The Gift of Performance

The Gift of Performance | Bader Celebrations

Bryan Cheng started playing the cello at the age of three and a half  and made his Carnegie Hall recital debut at 14. In 2019, he became the first cellist to win Grand Prize at the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal Competition.

The year 2020 was important for the 24-year-old Ottawa native. There is a small window between graduating from university and establishing a reputation and career, so he was ready to play a lot of concerts.

“It was supposed to be my most exciting year yet and to have that momentum cut short (due to COVID-19) was quite devastating,” says Cheng. 

As many performances were cancelled due to the pandemic, Cheng was surprised the Bader and Overton Canadian Cello Competition   organizers decided to pivot and keep going. The tech experts at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts, where the competition was originally going to be held, sent cameras and sound equipment to all the competitors so they could compete virtually.

“I just really appreciate the amount of thought, effort, and ambition they put into it,” says Cheng. “It could have been so easy to say ‘Let’s postpone it to another year.’ That’s what most people did. The Isabel team had the courage to say we are going to go for it.”

The Bader family have made a tremendous impact on the performing arts at Queen’s and in Kingston. Their generosity made construction of the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts possible. They also sponsored violin and cello competitions to help boost  the careers of up-and-coming Canadian classical musicians.

Cheng won the  Bader and Overton Canadian Cello Competition and received a cash prize for placing first. Equally important for Cheng is the impact to his career – he has received a lot of performance opportunities since winning. 

“Those are really important – especially for a young artist – to get all the opportunities you can to play because that is what we end up doing for the rest of our lives,” says Cheng. “I want to be one of the top cellists in the world, and share music with as many audiences as I can. Winning this competition can help make that happen one day."