On Friday, Nov. 17, York Music will host vocalist McKenzie Warriner and pianist Danielle Guina in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall. Both Warriner and Guina are winners of the Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, a music competition held at Brandon University in Manitoba, for Canadian and contemporary musicians in memory of S.C. Eckhardt-Gramatté, a composer, pianist, and violinist.
Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, singing had always been an integral part of Warriner’s life. When she first heard about the competition during her first year of university in 2014, she decided she would one day compete.
“The competition only comes around for voice every three years, so I didn’t actually enter until 2020,” says Warriner. “Unfortunately, I didn’t make the cut that year for the in-person final round. I was absolutely crushed at the time, but in retrospect I definitely wasn’t ready to take it on, and it was actually good that I had to wait.”
Warriner explains that she had developed a better idea of her artistic and personal identitythis time around, and that she was entering the competition with a culmination of a decade’s worth of learning and growing. “It was also special because I sang music composed for me by my fiancé — York PhD music student Tristan Zaba — and because I got to work with my wonderful friend, pianist Danielle Guina, who inspires some of my best musical work.”
Though Zaba and Warriner got engaged last year, they’ve been together for about eight years. “Through that time, we’ve been close artistic partners, and the music of mine that she’s presenting, and presented in the competition, has a lot to do with both of our artistic developments,” adds Zaba.
Zaba explains that he enjoys collaborating with Warriner because it is “an opportunity to dive deep into the music with someone I really respect. For this reason, it’s incredibly exciting that her and Danielle will be the first people to premiere one of my works at York.”
Zaba further adds how delighted he is to have his work showcased for the first time in this way, since he notes that, “While [his] research is deeply related to [his] compositional practice, [his is] not doing a composition degree.”
To be an Eckhardt-Gramatté winner is no small feat, as both Warriner and Zaba have studied extensively and spent many years honing their crafts.
“Believe that there is room for your artistry,” says Warriner, when offering advice to aspiring musicians. “Every musician is unique, and has something important to bring to the table, whether it’s recognized by the traditional gatekeepers or not. It may take time to figure out what that is, and how best to bring it to the world, but in the end it is very worth it.”
To learn more about this performance, click here.