As we count down the days leading up to this year’s Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, our semi-finalists checked in to share their experiences and preparation with pianist Everett Hopfner, a two-time E-Gré participant. Our first interview features Edward Enman, originally from Nova Scotia, and currently a doctoral student at l’Université de Montréal.

Enman (Black and White)

Everett Hopfner: Edward, you were a prizewinner in the 2013 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, the last time the Piano category was held. Why did you decide to enter this year’s edition?

Edward Enman: I’ve actually been thinking of it for the last three years – I knew all along that I’d have one more chance if I wanted it, being 28 years old. I had such a great time at the last competition, it’s a very special event. I feel at home with a lot of this repertoire, and it’s music that I really connect to. I thought I’d give the E-Gré Competition another shot and immerse myself into it once again.

EH: What make the E-Gré Competition special to you? What did you take away from your experience in 2013?

It was so much more, and so much better than I expected it to be. The atmosphere was incredible with the great audiences coming to listen for every round, for every performer – people would always stick around afterwards to talk, and have questions about the repertoire. They were really involved and interested, and I wasn’t expecting that at all.

The other big thing, which is evidenced by the fact that we’re speaking as friends now, is that I made a few really great connections. It was very inspiring – it pushed me to connect with other composers and other pianists who are performing this repertoire, and it actually inspired me to start writing for piano as well.

EH: How has your preparation for this year’s competition gone?

I feel like I’ve organized myself better. I’ve been comparing this to my experience with running: the second marathon I ran wasn’t necessarily any easier than the first, but because I knew what it entailed, I could take some things in more easily. It’s been a lot of planning for the logistics – booking flights, accommodations, getting scores ready – I tackled a lot of that early so I could just focus on the music.

EH: How has contemporary music fit into your musical development?

I feel very lucky to have been introduced to so much contemporary repertoire, going back to my undergrad degree. I was heavily involved with premiering student compositions, and got into a lot of experimentation that way. I’ve always balanced out my programs with contemporary pieces – I have a lot of fun with them and I really enjoy performing them. The E-Gré Competition in 2013 was my first complete dive into contemporary music: I’d never done a full program of just contemporary repertoire, and that was a new experience for me. You have to find different ways to balance out your energy and your focus – it’s a different sort of mind game, and I love being challenged and pushed like that.

EH: Can you tell me about your program? What repertoire are you looking forward to performing in Brandon?

I’ve never been so excited to perform everything I’m working on! I took a long time to program this – if you’re going to be spending literally hundreds of hours with this repertoire, you want it to be good stuff that you’re really passionate about. Before even practicing anything, I took at least a month to plan things carefully, considering timings and the pacing of the program. When we got the test piece, I made a few modifications so it would fit in my program really well.

One piece I’m really hoping to perform in Brandon is something I’ve wanted to play for years – John Adams’s Phrygian Gates. It’s something you can’t rush, you have to live with it for a time to really experience it and learn it properly. I’m also very excited to perform my own piece, The Arrow of Time. While it’s been a challenge to memorize, it really feels so natural to perform something I’ve been with from the very first note.

EH: What would it mean to win the E-Gré Competition? Have you allowed yourself to think that far ahead?

I have a very competitive personality, so there’s that natural drive. With music competitions, you have to use that natural competitiveness to better yourself and what you’re doing, but in the end you just have to perform, and it’s like throwing a wish into the atmosphere. You can’t expect to get anything back, because the results are out of your control.

It would mean a lot to win this competition. I’d be so excited to be an ambassador for Canadian piano music, and although the prize money would be good, the thing I’d be most excited about would be the tour. To be able to share this music across the country and meet so many people – that’s what I’d be most excited for.

EH: We’re so looking forward to having you back in Brandon, Edward! It will be so great to see you and hear you play again. Thanks for taking the time for this interview, and best wishes for the preparation ahead.


The 39th Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition will be held May 6-8 in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall, Brandon University.