lieu of the usual in-person preliminary auditions.

The jury comprised of Chair Roderick Bell (non-voting), four NAC Orchestra musicians (Elaine Klimasko, section violin, Douglas Burden, bass trombone, Anna Petersen, second oboe, and Joel Quarrington, principal double bass) and Christine McLaughlin of the Friends of the NAC Orchestra (non-voting) deliberated to select this year’s award winners.


The National Arts Centre Orchestra Bursary Competition was first held in 1981. The prime objective of the competition is to encourage the pursuit of excellence on the part of young instrumentalists aspiring to orchestral careers. Each year, a jury identifies deserving recipients through audition and competition.

The Bursary was created in 1979 by members of the NAC Orchestra as a gesture of appreciation to the audiences who had been so supportive of it during its first decade. It is meant to provide recognition and financial support to help further the development of young musicians who have connections to the National Capital Region (NCR). Funding for the award came originally from two sources: the NAC Orchestra Bursary Fund created in 1979 by the members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the NAC Orchestra Trust (originally the Capital Trust founded in 1932 to benefit the Ottawa Philharmonic Society which on its demise in 1970 transferred the income to the NAC). It is now known as the NAC Orchestra Trust Fund.

In 1981, one prize of $1,000 – the NAC Orchestra Bursary – was awarded. In subsequent years, thanks to the growth of the Fund as well as the generosity of private organizations and individuals, prizes now total more than $20,000.


Since its debut in 1969, the National Arts Centre (NAC) Orchestra has been praised for the passion and clarity of its performances, its visionary educational programs, and its prominent role in nurturing Canadian creativity. Under the leadership of Music Director Alexander Shelley, the NAC Orchestra reflects the fabric and values of Canada, reaching and representing the diverse communities we live in with daring programming, powerful storytelling, inspiring artistry, and innovative partnerships.

The NAC Orchestra has recorded many of the 80+ new works commissioned since its inception, mostly from Canadian composers, for radio and on over 40 commercial recordings. These include Angela Hewitt’s 2015 JUNO Award-winning album of Mozart Piano Concertos; the groundbreaking Life Reflected, which includes My Name is Amanda Todd by Jocelyn Morlock, winner of the 2018 JUNO for Classical Composition of the Year; from the 2019 JUNO-nominated New Worlds, Ana Sokolović’s Golden Slumbers Kiss Your Eyes, 2019 JUNO Winner for Classical Composition of the Year; the 2020 JUNO-nominated The Bounds of Our Dreams featuring pianist Alain Lefèvre, and Clara - Robert - Johannes: Darlings of the Muses, released in 2020.

The NAC Orchestra reaches a national and international audience through its online streaming, touring, recordings, and leads a significant Music Education and Community Engagement department, whose volume of activities parallels that of its performance and artistic creation activities. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NAC Orchestra adapted its programming with new digital initiatives including virtual masterclasses and lessons, virtual concert series (NACO Live, NACO at the Fourth), audio and video series (NACO Home Delivery, NACO Lunch Breaks, From NACO with Love), and lively online interviews led by Music Director Alexander Shelley (Musically Speaking).  

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