Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
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Tuckamore Festival

Location: St. John's, NL
ArtsNL Program Funded Under: Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organizations
Amount Funded: $22,000

student and teacher at grand piano


Festival Dates: August 7 to 20, 2017
Festival Contact: Krista Vincent
Festival Website:
Festival E-mail:

For two weeks every summer, the Tuckamore Festival celebrates the history and explores the future of chamber music by delivering extraordinary musical performances. The festival was founded in 2001 by Artistic Directors Nancy Dahn and Timothy Steeves, and over the years has become a major contributor to the cultural life in Newfoundland and Labrador.

In addition to presenting world-renowned guest artists, alongside emerging and well-known local talents, the festival offers an inspiring and intensive educational experience for over 20 young chamber musicians and composers. Those young artists immerse themselves in the composing, practice, and performance of chamber music and solo repertoire with the guidance and mentorship of faculty.

The Festival’s Board of Directors recently renewed the organization’s mission to “inspire, expand, and nurture an engaged community of chamber music lovers; present high caliber live performances; provide professional experience and mentorship for talented emerging musicians and composers; deliver outreach and enrichment programs to communities and schools; support new chamber music creation and performance; and to contribute to the global chamber music community.”

Tuckamore Fest artistic directors

Artistic Directors Nancy Dahn and Timothy Steeves

The Board felt the update reflects just how far the Tuckamore Festival has come in its 17 years. The first ten or so years, there was a focus on building the main two-week long festival and through that process, a loyal audience and supporter base was established. In fact, in 2010 the Festival’s Artistic Directors received the Artist of the Year award from ArtsNL. Now, in more recent years, Tuckamore has increased the organization’s dedication to outreach programming, and has expanded activities outside of the summer season.

The annual Prelude Concert was established as a means of highlighting the careers of its successful Young Artist program alumni, celebrating their connection to Tuckamore. The Festival itself further evolved in 2011 when a spoken word element was integrated for the first time with a memorable performance from Andy Jones in Carnival of the Animals. The following year additional concert venues and forms of concert presentation were incorporated.

An annual ”rural” concert was introduced in Brigus in 2008 and a second added in Admiral’s in 2013. That same year, Tuckamore began partnering with retail businesses to offer free performances at their outlets and Tuckamore began doing outreach performances in grade schools.

Tuckamore also established the Tuckamore Travels tour in 2014 that led to performances in English Harbour and Milton. It was also in that year that the inaugural Concert Chat and Coffee series took place at the Rocket Room, which has since been rebranded as Tuckamore Talks – free pre- and post-concert talks hosted by esteemed musicians, musicologists, and composers about the music performed at the festival.

Thanks to the support of one of the Festival’s sponsors, Stewart McKelvey, Tuckamore began working with Mile One Centre in 2015 to create unique opportunities for anthem performances at St. John’s Ice Caps games.

Tuckamore had continued to develop its outreach work associated with schools and 2015 marked their first major school tour that visited 10 schools in the Bonavista region and, through support from PAL Airlines, across Labrador. Tuckamore school tours, funded through ArtsNL’s School Touring Program, continued and as recently as May 2017 they were running a tour called What Life Throws At You for grades four to 12 that made stops in St. John’s, Mount Pearl, Mount Carmel, St. Mary’s, Trepassey, St. Bride’s, Placentia, Ferryland, Mobile, Witless Bay.

With the 2017 Tuckamore Festival in full swing, we chat with the festival’s general manager, Krista Vincent, to learn more about what’s in store…

Q and A with Krista Vincent...

ArtsNL: Can you let us know what some of the highlight events are for this year’s festival?

Krista: We have a fantastic evening concert series again this year; a festival favourite, pianist André Laplante, kicked things off on opening night. We’ve got the Rolston String Quartet - they won the Banff International String Quartet Competition last year and are a rising star in the classical music world. Then of course our Late Night events start with a cabaret and musical theatre-themed extravaganza featuring Justin Nurse and Jonathan Monro, followed in week two by a humour-filled evening with clarinetist-turned-comedian Christopher Hall. These are always fun, always unexpected, and definitely throw any “concert-hall” formality out the window! We’re also extremely proud to present a new work by composer Alice Ho and text by Lisa Moore called Your Daughter Fanny, a music-drama based on war letters written by the Victorian Aid Detachment nurse Frances Cluett. And, what would a chamber music festival be without a few of our favourite masterpieces thrown in? This year, we’ll present works by Mozart, Brahms, Schumann, Bartok, and Elgar in our two Friday night Faculty concerts, and a special chamber orchestra version of Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals!

ArtsNL: There are a number of free ways for people to interact with the Tuckamore Festival as well, what are they?

Krista: We believe that the Tuckamore Festival should be accessible to all, and our programs are designed to ensure anyone with a curiosity or interest in chamber music can find ways to participate. We present over two dozen free and outreach events each year that enrich and complement our ticketed events. These include our Tuckamore Talks series – an informative pre-concert talk with artists, musicians and musicologists, and informal post-concert chats where audiences can meet like-minded music lovers, and talk about the music that inspires them! We also have masterclasses with our Faculty and visiting guest artists, a special children’s concert (this year with the Rolston String Quartet), and of course all of our Young Artist Program events. There are so many ways to enjoy the Tuckamore Festival, even on a shoestring budget!

H'Sao performing


ArtsNL: What kind of workshops and masterclasses are planned for the festival this year?

Krista: We’ll run our annual Body Mapping sessions with Andover Educator Jennifer Johnson. These are for our Young Artists but also open to the public, and a great opportunity to learn about the musician’s body from one of the world’s foremost expert in the field. We’ll present a String Instrument workshop with local luthier Rodney de Vries - great for young string players who want to learn more about the mechanics and care of their instrument. We’re also bringing in the inimitable Jonathan Monro for a special Risk Taking as a Performer workshop, delivered from the perspective of this very accomplished musical theatre personality and applicable to musicians of all ages and backgrounds. This year, we are also delighted to present an open rehearsal for the new piece Your Daughter Fanny, which might interest young singers or actors interested in getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the collaborative process. And of course, audiences will get to see intimate and exciting mentoring sessions between our faculty and guest artists, and the participants of our Young Artist Program in five masterclasses. Best of all, these events are all free to the public.

ArtsNL: Can you talk a little bit more about the Young Artist program, why that’s important to Tuckamore, and what it involves?

Krista: The Young Artist Program has been part of the festival since its inception in 2001, and it is truly at the heart of what we do. Our mission is to inspire and expand a community of chamber music lovers, and this starts with youth, especially young musicians, at the start of their chamber music journey. Across our 17 year history, our Young Artist program has steadily grown in size, quality and in our reputation for an inspiring and intensive educational experience. It’s truly an immersive experience, as these young musicians are making, listening to, or talking about music from the time they get up to the time they go to bed.  We now invite between 22 and 25 young chamber musicians to St. John’s each year; this includes string players, pianists, and composers.

Our program is open to students from 16 to 26, and our Artistic Directors ensure they include students at various levels of development, from high school to graduate-level performers, so that they can learn from and mentor each other. Thanks to our annual Evening Concert Series, they also receive instruction from some of North America’s most outstanding international chamber musicians. For young artists who are on the brink of professional musical careers, the educational and networking experiences are unequalled in this country. Certainly, few events of this type offer the combination of mentorship from renowned artists, significant performance opportunities, workshops, open rehearsals, private lessons, coaching and masterclasses for emerging artists at this stage in their careers. We’re very proud that each year, we attract outstanding young performers from across Canada, the US, the UK, and beyond who have gone on to have successful careers of their own, some even returning to the festival as guest artists themselves - and one, Heather Tuach, even establishing the Wintertide Chamber Music Festival on the west coast of Newfoundland.

ArtsNL: Who are some of the stand out performers that the festival has hosted in past festivals?

Rolston String Quartet

Krista: We’re always delighted to see the career progression of past participants of our Young Artist Program, and so many of our highlights include seeing them back on stage as professional musicians with international careers of their own: Angela Pickett with Sybarite5, James Hurley appearing in last year’s Late Night Jazz with local guitar legend Duane Andrews. Some of our performers have become absolute fan-favourites, and seeing them perform across multiple seasons is definitely a highlight – it’s like reuniting with an old friend again after time apart: Janina Fialkowska, the Shanghai String Quartet, the Gryphon Trio, Mark Fewer and the Duke Trio are just a few examples. We’ve had performers at the top of their game – I can think of the St. Lawrence String Quartet and their absolutely sublime concert at the Kirk in 2011, and Jon Kimura Parker’s rousing opening night performance in 2014. We also had the privilege of presenting some of the world’s most up and coming young string quartets, and it’s been wonderful for us at Tuckamore, and for our audiences, to follow the rising careers of the Enso String Quartet, the Jupiter String Quartet, and we’re sure there are great things to come for this year’s Rolston String Quartet. We’ve had Grammy-winners like baritone Brett Polegato grace our stage, but we have quite a few Juno-award winners closer to home! Along with 2017 guest artist Scott St. John (who won a Juno for Classical Album of the year with his sister Lara), and last year’s Children’s Album of the Year winner Duane Andrews, our own Artistic Directors, Duo Concertante, also lay claim to Juno hardware.

drumdancing performance


ArtsNL: Can you share a little more detail on the work that the Tuckamore Festival does in schools?

Krista: The Tuckamore Festival started delivering school performances as part of our Education and Outreach program in 2011. These concerts are delivered by our Young Artist Program alumni, not only giving them a chance to develop their performance and presentation skills, but to highlight the cycle of mentorship. These presentations were meant to bring engaging, professional-quality performances to school students as part of our mandate of building a community of chamber music lovers from the ground up – maybe even inspiring them to be future participants themselves. Initially, these concerts took place at Memorial University School of Music and were streamed live to schools across the province with the help of the Centre for Distance Learning and Education. In 2013 and 2014, we took an alumni quartet on the road to schools in metro St. John’s and Northeast Avalon. In 2015-16 with the support of the ArtsNL School Touring Program, we expanded our efforts to include our first major school tour. The Strataphoria Quartet, all alumni of our Young Artist Program, developed and delivered a space and science themed concert and workshop presentation to over 2,300 students in the Clarenville/Bonavista area and Labrador, through sponsorship by PAL Airlines.

In 2017, again with the support of ArtsNL, we developed a new program called What Life Throws At You, which we presented to over 1,900 students across the Avalon Peninsula. These school tours usually include a 50-minute performance, often for the whole school, followed by a 50-minute breakout workshop for perhaps just students in a single music class or grade level. What Life Throws At You used the music of composers like Beethoven, Schumann, and fiddler Émile Benoît to discuss adversity and resilience, and even how some of the people we think as being extremely successful had to overcome many personal challenges in their lives. By all accounts, this project was very impactful for students, and that was clearly seen in the workshop portion where they had lots of questions about the composers. Many also opened up about their own personal challenges or those of family members. It’s amazing how music can provoke such emotion and vulnerability, and also have the power to give such strength when people need it most. I think for our Artistic Directors and the alumni performers who delivered this project, it really reaffirmed all the reasons why our Outreach and Education program exists, and its potential. We’re hoping to reprise this project in other areas of the province next year.

ArtsNL: How does the festival seek to support the development of new music?

Krista: This has always been a strong priority for our Artistic Directors, Nancy Dahn and Timothy Steeves. Together as Duo Concertante, they have commissioned over 25 new works for violin and piano, and are known across Canada for their strong support of new music. This is a passion they bring to Tuckamore. Wearing their Artistic Director hats, they have commissioned and premiered works by leading composers Jocelyn Morlock, Denis Gougeon, Katarina Curcin, and this year, the special new piece by Alice Ho mentioned earlier.  Perhaps our most meaningful contribution though has been the development of our Young Composer program and the music that has been created within its auspices. We’ve welcomed almost 20 young composers to the festival, who have worked diligently under the guidance of our award-winning Composer-in-Residence, Andrew Staniland, to produce a new piece for piano trio that sees its premiere at the end of the first week.  It’s heartwarming and inspiring to watch these emerging composers have their work premiered by the young artists of our festival.

dancing performance


ArtsNL: What kind of community partnerships exist between the Tuckamore Festival and other organizations? Why are these important? There’s also some work being done by the festival on inclusiveness, correct?

Krista: Absolutely, partnerships are so important for the sustainability of our operations, and the Tuckamore Festival is very lucky to have incredible support from our community over the years. First and foremost, the festival would perhaps not have grown to what it is today without the support from Memorial University’s School of Music. For two weeks each year, the festival occupies almost every room in the M.O. Morgan building for rehearsals, workshops, and performances. We also have an incredible partnership with Delta Hotels to host our prestigious guest artists. It’s important that the Tuckamore Festival approach programming with a holistic view, and contribute activities that help grow and enrich our province’s cultural ecosystem. So we try to leverage the talents of our faculty and guest artists towards additional programming aimed at the general arts community - over the years we’ve been able to put off workshops and masterclasses for the Suzuki Talent Education Program, Newfoundland and Labrador Registered Music Teachers Association, Dance Teachers Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Dance NL.  We’re also lucky to count on support from some fantastic artists in the visual arts community, most notably Jean Claude Roy, who contributes a painting each year that becomes our “hero” image for that season. Inclusivity and social justice have become an emerging priority for the festival, and we are conscious of developing initiatives so that we can give back to the wider community in meaningful ways. This includes complimentary tickets to clients of the Association of New Canadians, and most recently, a creative partnership with Stella’s Circle, whereby for every $500 raised, the Artistic Directors matched their time towards a free performance for Stella’s Circle clients.

ArtsNL: What are some of the challenges faced in preparing for each festival? How does it all happen and who is involved?

Krista: What you see each year at the Tuckamore Festival is the product of many months of planning. It starts with our Artistic Directors’ vision for each season, and from there they work tirelessly to forge contacts with potential guest artists - sometimes negotiations have to take place years in advance to ensure the availability of some of our most prestigious guests. Generally, most of the broad strokes in terms of programming and content are in place at least a year in advance. We have great support from our public agencies, and a substantial portion of our annual cycle is dedicated to grant writing and reporting. We begin advertising our Young Artist Program to about 100 schools across North America in December, and once we sort through all the applications after the February deadline, the Artistic Directors aim to finalize most of the annual cohort by April each year.


As the General Manager and the only year-round staff member, I’m always grateful once the seasonal student grant programs begin. We’ve had such tremendous support from both Federal and Provincial granting agencies, and each year we’ve been able to employ anywhere from 2 to 5 additional seasonal staff. Many of these students are past participants of the Young Artist program, just another way in which we give back to these students – an added bonus for Tuckamore too as they already have experience with the festival. From then on it’s all hands on deck: planning, booking, communications with artists, advertising, and promotion – all to ensure each festival runs smoothly and successfully. Generally, I think the challenge for Tuckamore is not that dissimilar to any classical music festival – getting word out there about what we do, overcoming preconceptions about what chamber music is, and growing our audience. Luckily, we’re fortunate to have a knowledgeable and dedicated volunteer Board of Directors who are incredibly committed and work to overcome these challenges while guiding solutions - the growth of the festival in recent years is truly a testament to this leadership.  The festival is a massive collaborative effort made possible by the work of our Board, Artistic Directors, staff, and a veritable army of volunteers. But it’s worth it - we know we’re so lucky to have the Tuckamore Festival in our community and to have the caliber and quality of these artists on our doorstep!

ArtsNL: Can you talk a little more about the activities that happen outside the main two-week festival?

Krista: In terms of keeping our audiences engaged and truly building a community of listeners for chamber music, the festival has realized how important it is to keep activities running through the whole year; not just confined to the two-week festival. Our school tour has been a big part of this, enabling us to expand activities and reach out to the school community. We’ve also partnered with businesses like Diamond Design, Fred’s Records, and Fifth Ticket Piano Bar to offer free seasonal performances, usually in the Christmas period. In 2017, we again partnered with Memorial’s School of Music, who received funding from the Royal Society of Canada, allowing us to expand our Tuckamore Talks series with three pre-season lectures in May, June, and July. These were engaging, highly popular talks given by our resident musicologist, Dr. Joe Argentino, and allowed us to venture further afield to venues like the Botanical Gardens. A couple of years ago, we also started Tuckamore Travels, which originally took the form of a short pre-season tour, to Admiral’s Cove, Milton, English Harbour, and Port Rexton. We’re delighted that this year, through the support of Canadian Heritage and the Canada150 program, we’ve been able to expand Tuckamore Travels for 2017 into its very own full-fledged tour to seven venues across the province, starting this December. This new show is called What Was Needed Most, and is a collaboration between the Tuckamore Festival and writer/director Robert Chafe. It is a bespoke music-drama piece about what it means to be a Newfoundlander and Labradorian as we celebrate 150 years of Confederation. This really marks an exciting development, with substantial programming outside our summer season delivered in communities from St. John’s to Corner Brook – another Festival first!


ArtsNL: How does the ArtsNL funding from the Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organizations help the Tuckamore Festival continue to develop and achieve its goals? And, why is the funding important?

Krista: To do all the wonderful things we do takes a large amount of resources, particularly human resources, and as I mentioned our presentations often require one or even two years of advance planning to bring to the stage. The Sustaining Program gives us the assurance that the projects we explore can come to fruition because of the continuity of financial support we receive. It means we can support a year-round employee and that we can continue to develop new and innovative approaches to programming and audience development, for example through our school tours, Tuckamore Talks or Tuckamore Travels. Ultimately, the winners are our audiences – longstanding and new, the children in schools, the emerging young string players, pianists, and composers.

ArtsNL: What are some of your highlights from this year’s festival that you are looking forward to most?

Krista: While I really wish I could be in St. John’s right now, I’m following the entirety of the festival from Canberra, Australia this year, where we are temporarily based for my husband’s work. So I am most excited to follow the progress of the festival through our social media accounts. We have such a great team of engaged and media-savvy students, and they have been doing a fantastic job in generating a buzz online in the lead-up to the festival. Already, from what I’ve seen, they’ve been incredibly successful in capturing the energy and momentum of the festival on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I hope our audiences take a look at what they are posting and are getting as excited about the festival as I am. I’m certainly missing the evening concerts this year, and were I in town, you’d see me up front and center at both the late night events, the Great War, Words and Whimsy concert, and the always fantastic festival finale. Watching everything unfold online though is a close second!