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2017 Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition Winners (video)

1st place performance by Anneli Loepp Thiessen, piano

  • Sonata in C Major XVI: 50, Allegro Molto, Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
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2nd place performance by Emma Heinrichs, pianist

  • Spring Celebration, Stephen Chatman (b. 1950)
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3rd place performance by Nolan Kehler, tenor

  • Lonely House from Street Scene, Kurt Weill (1900-1950)
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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.

For information about CMU visit www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

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Cellist from South Korea wins 2016 Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition

A cellist who used to dread performing in concert is the winner of the 11th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition at Canadian Mennonite University.

2015.VernaMae.PosterYunah Chin took the top spot and the $700 prize that comes with it after performing along with six other finalists in the Laudamus Auditorium on Thursday, February 11.

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Chin has played the cello for more than 15 years. She moved to Winnipeg three years ago to continue her studies, and plans to pursue a degree in music therapy.

Chin says that in Korea, she didn’t enjoy performing because it made her too nervous. That has changed since she arrived in Canada. Because English is not her first language, she has come to enjoy performing because it is a way for her to communicate with others and express herself.

“It is interesting and fun to play,” says Chin, adding that she didn’t expect to win. “I thought about showing my everything—not getting nervous, and just showing them what I prepared. I only thought about that.

Chin’s performance was breathtaking, says Dr. Janet Brenneman, Dean of the School of Music at CMU.

“She was engaging, imaginative, and inspiring,” Brenneman says. “It was clear that the audience was in awe of her performance.”

Breanna Heinrichs, a pianist in her fourth and final year of a Bachelor of Music, placed second and received $500. Third place and its $300 prize went to baritone singer Matthew Baron, also in his final year of study at CMU.

Yunah Chin, the winner of  the11th Annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition.
Yunah Chin, the winner of the11th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition.

Alyssa Hildebrand (soprano), Anneli Loepp Thiessen (piano), Elowen Braunstein-Black (soprano), and Nathan Sawatzky-Dyck (baritone) also made it to the finals, advancing from a group of 14 competitors.

Judy Kehler Siebert, a Manitoba native with an international reputation as a pianist, chamber musician, and teacher, and Monica Huisman, an acclaimed lyric soprano from Winnipeg, served as adjudicators for the finals.

Brenneman says she was impressed with the quality of musicianship in the competition.

“Each student performed in ways that demonstrated the musical growth they have made during their studies at CMU,” Brenneman says, adding that the preliminary round of the competition, which included 14 students, was also very strong. “The decision to advance students to the final round was not an easy task for CMU music faculty.”

Finalists of the 11th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition.
Finalists of the 11th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition.

The competition is made possible by Peter Janzen of Deep River, Ontario, and named in memory of his wife, Verna Mae, who died of cancer in 1989 at age 53. Janzen attends the final round of competition each year.

“This is now a much-anticipated event, and a tradition that we are proud to have established at CMU,” Brenneman says. “We continue to be grateful to Dr. Janzen for his generous donation and support of this competition.”

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.”

Additional photos from the 11th annual Verna May Janzen Music Competition can be found here.

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.

For information about CMU visit www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

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Student Profiles

It is God who makes the music

Anneli.Loepp.Thiessen
Anneli Loepp Thiessen

A lifelong love of music and a fascination with worship led Anneli Loepp Thiessen to pursue a Bachelor of Music at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

Loepp Thiessen says her studies offer opportunities to explore questions such as: why do we worship? And what does it mean when we worship? Answers to questions such as these are complex, yet Loepp Thiessen suggests the root of the answer lies in viewing worship as a conversation.

“We are very used to worshipping and making music as a community, but it’s more than congregations often realize,” she says. “It’s about gathering as a community and what we’re saying to each other—what does it mean to us and what does it mean to God?”

As a worship director at Doon Presbyterian Church in Kitchener, Ontario for two summers, Loepp Thiessen explored this theory in a practical setting, drawing on her classroom learning, including theories and techniques learned in the course Leading Music and Worship. The position was a foundational one for her.

“I know that I’m going to be involved with church music for a long time,” she says. “Having this foundation from CMU has given me a really realistic expectation for worship and guidelines of how we approach worship.”

A quote by Johann Sebastian Bach encapsulates the connections Loepp Thiessen sees in the two concentrations she’s studying: music ministry and piano performance.

I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music. – Johann Sebastian Bach

“If as a solo pianist I am being true to what Bach intended, then it’s going to be an act of worship—I need to think of it as a conversation with God, which takes it to another level,” she says.

Bach is a favourite composer of Loepp Thiessen’s and at CMU she’s had the opportunity to perform his pieces as a solo performer, with the Mennonite Community Orchestra, with the CMU Singers, and with a solo singer, all of which she has greatly enjoyed. She’s appreciated the opportunities to learn how to provide accompaniment in different performance contexts.

Loepp Thiessen has also experienced the collaborative nature of CMU through faculty mentorships in each department of the music program. Witnessing the care and interest of faculty members has impressed upon her the importance of sharing music with others.

“When I graduate from CMU, one of the things that will stick with me is the idea that as musicians one of the most valuable things we can do is be mentors,” says Loepp Thiessen. She’s already sharing her passion for and knowledge of music with others by teaching piano at CMU’s Community School of Music and the Arts.

Loepp Thiessen says studying music at CMU has surpassed her expectations.

“There is no school that offers such a wide range of disciplines within the music program, does them so well, and within the context of Christian community.”

Learn more about CMU’s Bachelor of Music degree: www.cmu.ca/music

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Events News Releases

Student overcomes illness to win 2015 Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition

‘It’s a meaningful competition,’ says Anna Bigland-Pritchard

Piano, cello, and vocal performances were all part of the final round of the 10th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition at Canadian Mennonite University.

Held on Wednesday, January 28 in the university’s Laudamus Auditorium, the competition featured six performers who progressed from an initial field of 18 competitors.

Peter Janzen, center, with the six Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition finalists
Peter Janzen (center) with the six finalists of the 10th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition

Anna Bigland-Pritchard (soprano), Deidra Borus (soprano), Yunah Chin (cello), Breanna Heinrichs (piano), Alyssa Hildebrand (soprano), and Anneli Loepp Thiessen (piano) were the six finalists.

Bigland-Pritchard, a voice major in her final year of study, was surprised to win first place and the $700 award that comes along with it: She fell ill with laryngitis last semester which put her behind in her preparations for the competition.

“I just felt happy to be a part of the competition,” Bigland-Pritchard said. “I’m very humbled, honoured, and excited to win.”

Bigland-Pritchard is no stranger to the competition. She participated in 2012 and 2014, placing third both times.

Winner of the 2015 Verna Mae Janzne Music Competition Anna Bigland-Pritchard (soprano) with Peter Janzen
Winner of the 2015 Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition Anna Bigland-Pritchard with Peter Janzen

This year, Loepp Thiessen placed second and received $500. Third place and its $300 prize went to Chin.

Bigland-Pritchard said that there is a great sense of camaraderie among the competitors.

“It’s a meaningful competition,” Bigland-Pritchard said. “We all want the best for each other, even though we’re technically competing.”

Terry Mierau, a former opera singer and alumnus of CMBC, one of CMU’s predecessor colleges, as well as Dr. Darryl Friesen, Assistant Professor of Piano and General Music Studies at Providence University College, served as adjudicators for the finals.

“It was very cool to receive their affirmation,” Bigland-Pritchard said. “It’s very meaningful to have that kind of feedback.”

Janet Brenneman, Dean of the CMU School of Music, said the competition is great because it creates a buzz on campus.

“It allows for students to bring their best performances, and for the entire CMU student body and community to see that play out in this competition,” said Brenneman, noting that a capacity crowd filled the auditorium for the finals.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to perform their solo repertoire, and to see and hear what everyone else is working on,” Brenneman added. “We don’t always get that kind of opportunity.”

The competition is made possible by Peter Janzen of Deep River, Ontario, and named in memory of his wife, Verna Mae, who died of cancer in 1989 at age 53. Janzen attends the final round of competition each year, and speaks with competitors.

“It’s always a pleasure to see Peter,” Brenneman said. “He’s made a lovely connection with our students. It’s not often that students get to connect with a CMU donor in such a tangible way.”

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.”

For more photos documenting the 2015 Verna Mae Music Competition finale, please click here.

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, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury campus and in its Menno Simons College and Outtatown programs.

For information about CMU, visit: www.cmu.ca.

For additional information, please contact:

Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing
kkilbrei@cmu.ca; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2