MEET THE 2016 SEMIFINALISTS: MEGAN THIBEAULT
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.
Today’s interview features Meghan Thibeault, originally from Newfoundland, who is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma at the University of British Columbia.
Everett Hopfner: Why did you decide to enter the E-Gré Competition?
Megan Thibeault: Well, I’ve just been hearing about it for so long, and for at least the past five years or so, I’ve known someone doing it! I followed the last piano competition very thoroughly with Edward Enman being in it – we were classmates during both our undergrad and master’s degrees. I always love playing contemporary music, and would prefer to enter a competition that embraces and supports Canadian repertoire.
EH: What pieces are you most excited to share with the audience in Brandon?
MT: I think all of it, to be totally honest. I like to explore, and I’ve put a lot of thought into finding pieces. You get everything from prepared piano (in Vivian Fung’s “Glimpses”) to me reciting a poem while playing (in Brett Dean’s “Equality”). I’ve also got a few pieces from Howard Bashaw’s “15” – he’s an amazing composer, and these pieces are a bit of a challenging nightmare! But once you’ve got it in your fingers, it’s so satisfying to play.
EH: How has your preparation been going?
MT: It’s been an interesting balancing act between work, schoolwork, other pre-existing projects I had in mind… but it’s now settling and I can see where it’s going, which is really exciting. I’ve planned it well enough that I should be feeling confident – or at least comfortable – with everything come May.
I’m preparing these pieces for a competition, but I’m also going to carry them with me for a long time. These are pieces that mean something to me, that allow me to experiment and to just go for it. Since some of my pieces require extended piano techniques, I’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with different sounds using a wide array of materials and approaches. I’ve also had to spend a lot of time becoming comfortable with my own voice while playing. We pianists aren’t too familiar with that! Quite often I’ll even just practice reciting my piece while tapping the rhythms on my steering wheel while driving.
EH: What aspects of the E-Gré experience are you most looking forward to?
MT: I’m excited just to meet everyone, and chat with everyone, and be in an atmosphere where we all love contemporary music, and we’re all so enthralled and excited about it. It’s true that in music school, we can find these communities where that’s all we talk about – but you don’t get it quite to this extent. I’ve actually had people recently knock on my practice room door and ask “why are you playing that? Can you stop?” It was a shock to me! I’m excited to get so many new ideas from the audience, the competitors, and the jurors in an atmosphere where everybody is enthusiastic about this!
EH: What are your goals for the competition?
MT: In general, my goal is just to take it all in and to have an open ear. Sure it’s a competition, but it’s such a learning opportunity. What the jurors say to us about our pieces can help us dive deeper into them. I’ll aim to keep an open mind to new ideas, new interpretations, and new experiences within the pieces that I’ve worked on for so many months.
EH: Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Megan. We’re really looking forward to welcoming you to Brandon in May. Best wishes for your continuing preparation!
The 39th Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition will be held May 6-8 in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall, Brandon University.
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