Back to Banff: Gryphon Trio to lead classical music summer program in the Rockies

Jamie Parker, Annalen Patipatanakoon & Roman Borys are the Gryphon Trio.

Starting in 2020, the members of the Gryphon Trio will be part of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity as the directors of the institution’s Classical Music Summer Program.

For Roman Borys, Annalee Patipatanakoon and Jamie Parker, it is a return to their roots as all three are alumni of the Rocky Mountain arts institution, having studied there in the 1980s. It is where they met for the first time.

“This is a very exciting turn of events'” Borys told ARTSFILE. “It connects two important organizations (the Banff Centre and Ottawa Chamberfest) via the Gryphon Trio.”

For the centre, this appointment is part of a major effort to build “a national network of arts organizations working together to create more opportunities for artists across Canada. Ottawa Chamberfest is now part of the Banff Centre family,” said Rosemary Thompson, who is the former director of communications for the National Arts Centre and is now the vice president of marketing and board relations for the Banff Centre.

For the Gryphons, work on building their vision for classical music at Banff begins now with the formal launch of their work coming in the summer of 2020. The trio will take on the full leadership of the Classical Music Summer Program at the close of the 2019 season. They replace co-artistic directors Claire Chase and Steven Schick.

“Banff approached us and we gave it a lot of thought. Our major affiliation has been with Chamberfest, but when Banff approached us it was a flashback to an institution that all three of us had a big connection with in our formative years,” Borys said. He started going to Banff at age 14 in 1979 to a program for gifted youth and those early years opened the way for his career as a professional musician, he said. Over the years the Gryphons have taught and have had some residencies there. 

“The Gryphon Trio is a Canadian success story. The ensemble has impressed international audiences with their dynamic performances, and has firmly established their reputation as one of the world’s leading piano trios. Not only are they great musicians they are great teachers, all serving as artists-in-residence at the University of Toronto. They’ve also played a leadership role in the transformation of Ottawa Chamberfest from a festival presenter to a year-round arts organization. We are excited to see what they will achieve at Banff Centre,” said Janice Price, the president and CEO of Banff Centre in a media release. 

The Gryphons will continue to maintain their musical careers and will continue with Ottawa Chamberfest where Borys is the artistic and executive director. They will also continue to teach at the University of Toronto. The appointment effectively links three arts organizations: Chamberfest, Banff and U of T.

“Our goal at Banff Centre is to develop the next generation of cultural leaders. The Gryphon Trio will inspire our participants through education and performance to succeed as creative entrepreneurs not only in Canada but internationally. We want to share the success the Gryphon Trio has achieved at Ottawa Chamberfest and at the University of Toronto with participants at Banff Centre,” said Howard Jang, who is the vice president of Arts and Leadership at the Banff Centre. 

“I really believe this will have national impact,” Jang said in an interview.

He has been at the centre for about a year. But “quite honestly I have had an association with Banff for over 30 years. I have been attending in som many different ways throughout my career.

“I started as a musician as a matter of fact. I went to school with Jamie Parker at UBC and I knew his brother Jackie very well.”

Jang was a professional musician for many years and eventually got into arts and cultural management, eventually as a director with the Vancouver and Winnipeg symphonies, as a director with Ballet BC and the Arts Club Theatre Company. Most recently he was at Simon Fraser University developing a program called creative entrepreneurship.

“This is what brought me to the Banff Centre” where his task is arts and leadership.

That job description has him thinking about how to help artists succeed fully and that is beyond their artistic focus to their role in a community as business people and community builders. About 42 per cent of the artists who come to Banff have been there before, Jang said. The centre, which is what he described as a “non-parchment” post graduate arts and leadership training institute. Banff doesn’t give certificates, he said, it offers programs for artists who are already in their careers.

The Gryphon Trio, which was formed in 1993 with a goal of “honouring the past while building the future of classical music” fits into what Banff is all about, Jang said.

“They combine the idea of great and innovative performance, great teaching and an immense understanding of how to build a marketplace,” Jang said. In fact the opera Constantinople by Christos Hatzis, commissioned by the Gryphons, was an early example of a multi-disciplinary appraoch to art making driven by a musical group, Jang said. Banff helped workshop the opera, he added.

Borys credited the role played by playwright and opera creator John Murrell who was at Banff and helped guide Constantinople for helping connect all the collaborators involved in the production from staging to lighting to choreography.

Over 25 years JUNO-Award winning trio has commissioned some 85 new works and has released more than 20 recordings on the Analekta, Naxos and Ondine labels.

“Our mission at Chamberfest has been to change lives through music,” Borys said and that is the kind of sentiment that appears to have made them a good fit for Banff.

In the Rockies they will be creating programs for musicians whose foundation training is in classical music. The programs will provide an opportunity for the participants to gain much greater insight into “their own story as artists and then how to create impact and engage audiences,” Borys said. He says he hopes the program will help these performers think more broadly about their work as artists and an entrepreneurs in their communities.

“We need to be thinking about what does it mean to be an (classical music) artist in the 21st century?’

About 4,000 artists and leaders come to the Banff Centre’s campus in the Rockies every year. The centre offers more than 120 courses a year and presents more than 400 shows. Since its founding in 1933, more than 75,000 artists have trained, created or performed at the Banff Centre.

Chamberfest will benefit with a growing supply of performers who are working hard to advance contemporary music, Borys said.

Jang said Banff aspires to be “Canada’s resource for the advancement of arts and culture.” That led to a phone call to Borys about a year ago and “eventually to where we are today. It was kind of a match made in heaven moment.”

Jang’s goal at Banff, and he says for his career, is to help artists see beyond what it is they to “who they do it for, why they do what they do and how to build support for what they do. This is very much a reflection of the gig economy” that has emerged in the past several years. It also wull help them sit at the table of their communities, he believes.

The Gryphons’ tenure at Banff will be six or seven weeks long to start, Jang said, and may grow ultimately to 10 weeks with a mix of masterclasses, coaching sessions, leadership sessions and public performances each week. Eventually the musicians will have access to a studio for recordings of the work done there, Jang said.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.