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Sense of camaraderie marks 2017 Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition

‘We’re all proud of each other,’ first place winner says

A pianist hailing from southern Ontario is the winner of the 12th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition at Canadian Mennonite University. Anneli Loepp Thiessen’s performance, which included a piece by classical Austrian composer Joseph Haydn that she learned just one week before the competition, earned her first place and the $700 prize that comes with it on Wednesday, February 15. “It was very exciting,” said Loepp Thiessen, who grew up in Kitchener-Waterloo. “I still feel like I’m a little bit in shock.”

Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition winner Anneli Loepp Thiessen center) with second place winner Emma Heinrichs and third place winner Nolan Kehler.
Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition winner Anneli Loepp Thiessen (center) with second place winner Emma Heinrichs and third place winner Nolan Kehler.

A gifted musician who has played her instrument for 16 years, Loepp Thiessen is in her fourth year of a music degree, with a double major in piano performance and music ministry. This was her third time participating in the competition. Part of what made this year’s competition so much fun is the sense of camaraderie among the finalists, she said. “There’s a sense that we’re all proud of each other, which is a good feeling,” Loepp Thiessen said. “We really had each other’s backs.” “We’re all technically proficient at our instruments, so making the music come alive was the goal,” she added. “I don’t know how the judges made their decision, because everyone of us was communicating so well.” Emma Heinrichs, a pianist in her second year of a Bachelor of Music, placed second and received $500. Third place and its $300 prize went to tenor singer Nolan Kehler, who is completing his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance this April. Alexander Milevic (piano), Elowen Braunstein-Black (soprano), and Alyssa Hildebrand (soprano) also competed in the finals, advancing from a group of 19 competitors. “I’m always very pleased to see how students rise to the occasion when it comes time to perform,” said Dr. Janet Brenneman, Dean of the School of Music at CMU. “The entire evening was a strong showcase of what our students can do.” Margery Koop, a performer, choral conductor, and teacher known for her work with singers of all musical genres, and Darryl Friesen, an acclaimed soloist and collaborative artist who has performed around the world, served as adjudicators for the finals. Brenneman was thrilled to see so many members of the community attend the event. “This event has a following of audience members that attend every year, who are excited to hear the finalists and witness the outcome of the competition,” Brenneman said. The competition possible made possible by thegenerous donations of Peter Janzen of Deep River, ON. The event is named in memory of his wife, Verna Mae, who died of cancer in 1989 at age 53. “We are very grateful to Dr. Janzen, whose generosity and strong commitment to music at CMU makes this event possible,” Brenneman said. For Janzen, sponsoring the event is a way to contribute toward the success of CMU. He wanted to support CMU via a music competition because he and Verna met through their interest in choral singing. “I always dreamed of someday dedicating a memorial to my wife—a wonderful, loving, sensitive, intelligent, and happy companion,” Janzen said in 2007. “Through the Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition at CMU, I can keep her memory alive.” [ photo gallery ] [ videos ]


About CMU A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program.

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