How’d You Get That Awesome Gig, Stephen Mcholm?!

September 02, 2015

Stephen Mcholm, Artistic Director, Honens. Credit: Chad Johnston.

Stephen Mcholm, Artistic Director, Honens. Credit: Chad Johnston.

Calgary is full of surprises and Thursday, September 3 is the beginning of one of the biggest—the 2015 Honens Festival & Piano Competition. Believe it or not, Calgary is home to one of the most renowned piano competitions in the world. Every three years, ten carefully auditioned pianists arrive from across the globe to participate in over a week’s worth of intense juried performances, all in the hopes of receiving the grand prize of $100,000 and a career development program.

Preparing over two hours of music to perfection is a lot of work, but so is running the competition that’s hosting it. So, before the competition gets underway, here is Artistic Director, Stephen Mcholm talking about what it’s like work at Honens:

Name: Stephen Mcholm

Occupation: Artistic Director, Honens

Location: Calgary

First Job: First job in the arts: Programs Coordinator at Canadian Arts Presenting Association (CAPACOA), Ottawa

Best Job: Current Job

Greatest Professional Challenge: The unpredictability of revenues.

So how did you get this awesome gig anyways?

Once upon a time I helped coordinate the annual national CAPACOA conference for performing arts presenters, agents, managers and touring companies. Honens was and still is a member of this arts service organization. It was at this conference that I met former Honens President and Artistic Director, Andrew Raeburn. We clicked right away. He was an incredible mentor for more than ten years—uncompromising in his insistence for excellence; it rubbed off!

What do you like best about what you do?

The satisfaction of knowing that my team transforms the lives of talented and deserving young concert artists and that we enrich audiences by offering music-making of absolute integrity.

Any special skills required?

Of course. But not any one skill in particular. I believe that an entrepreneurial spirit is essential in any worthwhile creative endeavour and that you need to understand all the aspects of an arts organization to make it thrive. It’s completely holistic. An Artistic Director is the face and feeling of an organization.

Favourite experience on the job:

There are two: first, travelling around the world to audition young musicians who may someday be the top concert artists in the world; and second, presenting recital debuts by Honens Laureates at Carnegie Hall (New York), Wigmore Hall (London) and the Berlin Philharmonie.

Advice for people who want your awesome gig:

Be adventurous and unconventional in a conventional milieu.

Favourite Canadian music venue:

Massey Hall. What’s more Canadian than that?

Favourite record at the moment:

On the classical front, I’ve been listening to The Gryphon Trio’s recording of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time one of the 2015 Honens Competition’s collaborating musicians, clarinetist James Campbell.

About the Author

Nathaniel Schmidt

Born and raised in the Comox Valley, Nathaniel is a composer, teacher, writer, and reluctant pianist who has been freelancing in Calgary in various capacities for over seven years. He freely admits to enjoying everything Sting has done pre-1998 (including Dune).

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