2022-23 New Generation Film Composers’ Program Participants Announced

Scarborough Philharmonic Orchestra is pleased to introduce this years slate of New Generation Film Composers participating in the 2022-23 program, run in partnership with Sheridan College’s internationally recognized film animation program.

The program. will formally kick off January 31, 2023, with an introductory workshop on the topic of  the technology workflow used in modern media-music composition. The presenter will be Charles Finlay, Coordinator of Sheridan College’s Music Scoring for Stage and Screen (MSSS) program. 

During the program, participants will all compose an original score for an animated short that will be performed, recorded and film-edited for a published final product. 

Taking the lead on delivering the program is composer and Sheridan professor, Bruno Degazio .  Professional composers serving as mentors for the program are: 

  • Virginia Kilbertus
  • Aaron Tsang
  • Jim McGrath
  • Charles Finlay 

Video Showcases from past seasons' New Generation Film Composer Program

This program is made possible through the generosity of: 

Helena Cheu

Helena Cheu is a pianist and composer from Northern Ontario.  She is Chinese-Canadian and often feels side-lined by both sides of her heritage. That being said, she feels at home on stage and at the theatre.  Before the pandemic, she worked as a pianist, playing for musicals, the ballet, and church services and funerals.  In March 2020, for the first time in her life she experienced what it feels like to have Nothing-To-Do.  It was at that point she decided she wanted to explore her limits as a writer and began studying at Queens University.  Her work often centres around themes of alienation and isolation.

Rachel McFarlane

Rachel McFarlane is a Canadian composer who began as a violinist in the Claude Watson Program at Earl Haig Secondary School. She is previously known for her breakout piece “Beyond the Challenger Deep” which was played by the Gryphon Trio at the Jane Mallet Theatre in Toronto. Rachel studied under Deborah Pady, Leona Davidson, Kevin Lau, Jennifer Smele, Tanya Charles-Iveniuk, and Janal Betchold and continued to create pieces for ensembles such as The Oriana Women’s Choir, The Amici Ensemble, The Odin Quartet and the Rachel Moore’s Choral Project in New York. Rachel has worked intensely on her film scoring strategies by completing two consecutive Berklee Programs: the Intensive High school Composition Program and the Film Scoring in LA Program. These programs introduced her to the business of composing and enhanced her composition skills for different genres of film, all while attending master classes taught by Timothy Huling, James Newton Howard, Chris Lennertz, and Tom Holkenborg. She is currently a Games and Interactive Media Scoring student at Berklee with a scholarship and is expected to graduate in 2025. She continues to compose music for her Berklee classes and ensembles under the supervision of Sean McMahon and hopes to one day work for Disney.

Michael Nunes

Michael Nunes is a Canadian composer and horn player from Sherwood Park,

Alberta. He has performed as a soloist with the Hannaford Street Silver Band alongside Jens Lindemann, and at summer festivals such as the Aspen Music Festival and the Brott Music

Festival. Previous commissions include the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the National Academy Orchestra of Canada. He is a current substitute musician with the New World Symphony. Michael holds a B.Mus from the University of Toronto, and is pursuing an

M.Mus in horn and composition at the Mannes School of Music studying with Erik Ralske and Lowell Liebermann.

Cassie Forzani

Cassie Forzani
Cassie Forzani

As an actor, singer, composer, and dancer/choreographer, Cassie is a well-versed member of the world of the performing arts. Through her work in film scoring and acting, Cassie has had the amazing opportunity to take on larger roles in the world of film such as writing and directing (“Today’s the Day”). You can see some of Cassie’s work as an actor and dancer in music videos with Canadian artist Valerie Pascale (“Legends Never Die”, “Mollywood”, “Na Na Na”) and as a composer in House of Actors short film “Enlightenment”.

Cassie on IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm13227025/

Emily Hiemstra

Emily Hiemstra (b.1991) is a real life viola mom. She is a violist, composer and mom to three boys under 5. 

A JUNO nominated composer with music that has been deemed “superb” and “extremely resonant” (George Elliott Clarke, Canadian Poet Laureate), she has had her music performed at festivals throughout the UK, USA and Canada. Such festivals include the Impulse New Music Festival (Los Angeles, USA) and the Kirby Laing Centre for Public Theology (Cambridge, UK). Her orchestral and operatic background as a performer has deepened her understanding of colour and texture which she readily applies in her compositions to create clear and innovative works. Her desire is to create relevant and engaging music for the next generation and future generations to come.

A dedicated community member, Emily creates opportunities for new music such as the New Works for Solo Viola Project. She also strives to bring new music to a wider community through the In The Shadow of Your Wings concert series and performing family-friendly chamber concerts around the GTA. She also on the board of the Association of Canadian Women Composers as the Outreach & Publicity Officer. 

As a violist she has been heard on CBC Radio’s About Time with Tom Allen (2022), performed at festivals around the world including Banff Centre for the Arts (Banff, CAN) and the German-Scandinavian Youth Orchestra (Berlin, GER). She performed the Stamitz Viola Concerto with the Charis Collective in 2017, and has played with ensembles such as the Canadian Opera Company and the Magisterra Soloists.

You can find her playing concerts around London, ON or writing music when her boys are napping.

Vira Burmenko 

Vira Burmenko is a Toronto based award-winning performing artist: a composer, a violinist, a passionate instructor, and a podcast host for Musician Today. Vira holds a Master of Arts (MA) in Music Composition and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Music performance from York University.

Vira began writing music at the age of seven, with her first violin concerto emerging by the age of ten. Through all her experiences, the composer felt compelled to tell her story in music and share it with others. Vira’s MA Thesis Descension and Ascension: A Solo Violin Suite (2010), was based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead and favoured eastern practices. Her 2015 Akademia award-winning singles Three-Mix and The NeverEnding Tango received acclimation as Best Instrumental Classical/Electronica and Best Latin and were spun on over 70 FM Radio stations. In 2016 she produced a series of silent short comedy films – “La vie d’un clown” screened in fifteen festivals, has received four international awards, and three nominations. She also composed a theme for an award-winning web series Marked.

Over a decade Vira has performed with an Eastern-European Gypsy Flame Show Band and a Persian Band Baarbad Music. This experience has enriched her love for world music and inspired her next album in the making. Vira is driven by the healing power of music and nature and combines the two forces in her new music. The artist believes that technology and nature can co-exist peacefully and enhance each other. Therefore, her next album will feature an electric violin from Wood Violins, a seven-string Viper with the range as low as B flat in the bass; combined with Spirit Drum, jaw’s harp, kalimba, and a variety of percussions and flutes created from organic and recycled materials. The music ranges from meditative and transcendental to battle-fuelled rage of industrial metal. This album will be a much-needed catharsis in the artists’ life of the past couple of years. Emerging from the pandemic and affected by the war in the artists’ homeland, her new work is a re-evaluation, re-adjustment and re-creation and rebuilding of her identity as both an artist and a human being; emerging stronger and wiser, and often darker.

“Only once we have touched the darkness, can we know our true light.” – Vira Burmenko

In 2019, Vira released her first album Iron Fiddle Saga, and currently is working on a new album Obsidian. This album will be a strong statement for human rights movement with goals to unify people through the love of music making. She is also working on a series of Music for Caves, to be performed in the dark, featuring a spirit drum, other percussion, overtone singing, throaty singing styles and violin extended techniques.

Currently Vira is engaged in fundraising and helping refugees from her homeland in Ukraine. This March, in collaboration with Opera In Reach, Vira participated in the virtual charity Art for Peace concert which raised over 12,000 CAD for assistance to those affected by the war, and was sent via organizations working closely on site: Dobrodiy, Meest and Red Cross. All income from Vira’s music sales and patreon earnings of 2022 & 2023 will be donated to charities and individuals in need amidst the crises.

Vira’s book My Key to Immortality can be found on various platforms as well as print-on-demand via https://www.balboapress.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/435636-My-Key-to-Immortality

Please find Vira’s music and links to social media and patreon on her website: www.viraburmenko.com

Help Vira raise funds for her homeland affected by the war, join her patreon: https://www.patreon.com/viraburmenko

George Gagnidz

George Gagnidze, born in Moscow, Russia, is an Israeli/Canadian composer. His music has been performed and recorded in Canada, USA, Europe and Israel. He participated in numerous composition workshops and masterclasses, as well as has been the recipient of the Second Prize Award (Composition) in the International Music Festival and Competition in Markham Ontario, 2020 and 2021. George produced several commercial releases available on digital platforms. He has written over 700 compositions to this day for various mediums, such as Orchestra, Chamber, Solo, Voice, Opera, Film and Electronic music. Gagnidze draws inspiration from Visual Arts and writes extensively on the themes of works of living artists. His style varies from Traditional to Contemporary. In addition to composing music George Gagnidze also writes poetry.

Lorne Grossman

Lorne started playing piano at age 8 and drums at age 12. He attended University of Toronto studying music and percussion but left his studies in 1971 when he accepted steady work with the Stratford Festival, the Royal Alexandra Theatre, the National Ballet Orchestra, the Canadian Opera Company and the house drummer at the O’Keefe Centre (now the Meridian Hall).

Lorne was also regular member of a popular and busy band called The Nova Sounds lead by Alan Shiner.

Lorne also became known as the percussionist who owned ALL of his own instruments (in triplicate) making him the “go-to” person for renting and delivering percussion instruments, meaning Lorne owned a very large cube-van.  This also made Lorne the prime candidate for moving OTHER people’s musical instruments and equipment (and home contents) as he knew the value and maintained respect for his cargo.  He worked for years for Manta Electronics delivering large sound boards and recording equipment and for internationally renowned harpist, Erica Goodman, who trusted very few with her treasured and expensive instrument. 

During the 1970’s, Lorne was very busy recording jingles at the big studios in the Greater Toronto area such as Eastern Sound, Phase One, Metal Works, McClear Place, Manta Sound, Sounds Interchange, Zaza Sound, Inception Sound, Comfort Sound, Cherry Beach Sound, working with noted music and jingle producers such as Howard Baer, Andy Krehm, Sammy Nestico, David Fleury, Ted Rosnick, Eric Robertson, Pete Coulman, Sid Kessler, Einstein Brothers, Bev Crompton and, most famous, Phil Ramone.

The occasional tour with The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and the Charlottetown Festival took Lorne across all of Canada and through the midwest of the United States. Tours to Mexico and Germany with the National Ballet of Canada were other exciting musical points of Lorne’s career.

All the while, Lorne had his own recording studio in his Willowdale home – Seneca Sound – where he recorded jingles and demos for Lenny Solomon (violinist with Bowfire and noted jazz violin player), The Tait Brothers (Rick Tait would later form the famous jazz fusion band, Manteca), Robert Pilon (who performed the lead in Phantom of the Opera in Toronto), Tova (Teresa Tova – the Yiddish Diva), Erica Goodman (noted Harpist), Vivienne Williams (singer), Dave Blamires (later to sing with Pat Metheny), Vito Rezza (noted drummer within GTA) and Barry Elmes (also noted GTA drummer) to name a few. And also taking equipment out to record on location for groups such as the Hannaford Street Silver Band.

From 1991 to 1994, Lorne joined the Canadian tour of “The Phantom of the Opera” and went across Canada again, to Alaska and to Hawaii twice.  He then toured with “Music of the Night” throughout the United States. Back home in Toronto and off the road, Lorne played two stints with Donny Osmond in “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat” and a run of “Into the Woods” at the St. Lawrence Centre. During the holiday season, from 1973 until 2004, Lorne was in the orchestra pit for Toronto’s famous British pantomimes, later to be produced by Ross Petty.

By 2000, things were different on the music scene around Toronto, so Lorne did some regional theatre productions: Petrolia – “I Do I Do”; Orillia – “Cats”, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Kiss Me Kate”; Waterloo – “Menopositive”; Sheridan College – “Two Gentlemen of Verona”; St. Lawrence Centre – “Hey Marilyn”; Drayton Entertainment – “Anne of Green Gables”.  In 2013, Lorne was back with a 4-month run of “Cats” at the Panasonic Theatre in Toronto and in 2015, “Anne of Green Gables” for Drayton.

While it seems, Lorne was busy playing theatre, he worked even more with orchestras and has rarely let up since. A favourite gig was being the drum set player for the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa from 1996 to 2012, playing their pops concerts whether it was jazz, rock or show style of playing. Lorne also played, first as a percussionist and then as the timpanist, with the Hannaford Street Silver Band based in Toronto from 1996 – 2015 and still performs occasionally with this great dynamic ensemble.

Lorne is presently the Principal Timpanist with the Oakville Symphony, Peterborough Symphony (also being their Personnel Manager) and Rose Orchestra in Brampton. He plays occasionally as the timpanist or a percussionist with the Toronto Concert Orchestra, Ontario Philharmonic and Brantford Symphony.

Lorne and his life-partner, Wendy, live in Midland, Ontario (more time on the road but less time in traffic) and obviously, to keep as busy as he is, all of the province gets to see Lorne’s van on the road as he heads to yet, another gig.

Alejandro Céspedes

Alejandro Céspedes, M.Mus, is an active freelance percussionist and educator who studied at the University of Toronto and Amadeo Roldán Conservatory in Havana, Cuba. He performs classical percussion, body percussion, Latin percussion and steel pan. Céspedes performed with the National Opera and Ballet Orchestra of Cuba and the Niagara, Kingston and Toronto Symphony Orchestras. He has performed with Bobby McFerrin, Jane Bunnett, the Buena Vista Social Club, and was featured at the Toronto Body Percussion Festival. He was a musician/dancer/actor for Venom of Love and The Power of Harriet T! Céspedes founded and conducted the steel pan ensembles at Music By The Lake (Toronto District School Board Music Camp) and the Regent Park School of Music, which performed with 2Cellos and events such as the Luminato and Toronto Jazz Festivals. He has also taught percussion at the National Music Camp of Canada, Manuel Saumell and Amadeo Roldán Conservatories in Havana. He has conducted body percussion workshops at Lizt Alfonso Dance Company in Havana and McGill University in Montreal. He co-founded Oregano Percussion, which combines styles from Latin and Caribbean to Songwriting, Pop, and chamber music. Céspedes is an artist/endorser of Pearl/Adams Musical Instruments, and Humes & Berg. 

More information: oreganopercussion.com