Wearing the pants (upcoming at the COC in May), or playing the flirt, this Hungarian-Canadian steals hearts and scenes of all kinds, both here and internationally. Renowned in rehearsal for hopping up and down when things go either very well or very long, she is also known for her taste in leather pants and dance movies.

Think you know who April’s mystery child is? Send your best guess to Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn!

Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by April 20 2010.

March's Child



Musical Child 3March’s child was Juno award-winning and Grammy-nominated Canadian pianist and composer Serouj Kradjian.

Serouj Kradjian has appeared with the Vancouver, Edmonton, Madrid  and Göttingen Symphonies, the Russian National Orchestra, the Armenian Philharmonic and the Thailand Philharmonic. Solo and chamber recitals have taken him all over Canada and the USA, and a list of international concert and festival venues that read like a world tour. Works composed or arranged by Serouj Kradjian have been performed by I Musici Montreal, the Vancouver Symphony and the Elmer Iseler Singers.

Serouj became co-artistic director and pianist with the AMICI Chamber ensemble with the 2008-2009 season. His busy life as a chamber musician, solo pianist, composer arranged and conductor continues to reflect his extraordinary energy and passion for many kinds of music.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Serouj earned a scholarship to study in Vienna at the age of 14, but instead moved to Canada with his family, attending Francis Libermann Catholic High School in Scarborough. While still a teenager he met soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian, who would later become his wife, at church: she sang in the choir where he played the organ.

Young Serouj studied with Marietta Orlov, first at the Royal Conservatory of Music, then at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music, where he earned a B.A. in Piano Performance in 1994, followed by studies with Einar Steen-Nökleberg at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hanover.

Serouj Kradjian lives in Toronto with his wife, soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and their son Ari.


Your earliest musical memory?

My earliest musical memory is my father ceremoniously taking the vinyl disc out of its sleeve, putting it on the disc player, the sound of the needle falling and suddenly, music filling the room. My excitement related to this process had no boundaries. It was usually the orchestral arrangements of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies or fiery Russian folksongs performed by the Red Army Chorus. The feeling was always ecstatic! Also, as a two-year-old I would be given the first name of a family member or a guest, and I would compose/sing a melody based on the name in their honor. Needless to say, my improvisation would be the “main event” of people’s visits to our house. My parents still keep cassette tapes of my improvisations.


Musicians in your childhood family?

There were no professional musicians, but singing together at home was a must and not limited to family gatherings.


Where did hearing live and recorded music fit into your life as a child? As a young teen?

Because of the civil war situation in my country of birth, there were very few or no opportunities to experience live concerts, but thankfully our house was filled with recorded music. In Lebanon when a political, religious or literary personality died, school was cancelled: they would cease programming on national TV and put on classical music concerts on all day long. As bizarre as this may sound I would actually anxiously wait and fully enjoy lugubrious days like that.


First instrument?

My instrument has always been the piano and I started when I was five.  


Do you remember a first performance?

I was six, a year or so after starting my piano studies. I entered the National Competition for Young Performers, which was televised. I won it, playing the Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Johannes Brahms.


Do you remember the point at which you began to think of yourself as a musician?

After studying at the RCM and graduating from U of  T , I moved to Europe in my early 20s. My experience there was so inspiring that it put an end to any doubts I had about being a musician and carving out my own distinct path as a musician.


Do you remember ever thinking you would do anything else? if so, what were those things?

Working as a diplomat has always attracted me.  Journalism is another love.


Anything you'd like to say to the young person in that childhood photo?

That’s a funky conductor’s outfit you have there!


February's Child was…52_Laura Pudwell_ADULT_colour52_LauraPudwell_colour_1.75 CHILD

…mezzo-soprano Laura Pudwell, who grew up in Fort Erie, went to U. of T. for Honours English at Trinity College, and started singing professionally in 1986.

Laura is a singer of extraordinary versatility, whose musical appetites range from early to contemporary. Both in Canada and internationally she is at home onstage in opera, oratorios, intimate ensemble collaborations, and recitals. Laura appears regularly with The Toronto Consort often as a guest artist with Opera Atelier, Tafelmusik, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, the Toronto Chamber Choir, Chorus Niagara and the Menno Singers, to name a few of her more local collaborations. She lives in Kitchener-Waterloo with her husband and two children.

People don't forget working with Laura Pudwell and this goes back a long way. Director Jennifer Parr remembers her die-hard work ethic from Trinity days: "Laura broke her ankle and ended up in a cast during rehearsals of Camelot at Trinity College, and so played "the old lady" of the court, so that she could legitimately have a cane and hobble around,  as well as singing Nimue's song from offstage.."

Laura Pudwell is certainly pretty serious about what she does. Interestingly, she claims to be puzzled that Opera Atelier, for example, usually casts her as a comic character: " Don't know why, since no one here at home finds me very funny ...!" Under the deadpan is a complex sense of humour that informs her work both onstage and off. Last month's cryptic clues reflected examples of this.

In the OA Magic Flute, directed to enter the stage laughing and to laugh until the entire audience was laughing helplessly for absolutely no reason at all, she then abruptly stopped and stared back at them, eliciting further uproarious laughter: a sample of her particular brand of drollery and timing. It takes a particular kind of self-possession for a female singer to happily sport a  beard (as the Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas), but Laura carried that off gleefully, and took the audience with her.

In rehearsal? "In unaccompanied ensembles, I'm usually known as the pitch bitch, but you can't print that, can you?  I'll stop rehearsals and tune chords until they lock in."

And backstage? "…I cannot stand being called for an entrance, and will always arrive several minutes before cue time and say Miss Pudwell, standing by!"

Your earliest musical memory? Music has been such a huge part of my life, for so long, I can’t remember any firsts.  But I do know that I always woke up to music.  Either my mother would be playing the piano, or my father would have one of his jazz records playing.

Other musicians in your family? My mother is a church organist and choir director.  My entire family, both immediate and extended, are all musical, with lovely voices.

Music in your life at the time? Of course, always music at church.  Hymns remain some of my favourite music.  But mostly music is fellowship.  It’s what you do when you get together with family. You hang out around the piano and sing songs and laugh.

Making music? I apparently sang before I could talk.  You can just imagine the sound of a little girl singing with sand in her mouth … yep, I was a sandbox kind of kid.  Apart from that, I can certainly remember that on long car trips we sang in four part harmony .. as soon as my little brother could manage.  Which would have been when he was four and I was about six.  He sang the treble, I sang the alto (I never had a very high voice) my mother would sing the tenor and my father would sing the bass.  We pitched everything pretty high, because my father is actually a tenor.

Your first instrument? Performance? My first instrument was the piano, which I learned to play from my mother. I played sousaphone and bassoon in high school. I’ve always loved a good bass line …  As for an audience, do you mean apart from my brother, captive in his high chair?  Poor little guy ..I suspect my first solos would have been at church.  The first one I can remember actually preparing for was the Christmas portion of the Messiah in high school. I had to sing “O Thou That Tellest.”  As I recall, it went just fine.

When did you first  think of yourself as a musician? Hm…I’ve been putting that one off, sort of like Peter Pan …  I would say that accepting my place as a musician is  a fairly recent phenomenon for me.

Ever think you'd do anything else? I don’t remember ever thinking of actually being anything when I grew up. But if you could earn a living reading, that would have been my choice. Singing wasn’t even on the radar as an option until my mid-twenties. Singing was something you did for fun, and at church.  Not something you could earn a living doing.

Events or milestones that shaped the directions your musical life has taken? In my first year of university, going to Trinity College at U. of T, during frosh week, I discovered there was a chapel choir and thought I would try out for it. During the open rehearsal that served as the audition, the director, Robert Hunter Bell, kept staring at me with a strange look on his face. I figured I should beat a hasty retreat before he started yelling at me. I was quite surprised to find that he actually wanted me to stay, and that he would like me to sing in his church choir as well, at St. Mary Magdalene. I learned a lot about pitch and rhythm singing all that a cappella music with him.

Christmas of 1985 I was asked to do my first full Messiah, in Toronto. I was working full time for the Inter-Church Committee for Refugees, through the Canadian Council of churches.  My boss and her husband happened to select my Messiah for that year’s festive listening. After the performance, they came and found me and offered the upstairs of their huge house in the beaches on the condition that I quit working as a secretary and see where my singing would take me. I never would have thought of that myself.  At about that same time, the Toronto Consort advertised for a new singer.  On something of a whim, I went and auditioned.  And that was that.

Anything you'd like to say to the child in that photo? Stop fighting with your mother during piano lessons. And keep playing instead of quitting to spite her!!

Upcoming in Southern Ontario: Opera Atelier (April); Bach B Minor Mass in Kitchener with Howard Dyck on Good Friday (Grand Philharmonic Choir, April 2); Toronto Consort (May 7,8); and  Chorus Niagara's Gilbert and Sullivan show with Bob Cooper (May 15 and 16).

MARCH's Child….

MusicsChildren_MysteryChild_March2010Already loving music: conducting and singing at the same time, and only two years old! Today he's a busy pianist, composer, arranger, and chamber musician and married to one of Canada’s most beloved sopranos.

Think you know who March's mystery child is? Send your best guess to Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn!

Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by March 20 2010.

FEBRUARY's Winners and Prizes


Julie Goldstein and a friend will be the guests of Opera Atelier for the April 27 performance of The Marriage of Figaro (April 24-May 1). This is a brand-new production of Mozart's commedia dell'arte inspired opera, featuring Olivier Laquerre in his role debut as the incorrigible Figaro, with baritone Phillip Addis and mezzo soprano Wallis Giunta, and OA favourites Carla Huhtanen, Peggy Kriha Dye, Laura Pudwell, Curtis Sullivan, Artists of the Atelier Ballet, and the Tafelmusik Orchestra under the baton of conductor  David Fallis.
Louie Calleja
and a companion with be guests of the Toronto Consort on Saturday May 8th for Lutefest (May 7&8), for "the poetry of the lute" with Consort regulars, including Laura Pudwell, and guests from two other lute traditions: Bassam Bishara, oud (the Middle Eastern lute, and the world’s original lute), and Wen Zhao, pipa ( the Chinese lute).

Paulette Popp will receive a copy of Toronto Consort's recording The Queen: Music for Elizabeth.(MARQUIS 387). Gloriana would have had these 22 tracks for mixed consort and singers on her iPod, including Laura Pudwell's version of "Essex Last Goodnight", like a Patsy Cline of the 17th century!

Music's Children gratefully acknowledges Elaine Pudwell, Jennifer Parr, Karen Lorenowicz, Jane Harbury, Opera Atelier, and The Toronto Consort.

December/January’s Child was52_AnnCooperGay_Adult ... ANN COOPER GAY Executive/Artistic Director of the Canadian Children’s Opera Company.

52_AnnCooperGay_babyAnn was born in Texas. After graduating form Austin College (Sherman, Texas), she taught music and English in Hamburg, Germany, before coming to Canada in 1970 to attend the University of Toronto Opera School. She sang her 1971 debut with the COC as a Lady-in-Waiting in Macbeth, then toured as Despina (Così fan tutte), Mimì (La bohème) and Violetta (La traviata). She sang Sara Riel in Louis Riel with the COC in Toronto and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.(recorded for Centrediscs).

An accomplished
conductor, singer, organist, pianist, flutist and collaborator, Ann’s enthusiasm, high energy and artistic standards have left her imprint on the University of Toronto Women’s Chorus,  the U of T Hart House Orchestra,  and string orchestras of the Toronto Board of Education. She founded the Children’s Choir at the Royal Conservatory, and the High Park Choirs of Toronto. Ann’s Canadian experience came full circle when she accepted the reins of the CCOC from John  Tuttle: “My very first opera performance at the U of T Opera School was in Britten’s The Little Sweep - I sang alongside members from the CCOC!”

Ann lives in Toronto with her husband, conductor and composer Errol Gay.

Earliest musical memory?

Age 4 or 5, at the University of North Texas (Denton): a concert and the stage filled with grand pianos. Years later my mom confirmed this happened.

First experiences, instruments?

Singing in school and at church; learning to count from the church organist. I played the piano constantly (no time to help with chores!), began flute in the school band at 9,  and the church organ at 10. I later learned to play the oboe, took up strings in order to teach school orchestra, and even bought a lever harp!

The point at which you began to think of yourself as a musician?

Probably when I took over the church organist job at age 14!

Ever think of doing anything else?

I was a bit of a rebel -decided to enter college as a French major, not music. I had only taken Latin and Spanish, so my French career lasted one semester.

If you could meet face to face with your childhood self, is there anything you would like to say to her?

Dream as high as possible. Also, music will always be your best friend!

This month’s contest


“Miss X….standing by!”, circa 1964, in Ridgeway Ontario; later, Toronto,  London, Paris, Salzburg, Houston, Vienna and Boston.


Bearded or not, she’s quite a lady. The “pitch-bitch” some of her consorts call her. She can enter laughing operatically, and continue until the entire audience is laughing too.

Think you know who FEBRUARY’s child is? Send your best guess to Please provide your mailing address just in case your name is drawn!

Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by February 20 2010.

Last Month’s Winners and Prizes: congratulations to ...

Annie Odom, who won the early bird prize in December: two tickets to the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Carmen  (Jan 27- Feb 27); Anne-Katherine Dionne and Diane Harvey: a pair of tickets to the premiere of The Canadian Children’s Opera Company’s The Secret World of Og (Enwave Theatre, May 5-9 2010). This newly commissioned opera by composer Dean Burry is based a novel book by Pierre Berton (who said it was his favourite of the 47 books he wrote). Music Director Ann Cooper Gay is joined by stage director Joel Ivany and 225 performers from all divisions of the company; Vera Tichy and Deborah Davis: the CCOC’s self-produced CD There and Back Again  “… verismo to mythical while singing in nine different languages and celebrating five Canadian composers - three of whom are opera composers.” (available from; Eniko Gaspar and R. Pekilis: the Juno-nominated recording of the CCOC commissioned opera A Midwinter Night’s Dream, by composer Harry Somers and librettist Tim Wynne-Jones (CentreDiscs CMCCD 12306),  recorded in 2006 with conductor Ann Cooper Gay.

Music’s Children gratefully acknowledges Ken Hall, Richard Truhlar and CentreDiscs, Jenny, and Elaine.

DECEMBER’s Child is…NOVEMBER’s Child!

December_childA few readers were sharp enough to identify November’s mystery child, in spite of the fact that her childhood photo did not reproduce as well as we’d hoped.

Their names were entered in a special draw for a magnificent prize: a fine pair of tickets to attend The Canadian Opera Company’s production of Carmen at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts (January 27 2010, 7:30pm).

The heat, dust, and sexual energy of George Bizet’s Spain will heat things up in Janaury in this co-production with Opéra de Montréal and San Diego Opera.

Carmen is conducted by Rory Macdonald and directed by Justin Way, and  features Beth Clayton as Carmen, Jessica Muirhead as Micaëla, Bryan Hymel as Don José, and Paul Gay as Escamillo, with sets by designer Michael Yeargan.

Congratulations to...Annie Odom

If you guessed correctly and did not win this prize, your name will be re-entered in the December draw.

For those of you who were stumped, or who went cross-eyed looking at November’s contest, here is another photo of this determined young musician, already intensely aware of the importance of being on top of your score, and thinking on your feet!!

Today she is “surrounded by more children than you could, ahem, shake a stick at”, whose 2010 musical adventures will take them to the bullfights in Seville in January, to Cyprus in February, and in May to a fantastical place of caverns and rivers inhabited by green-skinned Ogs.

Think you know who DECEMBER’S child is?

Send your best guess to:

(Please provide your mailing address, just in case your name is drawn!)

Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by January 20, 2010.

57a_nov_mystery_childSummer, McKinney, Texas - circa 1946


You’re never too young to be taken seriously as a musician (as November’s Child knew back then, and believes today, surrounded by more children than you could, ahem, shake a stick at.) Look for her Company (but not her name - that would be too easy!) in our Nov 28th listings.

Think you know who NOVEMBER’s child is?

Send your best guess to (please provide your mailing address, just in case your name is drawn!

Winners will be selected by random draw among correct replies received by November 20, 2009.

October's Child Was...


clarinetist Joaquin Valdepeñas: whose stylish sunglasses, ready grin and energetic manner have, by all accounts, accompanied his journey from Torreón and Tijuana, in Mexico, through Anaheim CA, to California State University, and on to Yale, before coming in for a landing in

Toronto when he auditioned for the TSO. Principal clarinet of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra since Sept 1980, he has also conducted the TSO on many occasions.

An extremely active soloist, chamber musician and conductor he has participated in festivals throughout the world including Banff, Vancouver, Casals, Edinburgh, Marlboro, Mostly Mozart, Nagano, and Korea. He is also a founding member of the Amici Chamber Ensemble who are in the 21st season of their concert series at the Glenn Gould Studio.

Joaquin has recorded extensively for CBC, Centrediscs, Naxos, Sony and Summit and was featured in a PBS documentary about the Aspen Music Festival both as clarinetist and conductor.

57c_joaquin_adultEarliest musical memory?

Seven years old - I used to walk past a music store on my way to school. There was a clarinet in the window, and I was mesmerized by it. Destiny? I don’t know

Other family musicians?

I am the only musician although there was a lot of music in my home. My mother had a beautiful voice but was not trained. She often sang at family gatherings. I had a huge family with lots and lots of cousins, aunts and uncles. At birthdays or other gatherings there were always guitars and singing.

First experiences of collaborative music making?

I joined the band in grade 7. My buddies and I wanted to play the trumpet (there’s a kind of boy thing with the trumpet)  but by the time the got to the V’s (Valdepeñas!) they were out of trumpets and I ended up with a clarinet. Of course, at the time, it was all about Herb Alpert. We all wanted to be like that. I still remember vividly playing with my colleagues, struggling to make a sound.

The school had a great programme. One period a day: the teacher was this young guy in his 20s. He had such much energy and enthusiasm. He taught us music theory, but he would also have us get up and conduct the band, and this is where I got my conducting bug. We had a marching band too, and we had to be the entertainment at games, assemblies. I had this very real sense of belonging to something.

Thoughts on clarinet as a  first instrument?

Not ideal for really young kids. Better to wait until those teeth have finished coming and going. And kids with small hands…sometimes their fingers are too skinny to cover the holes. The recorder can be a place to start, but it’s kind got a bad rep from being used in school programmes. Piano is good….

The point when you thought of yourself as a musician?

I never imagined making a living playing music, I had not declared my university major but I thought I’d learn some economics - but found I didn’t actually like numbers! But through the Music Department I had a weekly 30 min. lesson. I had never had a private lesson until then and was very lucky that the teacher was Kalman Bloch (principal of the Los Angeles Philharmonic). He was one of the most wonderful musicians I have known. Those first lessons was the time when I started to feel alive musically.

If I had not allowed myself just to say “okay, I’m going to work really hard and see where this goes” I can’t think what would have become of me.

If you could travel back through time and meet face to face with a younger Joaquin  is there anything you would offer?

In school we had to give the instruments back in June. Then in September you’d have forgotten everything and have to get back to where you were. So maybe a clarinet of his own…but maybe not too many lessons so soon …

Recordings /

Upcoming engagements?

We’ve just finished editing Amici’s new CD Armenian Chamber Music which is scheduled for a spring, 2010 release. On Dec 5 I’ll be in Lindsay, Ontario, with the ARC Ensemble (Artists of the Royal Conservatory) playing the Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet.

Then Amici has its second concert of the season

Back to top