Debutante Diaries

Debutante balls were the highlight of my favorite TV shows. Downton Abbey, Gilmore Girls and Gossip Girl each interpreted debutante balls and glittering dresses with spectacular style.

They appeared magical and I never imagined I would have the opportunity to participate in one.

In September, the McGill Schulich School of Music (where I studied violin) announced that the Austrian Society of Montreal was a generous patron and was accepting applications for debutantes and escorts.

I decided to apply, and it was with anticipation and a touch of curiosity that I walked into the first dance rehearsal. I had never waltzed before. The dancing instructor smiled at us and explained that whether we were beginners or had experience dancing, she would take us through the techniques of waltzing and poise to have us ready for the final choreography.

Throughout the weeks, the Wednesday rehearsals became a time to unwind from the demands of university. I became friends with the other participants and enjoyed hearing how their weeks were progressing. Our dance instructor Carole Brown guided us with such insight that we soon gained confidence in our dancing abilities.

One of the most special moments was when Montreal designer Astri Prugger attended our rehearsal.

She carefully hand tailored a dress for each girl. To accessorize the dress, we were given a crown, white gloves and a corsage. It was hard not to feel like royalty!

The day of the ball was a whirlwind of dance rehearsals, shimmering dresses and watching beautiful entertainment unfold. I never thought I could dance in heels! Luckily, the waltz was the best we had ever performed it. The perfect ending.

During the dinner and festivities, I had the chance to meet many of the patrons including the Principal of McGill Suzanne Fortier, Philanthropist Elisabeth Wirth and the Austrian Ambassador to Canada.

Looking back, It was a special experience where I met many people I now consider friends. I learned to carry myself with poise, but more importantly see how an effective charity event is run and how a group of friends can make a difference.

If you would like to attend the annual ball or apply as a Debutante or Escort, visit the Austrian Society of Montreal website at

A McGill Violinist in Vienna

The story of my exchange to the University of Music Vienna

Montreal in the fall. With the trees ablaze of colours and the bustle of students seeing old friends, I could hardly imagine leaving. But after watching a presentation on McGill’s exchange programs I knew I wanted to apply.

Fast forward eight months, a language exam and visa application later and I was on a plane to Austria to study at the University of Music and Performings Arts Vienna. The first week of school in Vienna was spent just like McGill, AKA everyone else is partying, but music students need to take placement auditions

Except instead of Frosh the party was Oktoberfest.

After chamber music and orchestra auditions, it was a relief to arrive at violin technique class with Prof. Michael Frischenschlager. I had been working Prof. Frischenschlager for several years as he is a regular guest of the Schulich School of Music and the Orford Music Academy.

The strong number of international professors and guests at the Schulich School provides students the opportunity of international connections, regardless if they go on exchange.

A leap of joy after the placement audition results was followed by me running to the practice rooms. In my hands was the dream schedule of a violinist.

  1. Vienna Musikverein orchestra project with conductor Lorenzo Viotti
  2. Opera in Schönbrunn Palace
  3. A quartet with my friends
  4. Orchestra excerpts with Vienna Philharmonic Concertmaster Herbert Kroisamer.

If I was nervous for anything, it was playing solo orchestra excerpts for Prof. Kroisamer. I have been a fan of the Vienna Philharmonic since childhood and definitely didn’t want to disappoint my younger self! In the end, my fears were for nothing and I thoroughly enjoyed the course.

Tales from Vienna Woods

The University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (MdW) is famous for its impeccable reputation, prestigious alumni and international student body. Moving to a new country to study music requires a firm determination. Classes, concerts & working with musicians from different countries. Here is our story of a quartet`s first semester at MdW.

The first few days

During the welcome party the director was cautioning the difficulties of the upcoming placement auditions (at music school the semester begins with performance exams which determine the concerts, classes and professors you recieve).

As fate would have it, the end of the assembly found Martin, Christina, Anton and Rose sitting together. The perfect instrumentation for a quartet – two violins, a viola and a cello. Rather than audition as individuals we went straight to the library, signed out Tschaikowsky’s string quartet #1 and prepared for the audition as a pre-formed quartet.

Leaving nothing to chance we arrived for the audition in all black concert dress.

Amidst a sea of virtuosic string players warming up in the hallway, the proctor announced the audition would be done in alphabetical order. Thanks to our violist Anton Boroson we were first!

Stepping into the room, we were immediately grateful for our careful preparation. The jury panel consisted of seven chamber music professors. After we played the tension was broken by a viola remark “Isn´t it nice that they already have a violist.” Our plan worked, they kept us together. The next day we were assigned to the class of Prof. Peter Matzka, Concertmaster of the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Discovering Vienna

The student culture at MdW is unique. It consists of students who have been committed to their instrument since early childhood. Classes often consist of fellow students who have previously met through competitions and masterclasses.

With music being the common denominator, the languages students use to communicate often varies. As a quartet we had the advantage of speaking German and English, so we were able to communicate within ourselves and at university.

On a side note, the guys could speak Russian with each other. So when a musical debate went into Russian stealth mode, the girls would nod towards the door and sneak out for coffee. When coffee costs 50¢ it is hard to resist!

The chamber music focus at MdW is outstanding.

In addition to world class coaching we participated in tailored chamber music courses which included:

  • Rehearsal Techniques and Problem Solving for Ensembles. By Prof. Johannes Meissl.
  • History of Chamber Music since 1900
  • Private lessons twice a week
  • Our quartet was assigned to the same orchestra, which greatly assisted scheduling quartet rehearsals.

Looking back, quartet rehearsals were a comforting routine when everything around us was new and uncertain. It was creating music with friends. We performed Tchaikovsky String Quartet #1 for our year end recital.

When we reached the movement we used for our audition, it was as if the semester flashed before our eyes. Studying in Vienna was a special opportunity that challenged us and intensified our commitment of sharing classical music.


Photo credit: Tosca Santangelo