Originally from Holland Marsh, the composer strikes a chord with the Order of Canada

John Estacio grew up in a farming family, but music has always been his passion; The first instrument he learned to play was the accordion in 1977

John Estacio, originally from Holland Marsh, was recently awarded the Order of Canada for his work as a composer and his contribution to Canadian opera.

On December 29, 2021, Governor General Mary Simon announced 135 appointments to the Order of Canada.

The Order of Canada is one of the country’s highest civilian honors, established in 1967 to recognize outstanding achievement in community and service to the nation.

“Canada is defined by the people who make up this great country. These most recent candidates for the Order of Canada are shining examples of the commitment and exceptional contributions of Canadians to the well-being of communities in this country, whether it be social, environmental, scientific, economic, cultural or related to mental and physical disorders. health. To all of the nominees, congratulations and thank you, ”said Simon.

Those appointed to the Order of Canada wear a striking six-pointed white enamel badge that symbolizes Canada’s northern heritage and diversity, for no two snowflakes are identical.

Estacio has lived in Edmonton, Alberta since 1992 and works as a songwriter, but grew up in Holland Marsh with his family, growing carrots and vegetables on the family farm.

His passion for music and the arts began at a young age.

“As a young kid, I was kind of always drawn to it, always curious about it,” he said.

Living in a farming community, most of his exposure to music came from television and radio.

“I knew at the time that I enjoyed making music and listening to live music,” he said.

Her sister, Mary Marques, who still lives in the area, says she always knew her brother was talented and that he “had music in his veins”. She recalled a summer when the family were farming together, when John disappeared, only to find themselves in the middle of the carrot patch, playing his toy guitar and singing.

“I can still see my mother with her hands up, worried about where her child was, and here he was singing with all his heart and playing his guitar,” Marques said. “From a young age, he was born with music in his system, and that continues today.”

The first instrument he learned to play was the accordion in 1977. Classes were held in the basement of the John Street Presbyterian Church in Bradford.

His parents bought him the accordion for lessons, but it was the church organ he really wanted to play. He continued to learn to play the instrument on his own, then began to play the organ at Sunday Mass at the Holy Martyrs of Japan Church in Bradford.

From there he learned to play the piano. At the time, his family couldn’t afford a piano, so he would go to the next door neighbor to use theirs twice a week after school.

“The touch of a piano is unlike any other keyboard instrument… you have to develop that touch with your fingers and develop dexterity,” he explained.

He worked and saved enough money to buy his own piano and ended up attending Wilfrid Laurier University majoring in music composition, then the University of British Columbia for his Masters in Music.

He returned to Ontario for a year after completing his Masters, before accepting a residency position with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.

He has composed music for the Calgary Philharmonic, Calgary Opera and Pro Coro Canada and enjoys writing his own operas.

Some of his works have even been performed in New York at the famous Carnegie Hall. Throughout his career, he has also received countless awards, including the National Arts Center Awards for Composers and the Lieutenant Governor’s Award of Alberta for Distinguished Artist. He was also nominated for a Juno Award in 2015 for his composition Triple Concerto.

Estacio said he was surprised when he learned of his appointment.

“I thought he was a telemarketer,” he said with a laugh, remembering the first time he got a call about it in the fall.

“It’s exciting and confusing at the same time,” he said of the recognition. “It’s a job, it’s a job that I love to do. Making music and doing opera and telling relevant stories on the opera stage are all things that I love to do. “

He is committed to continuing to tell historical and current stories through opera.

“I feel like I have to deserve this honor,” he said.

While the performing arts sector has been severely affected by COVID, Estacio has handled virtual performances and some in person, as authorized.

His inspiration for his works comes from relevant stories which he believes should be shared with the world. Her first opera was about The Last Woman in Alberta to Perform. His current opera is about Igor Gouzenko, the Russian intelligence officer who defected from the Canadian government that his country was spying on them, as well as Britain and the United States, which led to the start of the Cold War. .

“If you look at politics today and what’s going on in the world today, it’s still a relevant story,” he said. “I want to make sure that the music of narrative thought is always an integral part of our culture.”

Estacio still visits his home in Holland Marsh from time to time to visit his sister, family and friends. His last visit was in August for his mother’s birthday. The family farm is now owned and managed by his nephew, Robert Marques, and his wife Shannon.

Estacio looks forward to receiving his award at the official Order of Canada ceremony in person, which has been postponed to a later date due to COVID restrictions.

To learn more about Estacio and his work, visit his website here.

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