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WINNERS of the 2024 Rotary Calgary Concerto Competition

View their performance by clicking on the MUSIC NOTES below their picture


16-year-old Canadian pianist Austin Gao was born and raised in Calgary. Introduced to music at a young age, he was captivated by his older sister’s piano playing from the age of five. Inspired by this, Austin began playing the piano at seven and has since diligently worked to enhance his musical abilities. His journey in music has been greatly influenced by mentors like John Lam, who sparked his passion for music, and Marilyn Engle, under whose tutelage he currently studies to further develop his musicianship and nurture his passion.

In his musical journey, Austin has actively engaged in various opportunities at the local, national, and international levels. In 2020, he completed his level 10 RCM piano practical exam with First Class Honors. The following year, he participated in the Pacific Rim International Music Festival, securing third place in the Youth Category of the North America Regional Final. In 2022, Austin took part in the Canadian Music Competition and earned 3rd place in the national finals in the 14-year-old piano category. In February 2024, he participated in the Pathways program and subsequently competed in the 2024 Calgary Concerto Competition, where he was honored to be chosen as one of its four winners and is eagerly looking forward to performing with an orchestra.

Outside of his piano pursuits, Austin is a dedicated grade 11 student who enjoys learning and has a fondness for math and chemistry. He has also been part of the French Immersion program for 10 years. Additionally, Austin has been playing the clarinet for 5 years and is an active member of his high school band. Apart from his academic and musical interests, his hobbies include playing chess, learning to cook, and working out at the fitness center

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Video courtesy of the Calgary Folk Club


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Sacha is an 11 year old Canadian Violinist who started lessons at age 5, and made his Solo debut (age 6) right here at Olympic Plaza. He has been a member of 5 orchestras, including the Elgar Orchestra (2023) where he performed alongside Concertmasters Andrew Wan (Montreal) and Jonathan Crow (Toronto). He is the founder of Trio-Magico, a Senior Violinist at Mt Royal, and works on his Solo repertoire with mentor, Concertmaster Diana Cohen.


In 2023, he won all of UPPER STRINGS (all ages) at the Calgary Performing Arts Festival and went on to win Alberta Provincials (awarded FIRST PLACE for VIOLIN SOLO in the AMFA finals for 2021, 2022 and 2023).


Sacha was the Grand Prize winner of his age category for all instruments at the Canadian Music Competition (CMC) for both 2022 in Québec city (score of 97%) and 2023 in Toronto (score of 99%). Sacha also received the highest marks in both CMC auditions. At age 9, Sacha was honoured to Solo with both the Québec (July 2022) and Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestras (Dec. 2022). Lastly, he performed the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Sinfonia Orchestra (Spring 2023).

In July 2023, Sacha was invited to perform at the Mozarteum during the Salzburg Festival and Summer Masterclasses. Before returning to Canada for the Parcival Project, Sacha had the opportunity to perform Danse Espagnol at the Paulo de la Musica in Barcelona. Sacha is very grateful for the privilege of participating in Masterclasses with Canadian Concertmasters Andrew Wan, Gwen Hoebig, Ian Swensen, Robert Uchida, Timothy Chooi.


Video courtesy of the Calgary Folk Club


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Video courtesy of the Calgary Folk Club

Ben has been an active member of the Calgary music community since a young age as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral musician. He is currently a student of Fiona Carnie and has previously studied with Theresa and Jeff Plotnick. Ben spent his early years performing with the Mount Royal University Conservatory Orchestras and the Amici String Program, String Camp and Stringfest, which allowed him to study extensively with acclaimed musicians such as Kai Gleusteen, Catherine Ordronneau, the Viano String Quartet, the Rolston String Quartet, the New Orford String Quartet and more, alongside Amici’s regular faculty, whom he considers his second family. Currently, Ben shares the position of Concertmaster in the Calgary Youth Orchestra and on May 12, 2024, will perform Mahler’s 2nd Symphony in that capacity. In the fall of 2024, Ben will be attending the McDuffie Center for Strings in Macon, Georgia, where he will be studying with violinists Amy Schwartz-Moretti, Robert McDuffie, and David Kim.


Ben has been successful competing at the local, provincial and national level, being awarded top prizes at the 2023 Alberta Music Festival and the Canada West Festival in the 22 and under division after just turning 17 years old. Recently, Ben won top prizes in the Calgary Concerto Competition and Frank Simpson Competition, and hopes to continue growing his competition experience.


In addition to developing as a student, Ben has also worked professionally, including playing for the exciting premiere of National Geographic’s documentary, Secrets of the Whales, where he was able to experience the jaw-dropping talents of Anthony Parnther and Jann Arden. Ben has also played with local ensembles such as the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Kensington Sinfonia, and the Land’s End Ensemble, and is extremely grateful for the incredible opportunities his home city of Calgary has provided for him.


In the summers of 2022 and 2023, Ben was given the opportunity, with scholarship, to participate in and perform at the Quartet Fest West, in Victoria, BC, where he and his quartet, the Carnie Quartet, studied and performed with all three of the Lafayette, Bellas Artes, and Penderecki String Quartets. Ben will always remember this time in his life as a founding moment for him both as a musician and a person. In the summer of 2024, Ben will be attending the Domaine Forget de Charlevoix Academy in Québec.


For the past two years, Ben has been a member of Calgary Pro Musica’s Young Artist Development Program. Working collaboratively with both its Artistic Director, Education Advisor, and fellow YADP artists, Ben has created two school shows and presented in 7 different elementary schools. Through the program, he has also had the chance to study with internationally acclaimed musicians such as the Danish String Quartet, the Isidore String Quartet, Carmit Zori, the Parker Quartet, and more. This opportunity has helped him in diversifying his skills as a performer and musician and he will forever value Dean O’Brien’s and Sam Whelan-Kotkas’s mentorship.


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Canadian violinist Chanan Ngo obtained his ARCT in piano performance with first class honour at age 13, and subsequently his ARCT in violin performance with distinction at age 15.  His violin studies, commencing with Fiona Carnie, have led him to receive awards at local, provincial, and national music competitions. His most recent honours include the Frank Simpson Concerto Competition (1st place, 2024), the Mary Gardiner Award of Performance Excellence through the Alliance of Canadian New Music Project (2024), Rose Bowl at the Calgary Performing Arts Festival (2023), and the Canada West Performing Arts Festival (1st place, 2023).  A two-time winner of the Calgary Concerto Competition (2022, 2024), Chanan made his solo debut with the Calgary Civic Symphony in 2022.  He is excited to perform with the Civic Symphony again in June 2024.  Chanan will also perform with the Calgary Youth Orchestra as soloist in November 2024.  Chanan’s soloist performances have taken him to venues across Alberta such as the Jack Singer Concert Hall, the Winspear Centre, and the Bella Concert Hall. 

Chanan is an active and versatile chamber musician. While violin is his primary instrument, he also plays viola and piano, in genres ranging from classical to contemporary to pop music.  He has collaborated with New Orford String Quartet, Lafayette String Quartet, Penderecki String Quartet, Bellas Artes String Quartet, Kensington Sinfonia, Candlelight Concert, Land’s End Chamber Ensemble, and EnChor Chamber Choir among others.  Chanan was invited by the Kensington Sinfonia to record as a guest soloist in their latest CD, Forces of Nature, featuring some of his favorite composers from Alberta.

As rotating concertmaster of the Calgary Youth Orchestra, Chanan was appointed concertmaster in many performances, including Mahler’s 1st Symphony “Titan” and 2nd Symphony “Resurrection”.


When not playing music, Chanan enjoys hanging out with friends, playing with his cat Dani, and spending time in the kitchen, aka the “lab”, trying out new recipes.


Chanan would like to thank all music teachers, mentors, clinicians, conductors, and coaches who have touched his life, with special kudos to Fiona Carnie, Theresa Plotnick, Colleen Athparia, Jean Auger-Crowe, and Carrie Kalmakoff for making music fun, and fostering a lifelong love of music in him.   



Video courtesy of the Calgary Folk Club

Runners Up of the 2024 Competition


Jinghui Bai


Coco Zang

Matthew Craig

Ellie Hanjin Lu

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