Ottawa composer wins classical music competition

ABOVE: uOttawa Master of Music student and composer Candace Bustard. (RIGHT) Jaxon Williams and Wesley Ferreira of the musical duo Jâca. (PHOTO: ZACH FRANKLIN)

Local Ottawa composer, Candace Bustard, wins first prize in a music composition competition, commissioned by the acclaimed clarinet and guitar duo Jâca. The Los Angeles based duo of Jaxon Williams and Wesley Ferreira recently announced Bustard as the first prize winner of their inaugural Emerging Composers Competition.

Bustard is an up-in-coming composer and pianist based in the capital. She is currently earning her Master of Music in composition at the University of Ottawa under the supervision of Kelly-Marie Murphy. Her compositions explore themes in global music and soundscapes, and her winning score, Melodies from my Mother, is emblematic of this.

Primarily focusing on instrumental pieces, Bustard seeks to create unity among dissonance by finding harmony between unlikely instrumental pairings. She also seeks to achieve “consonant dissonances” through gradual layering and blurred harmonies, as evident in her newest work Here is Home.

The 2021 competition theme was to write a work relating to the topic of “culture.” Bustard set out to write a piece inspired by her mother’s childhood in the northern region of Romania. Both movements of Bustard’s work are derived from the deep-seated music and sounds from her mother’s youth, including the folk songs “Ciuleandra,” “Tropotita” (a stomping dance), and the sounds of wind, birds, footsteps, and tools.

Bustard explains her inspiration: “[My mother’s] city was crouched in the shadow of the expansive Carpathian mountain range, where the hills were her backyard. Throughout my mother’s childhood, she was obliged to accompany my grandfather to the land they owned atop the mountain. There, she would spend a week at a time working alongside my grandfather.”

Normally, Jâca performs around the world but safety precautions and regulations in response to COVID-19 have prevented that over this last year. They launched the composition competition to both support the values of diversity through multicultural music and to remain active during this period of global suspension.

The competition aims to create new, original works for clarinet and guitar and featured over 20 submissions from promising young composers from seven countries on three different continents. Bustard’s winning submission won her a guaranteed recording and premiere of the composition by Jâca and a potential publishing deal with Potenza Music.

Jâca loved Bustard’s piece: “Candace’s composition showcased a strong theme, a deep understanding of composition, and a unique and powerful artistic voice. We are thrilled to be performing, recording, and helping publish her work.”

Congratulation Candace. Ottawans—and now the world too—are looking forward to your future endeavours!