The Faculty of Arts offers numerous bursaries and scholarships for incoming students, current undergrads, and graduate students, but of these, the Nicole Senécal Emerging Artist Prize is particularly cherished. Faculty of Law alumna Nicole Senécal has created a generous $10,000 bursary in honour of her parents, both avid music enthusiasts. It is awarded to a graduate student of the School of Music who “has demonstrated exceptional talent as a performer”.
This year, the prize has been awarded to Jeanine Williams, a well-rounded and impressive soprano who is currently a master’s student training under the guidance of Christiane Riel. Jeanine’s achievements are impressive for such a young singer, and winning this prize will help her achieve greatness.
The School of Music selects candidates for this award, after which candidates submit a recording of a recent performance and a statement of intent about their upcoming musical careers. How did you learn that you had won this prestigious prize?
The School sent me an email. At that point, I knew there were only four people in competition for the prize, so I knew I had a chance. I thought I performed well, but I definitely did not count on anything; I was just so surprised and grateful to have gotten this far in the competition.
What does winning this prize mean to you?
For me, it was gratifying because I worked very hard during my time at uOttawa and I felt rewarded for all my hard work. Of course, the money makes a big difference for a student, but it also signifies “we believe in our students” and it means a lot to me as an artist. It’s a hard business to get into, so when your university tells you they believe in you and your future, it means a lot.
Meeting and speaking with Mme Senécal meant the world to me because she was the most wonderful and incredible woman. Meeting her was so inspiring. I told her how grateful I was just to meet her, regardless of the prize or anything: the way she regards music and the way she has lived her life is amazing. Obviously I wanted to thank her personally.
Why did you choose to earn your master’s degree here?
Specifically, I wanted to study with Christiane Riel. The University of Ottawa also has a ton of funding. The Music program is great, but specifically Christiane brings a lot to the department: although [the School] is great on its own, the skills and presence she brings really takes it to another level.
What would you tell a student who is thinking of pursuing a graduate degree in music?
I would say it’s a lot of hard work, but if you feel it with all of your heart and soul, it will be extremely gratifying. In Canada, there are opportunities to study music at the graduate level and postgraduate level. The University of Ottawa offers both a great music program and great financial support.
How did your experience at uOttawa help your career?
I was accepted into programs other than uOttawa’s, but I wouldn’t change anything. At another university, I wouldn’t have had half the opportunities that I have had here, or half the connections I have made. The financial support, the community and the Faculty made uOttawa the perfect place for me. I couldn’t be happier about choosing to do my master’s at uOttawa.
Finally, how will this prize help you reach your career goals?
It definitely gives me a financial cushion to study with the right people, doing the right auditions overseas, a chance I wouldn’t have had without the prize.
What Christiane Riel has to say about her student
I remember very well the first time I met and heard Jeanine. I was giving a master class at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, where she sang for me. She was most striking with her flaming red hair and she exhibited a very elegant demeanour. Already as an undergrad, she had quite a distinctive timbre that was large and exciting, with a warm, voluptuous tone, while displaying considerable incisiveness and bite (squillo) and above all, immense beauty. A voice like hers, especially at her young age, is a rarity. I am most gratified to know that upon completion of her master’s degree with me, she will be continuing her vocal studies in Vienna, given its rich vocal tradition.
This would not have been possible without Nicole Senécal, whose generosity and vision have made the prestigious Nicole Senécal Emerging Artist Prize possible. This philanthropy is so vital to the development and nurturing of our emerging artists: financial relief frees them up to become the best artists they can be.
This summer, Jeanine will be moving to Austria, where she hopes to pursue her career as an opera singer and showcase what Canadian singers can do. Chances are, you will hear about her sooner rather than later.
On the behalf of the Faculty, congratulations to Jeanine on your countless achievements and thank you for helping the School of Music shine internationally.