Biography – 850 words

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Born April 8, 1966, Newmarket, Ontario

JUNO nominated composer and recipient of the 2017 Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Distinguished Artist Award, John Estacio is one of Canada’s most frequently performed and broadcast composer. In 2017, Canada Post commemorated Estacio's first opera, "Filumena" with a stamp as part of the Canadian Opera stamp collection. Born in Newmarket, Ontario in 1966 to parents of Portuguese descent, he grew up in a farming family on the Holland Marsh.  John took private lessons on piano and accordion and cut his teeth in performance playing the church organ every Sunday.  He developed a bug for composing in his teenage years creating soundtracks for short films that he and his school buddies created. He continued to work on his performance chops by playing trumpet and taking roles in high school musicals (Aurora High School 1980-85). But he knew composition was what his heart desired.

He attended Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario where he majored in composition, 1985-1989. While at WLU he studied composition with Glenn Buhr and Peter Hatch and piano with Boyd MacDonald. Between 1989-1991 he earned his Masters of Music at University of British Columbia where he studied composition with Stephen Chatman.

Shortly after graduating from UBC, he completed his first major orchestral work, Visoes da Noite, which became a finalist in the Winnipeg Symphony’s first Canadian Composers Competition (1992). His second place finish garnered him a prize that included a commission for a new orchestral work for the WSO, Saudades, which the orchestra premiered and recorded at their New Music Festival in the following year. The results from the WSO competition brought Estacio to the attention of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

In September 1992, the ESO appointed Estacio as their first Composer in Residence. Estacio was initially hired to be in residence for ten weeks. However, this residency eventually lasted 8 seasons (1992-2000).  During his residency in Edmonton, Estacio created several orchestral works to be premiered by the ESO. He also participated in various outreach activities including school concerts, audience outreach programs, and the Young Composers Project that he started in 1995.  In 1998, Estacio was also in residence with Pro Coro Canada and created two works for the choir, Ziggurat (1998) with a libretto by Timothy J. Anderson, and Eulogies (2000) with text by Val Brandt. Eulogies received the Association of Canadian Choral Conductor’s National Choral Awards for Outstanding Choral Composition.

During his tenure with the ESO, he created A Farmer’s Symphony which the orchestra performed on their Northern Lights Tour in 1994 with stops in Yellowknife, Inuvik and Whitehorse. In 1997 he composed a Triple Concerto for the opening gala concert of the Winspear Centre for Music in Edmonton. That same year, he also received the Syncrude Award for innovative artistic direction for the Young Composers Project. He composed Frenergy (1998) which has become one of his often performed compositions. Several of the works Estacio composed during his residency can be found on the album titled Frenergy; the Music of John Estacio, released on CBC Records and performed by the ESO and Mario Bernardi.

In 2000, Estacio moved to Calgary and started a residency with the Calgary Philharmonic and the Calgary Opera. During his residency, he continued many of the projects in Calgary that he had started in his previous residency with Edmonton. He composed Solaris, Bottlegger’s Tarantella and Spring’s Promise for the CPO. His most notable achievement of the Calgary tenure was his opera Filumena which he created with librettist John Murrell. He composed Filumena between 2001-2003; it premiered in Calgary February 1, 2003. The opera has since gone on to be performed twice at the Banff Summer Festival (2003, 2005), the National Arts Centre, and the Edmonton Opera. It was filmed for television and broadcast on the CBC network in March 2006 and on PBS in January 2012 . His second opera, Frobisher, again with John Murrell, premiered in Calgary and Banff in 2007,

During his tenures in Edmonton and Calgary, he also composed for other performers and ensembles including the Toronto Symphony, Montreal Symphony, Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, the CBC Radio Orchestra, the Banff International String Quartet Competition (2001), Nora Bumanis and Julia Shaw, Gwen Hoebig and David Moroz, and the Penderecki String Quartet.

In 2003 he received his first JUNO Nomination for Best Classical Composition for his string quartet Test Run, and the Frenergy CD, was nominated for two JUNO awards in 2005. He received SOCAN’s Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award in 2004, 2005 2007 and 2011. He has also received Young Composer Awards from SOCAN and PROCAN in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1994.

In 2006 he created arrangements of Seven Songs by Jean Sibelius for performance by Ben Heppner and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. His arrangements were performed in the fall of 2007 by Mr. Heppner with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen in London and Paris, and again in the spring of 2008 by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra in Sweden.

In 2008, the Vancouver Bach Choir, the Richard Eaton Singers, Chorus Niagara and the Grand Philharmonic Choir premiered his cantata The Houses Stand Not Far Apart. 1n 2009 the Victoria Symphony premiered his sinfonietta Triptych.

Estacio is the recipient of the NAC Award for Composers which will result in three commissioned works for the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the first of which was premiered in Ottawa and throughout the Atlantic provinces in the fall of 2011 and throughout China in 2013 and the UK in 2014.  "I Lost My Talk", based on the poem by Rita Joe, was composed to commemorate the 75th birthday of the Right Honourable Joe Clark and received performances throughout Canada in 2017. Other awards include an AMPIA Award for his film score for The Secret of the Nutcracker, and his frequent performances and broadcasts have earned him several SOCAN Concert Music Awards.

His "Trumpet Concerto" was commissioned by nineteen Canadian orchestras and performed across Canada in the 2017/18 season.  The Vancouver Opera commissioned and premiered his third opera Lillian Alling, which went on to be performed at the Banff Summer Festival in 2011.  His orchestral compositions have been performed by all of the major orchestras in Canada, as well as numerous orchestras in the USA including the Houston Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Rochester Philharmonic and numerous community orchestras. His popular orchestral work, Frenergy, has been transcribed for band and recently published by Boosey and Hawkes.

His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, including performances by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and a performance of his Triple Concerto in May 2012 by the Edmonton Symphony. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet featured several of Estacio’s orchestral works in a new ballet Wonderland with choreography by Shawn Hounsell. His concert aria, Daybreak, was the test piece at the 2012 Montreal International Musical Competition and performed by all 23 competitors.

His currently resides in Edmonton, Alberta and is busy at work on commissions for upcoming seasons.

To learn more about John Estacio, please visit him at his website:

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