Protege Profile: Alicia Venables ~ CMK Arnold Draper Fund for Young Artists

This month’s “Protege Profile” segment, in support of the Chamber Music Kelowna Arnold Draper Fund for Young Artists, focuses on Alicia Venables (violin). Ms. Venables and Arnold Draper have a long-standing friendship; as you’ll read, she is an accomplished young artist who excelled in her studies and knows very well how being mentored by Arnold has contributed to her triumphs and continued passion for chamber music. 

Born in Victoria, BC, Alicia Venables (violin) grew up in Armstrong, BC. She first met Arnold Draper when she was 14 years old; Chamber Music Kelowna featured performances by Trio Accord, where they also led masterclasses in Kelowna, BC. Alicia and her sister, Colleen (who was just 11 at the time, and was also mentored by Arnold Draper) performed Bach’s Double Violin Concerto for the members of the trio, with Arnold accompanying them on piano. 

“We were incredibly lucky for him to agree to play with us because we got to hear the orchestral part on piano at the highest level,” says Alicia. “This was a very special and formative time for my sister and I, because we later studied with the violinist of Trio Accord,  Mary Sokol Brown.” 

Growing up in a small town in BC and being passionate about music, Alicia credits Chamber Music Kelowna with providing her (and many other young students) the opportunity to be inspired and learn from world-class artists.  “I was fortunate to watch Trio Accord, Arnold Draper, James Ehnes, the Gryphon Trio, and Ian Parker and many other great artists,” remarks Alicia. “Being able to see these incomparable artists up close at a young age played such a huge role in inspiring me to pursue violin as a career.” 

Alicia attended Music Academy of the West (2017/2018), where she was accepted into the string quartet seminar working closely with the members of the Takács Quartet. She also performed Schumann’s Piano Quintet with pianist Jeremy Denk and performed under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel, Alan Gilbert, and Stéphane Denève. Her string trio was also a first-prize recipient at the Canadian National Music Festival.

While attending Carnegie Mellon University, she was a member of the Carnegie Mellon University Honors String Quartet, where they travelled to Doha, Qatar as cultural ambassadors. She was the winner of the Carnegie Mellon University Concerto Competition and, as a violist, her string quartet won the Silberman Chamber Music Competition. 

During her tenure at Carnegie Mellon University, Alicia auditioned for and became Concertmaster of the Philharmonic. While elated by this triumph, Alicia at first felt tenuous about accepting the role. “I was nervous about being in a leadership position among my peers with fears of being judged, and was clouded by negative thoughts of not being good enough,” she confesses. Her teacher, Andres Cardenes, gave her some very sound advice: “Always lead with integrity, be 110% prepared all the time — knowing your own part and the score inside and out — and don’t let the opinions of others affect your confidence or effort in honouring the music to the best of your ability.”

Alicia completed her Master of Music Degree at Carnegie Mellon University in 2018 under Andres Cardenes, and received her Bachelor’s Degree from San Francisco Conservatory of Music with Ian Swensen. She also received a Performance Diploma from Mount Royal University where she studied with William Van der Sloot and participated in the Academy program.

During the summer in between her studies at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Alicia and her sister, Colleen, performed a benefit concert in Kelowna with Arnold Draper. “I remember the rehearsals in their gorgeous home and how Arnold and (his wife) Arlene were incredibly gracious towards us,” she reflects. “I remember playing Faure’s Violin Sonata and being struck by the sensitivity, fluidity of phrasing, and beautiful authenticity of his playing.”

“I have a specific memory of performing the second movement and feeling so moved and supported by how he was playing that I felt incredibly free to express the music with him,” Alicia continues. “Simply put, this is the joy of chamber music for me: supporting each other’s sounds, listening and responding and essentially having a conversation through the music.”  

Alicia also recalls wanting to program an arrangement of some Piazzolla Tangos, on very short notice. “Arnold learned the pieces in what must have been only a week or so,” she says,” but no one would have known that fact because he played them so brilliantly!”

Now a professional musician, Alicia imparts some words of wisdom to young artists. “Be fearless and don’t be afraid to make mistakes that will lead to growth,” she begins. “Learning a piece goes way beyond learning the notes; of course practicing is crucial, but context is equally as important. Find out all you can about the composer, what was happening in the world at the time it was written, listen to recordings, and study the score.” A last piece of wise advice, she offers that “recording ourselves while practicing also keeps us honest!”

Reflecting again on her earlier years, Alicia recognizes Arnold Draper as being essential to her success. “Being able to work with a pianist at such a high professional level was a great learning experience for me, and I remember having so much fun while doing so!” she proclaims. “Playing with Mr. Draper, who exemplifies mastery while playing and graciousness and generosity in person, was a true chamber music experience.”

Alicia held a one-year contract with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in 2019-2020 and previously was a member of the first violin section in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. She attended the New York String Orchestra Seminar which held their performances in Carnegie Hall, the National Arts Centre Program in Ottawa under the direction of Pinchas Zukerman, the Banff Masterclass Program and Morningside Music Bridge where she was a finalist in the Concerto Competition. She also participated in the Fjord Cadenza Festival in Norway, and Masterclass Al-Andalus in Spain. She enjoys coaching at the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra and looks forward to when auditions can be safely held again.

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The Chamber Music Kelowna Arnold Draper Fund for Young Artists, in cooperation with the Central Okanagan Foundation, was created to assist young musicians who are pursuing a career in classical music. Mr. Draper has dedicated countless hours as teacher, coach and performing colleague to many young and emerging artists from the Okanagan. 

If you would like to support the CMK Arnold Draper Award Fund, please click on the DONATE button to be taken to our secure donation page through our partner, Canada Helps, and click on the fund in the drop-down menu. For more information about the CMK Arnold Draper Award Fund, please visit this page on our website