The Gryphon Trio will take over this year as the directors of the classical-music summer programs at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
The chamber-music trio – Roman Borys on cello, Annalee Patipatanakoon on violin and James Parker on piano – have been playing together for more than 25 years. Based in Toronto, they met in the 1980s when they were summer students at, yes, the Banff Centre.
“I called Roman up and I asked him about Banff Centre; and you know what he said to me? He said, ‘You know, Howard, I’ve been waiting for this call,’” recalls Howard Jang, vice-president of arts and leadership at Banff. “And it was at that moment I started to really understand this deep connection that he and the trio has had to the Banff Centre.”
Since forming in 1993, the Gryphon Trio has released more than 20 recordings, commissioned more than 85 works and toured extensively on international stages. They have won two Juno Awards for classical album of the year and had nine additional nominations, including two this week. In 2013, they won the Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts from the Canada Council.
“I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to take on this task while we’re still very active as performing musicians,” said Borys, in an interview from Toronto. “We’re in a great position to appreciate musicians and to create programs, in a place like Banff, that support musicians that might imagine themselves [with] a future in this great realm of what is – in bigger quotations – classical music.”
The announcement was made Thursday night in Ottawa, where Borys is artistic and executive director of Ottawa Chamberfest and Patipatanakoon and Parker are artistic advisers. They will continue to run Chamberfest and also continue their involvement with the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto. In fact, these connections were among the attractions for Banff.
“If you look at our strategic plan,” says Banff’s president and CEO Janice Price, “it really is about Banff Centre getting out there to connect with the broader Canadian and national community in the arts.” The centre is an arts incubation and leadership centre, offering programs in numerous disciplines, including music.
The Gryphon Trio will take over at the end of the summer from the current co-artistic directors of the program, Claire Chase and Steven Schick, whose three-year contract ends this year. The Banff Centre will continue to offer the program Chase and Schick developed at Banff, Evolution of the String Quartet. A second program they created at Banff, Ensemble Evolution, will move to the Mannes School of Music in New York in 2020.
In 2020, the Gryphon Trio will take over fully at Banff. Classical summer music is one of Banff’s anchor programs and Borys says they plan to focus on more than musicianship; they want to help participants build successful and fulfilling careers.
“Young musicians whose training is rooted in the classical traditions … need to have a much bigger bag of tools as they head out there. We see a lot of them are terrified; they just keep pursuing higher levels of education,” said Borys.
“We’ve got a good sense of the pulse out there; we’ve got a good sense of what’s happening on other continents as far as our art form is concerned; we have a very good sense of the kinds of challenges that young musicians are going to face when they finally depart the safety and that warm-pool environment that some of them might still be in in postsecondary institutions.”