Bader & Overton Canadian Piano Competition

Special Events
Jennifer Velva Bernstein Performance Hall
The Isabel
 Bader & Overton Canadian Piano Competition

Join us in watching the top young Canadian pianists perform live to place in the Bader & Overton Canadian Piano Competition at the Isabel! All concerts are free and open to the public.

Read the Competition House Program

Event Schedule

Semi-Finalist Round Day 1: May 10, 2023 at 12:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Carter Johnson at 1:00 PM
Chris Chu at 2:30 PM
Jean-Luc Therrien at 4:00 PM

Semi-Finalist Round Day 2: May 11, 2023 at 12:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Elijah Orlenko at 1:00 PM
Paul Williamson at 2:30 PM
Jonathan Mak at 4:00 PM
Finalists announced at 6:00 PM

Finalist Round: May 13, 2023 at 12:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Jonathan Mak at 1:00 PM
Paul Williamson at 2:30 PM
Elijah Orlenko at 4:00 PM
Winners announced at 6:00 PM

*Parking is free for this event

The Prizes

FIRST PRIZE: The Isabel Overton Bader, Clifford Overton and Francoise Landry Prize for $20,000 CAD, a future engagement to perform a concerto with the Kingston Symphony, and a future engagement to perform a recital at the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts.

SECOND PRIZE: The Margaret Foster and Katherine Foster Prize for $6,000 CAD.

THIRD PRIZE: The Marion Dick Memorial Prize for $4,000 CAD.


Meet the Semi-Finalists

Semi-finalists Chris Chu, Carter Johnson, Jonathan Mak, Elijah Orlenko, Jean-Luc Therrien, and Paul Williamson

Learn more about each semi-finalist below.

About Chris Chu

Twenty-one-year-old Canadian virtuoso pianist Chris Chu has been studying piano since the age of three. Praised for his thrilling technicality and remarkable musicality, combined with an expansive knowledge of styles, background, and historical influences in the world of classical music, he has already amassed on impressive array of musical accomplishments, having won numerous nationwide awards. Among his accolades are first prize in the Senior Division of the First North American Steinway Piano Competition held in Vancouver, Canada 2018; first prize in the National Class at Kiwanis Music festival, representing the province of British Columbia to participate in the National Federal Canadian Music Festival in summer 2017 where he earned second prize; first prize at American Fine Arts Festival International 3 Concerto Competition in 2017; a grand first prize at the Canadian Music Competition in 2011, and numerous first prizes from both the Vancouver Kiwanis Music Festivals and Richmond Music Festivals in Canada, since 2008. He has also performed in gala concerts, having been named most promising and outstanding young pianist in competitions. 

Chris made his solo recital debut in 2018, touring China in Harbin, Nanjing and Shanghai as well as in Canada the same year. He has been invited to perform on numerous special occasions, such as at the Vancouver Playhouse, Koerner Recital Hall, VSO Pyatt Hall, etc., at various charity events, and for multiple senior homes. Chris has also performed internationally, at notable venues around the world; in USA at Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall New York, Paul and Morse Hall at the Juilliard School, Mary Emery Hall Cincinnati, Zipper Hall Los Angeles, Field Concert Hall Philadelphia, Warner Concert Hall Oberlin, and Auer Hall in Indiana; in Switzerland at Volkshaus Biel, and in Austria at Vienna's Freskensaal Schloss Laudon. In 2018, Chris made his orchestral debut performing as a concerto soloist with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Budweis in Switzerland.

Chris Chu

About Carter Johnson

Praised for his interpretive sensitivity, imaginative programming, and passion for connecting with audiences, Canadian pianist Carter Johnson has established himself as one of his generation’s most exciting pianists. His most recent competition awards include being the first prize laureate in the 2021 International Competition of Polish Music as well as first prize winner of the 2020 Valsesia International Competition. In 2018, Johnson won the top prize in two of Canada’s most important competitions, garnering both the grand prize in the Concours OSM and the first prize in the CMC Stepping Stone competition. Other recent competition experience includes the Santander International Competition, the Shenzhen International Concerto Competition, the Dublin International Competition, the Honens International Competition, and the Hilton Head International Competition. Johnson has performed with orchestras including l’Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, l’Orchestre Métropolitain, the Rzeszów Philharmonic Orchestra, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestra of the Americas, and his playing has been broadcasted by CBC Radio and Venues in which he has performed concertos or solo recitals include the Maison Symphonique, the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, the Music Shed at Norfolk, the Shenzhen Concert Hall, and the Warsaw National Philharmonic Hall. 

Born in 1996 on Vancouver Island, Canada, Johnson began the study of piano at age five with Shelley Roberts, with whom he had the privilege of studying both performance and pedagogy for over 12 years. After continuing his studies with Michelle Mares, he completed a Bachelor of Music with Mark Anderson at the University of British Columbia. He then received a Master of Music from the Juilliard School under the direction of Joseph Kalichstein and Matti Raekallio, and continued to the Yale School of Music, where he is currently completing a Master of Musical Arts with Wei-Yi Yang. 

Equally at home in the worlds of solo, concerto, chamber, and art song, Johnson has a particular interest in bringing light to the lesser-explored parts of the repertory, most recently championing a collection of works by relatively unknown Polish composers. In addition to the music of J.S. Bach (where he feels most at home), he is a particular advocate for the music of composers such as Schumann, Grieg, Fauré, Ives, Hindemith, Poulenc, Shostakovich, and Messiaen. 

His secondary instrument work has included studies in oboe, voice, and harpsichord. Trained in elocution as a teenager, Johnson holds an ATCL with distinction in speech and drama from Trinity College London, and he regularly brings this expertise to his recitals in his discussions on the music that is being played — for many audiences, these continue to be a highlight of his performances. Johnson currently resides in Hamden, Connecticut with his wife Hannah and their young boys Preston and Ambrose, where he maintains a busy schedule as a concert artist, student, and teacher.

Carter Johnson

About Jonathan Mak, Finalist

Pianist Jonathan Mak is from Toronto, Canada, and he began studying piano at the age of three with Aster Lai. He made his orchestra debut with the Canadian Sinfonietta just one year later, at the age of four. 

Jonathan is currently pursuing a Doctor of Musical Arts at Rice University with Jon Kimura Parker. Under the tutelage of Boris Slutsky, he recently completed his Master’s degree and Master of Musical Arts degree in piano performance at the Yale School of Music. He studied with Daniel Shapiro at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in piano performance, as well as minors in viola performance and German. 

His accomplishments include the Canada Council for the Arts-Michael Measures award and the 2021 Sylva Gelber Music Foundation Award. He recently received the 3rd prize in the OSM competition, performing with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Jonathan also received the prize for the best interpretation of the commissioned work at the Fifth Maj Lind International Piano Competition in Finland. He was a semifinalist in the 12th Dublin International Piano Competition. He also participated as one of the 30 competitors in the 16th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. 

Jonathan has performed with numerous orchestras, most notably the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra in Bulgaria, Manchester Camerata, Orchestra Filarmonica di Udine, and Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra, and has also given recitals in Italy, Bulgaria, Manchester, China, Vienna, and Poland. 

He has been invited to perform at various festivals including the Festival of the Sound in Ontario, Ottawa Chamberfest, and the Edinburgh International Festival. He has attended various summer festivals, including the Aspen Summer Music Festival, Kneisel Hall Music Festival, and the Sarasota Music Festival. 

An advocate for community outreach, Jonathan is a member of DACAMERA’s Young Artist Program, a fellowship program for emerging professional instrumentalists, vocalists, and composers that serves the Houston community.

Jonathan Mak

About Elijah Orlenko, Finalist

Elijah Orlenko, age 18, was born in Vancouver, BC. He is currently a senior piano student at The Phil and Eli Taylor Performance Academy for Young Artists and is studying with Michael Berkovsky. 

Elijah won the Second Prize and the Best Bach Award at the Los Angeles Young Musician International Piano Competition in 2016. In 2018, he made his debut at Koerner Hall with the ACO under the baton of Maestro Ivars Taurins. That year he also became a second-place winner at the National Music Festival in Sackville, NB. In 2019, Elijah participated in the Peregrinos Musicales Festival where he played with the Philharmonic of Galicia under the baton of Maestro Maximino Zumalave in the Auditorium of Galicia. Elijah played with Orchestra Toronto under the baton of Maestro Michael Newnham and with the Etobicoke Philharmonic under the baton of Matthew Jones. Elijah has won prizes in the Kiwanis Music Festival, the CCC Festival, the International Music Festival and Competition and he received the Founder’s Award in the North York Music Festival. 

He has participated in classes with Paul Schenly, Pavel Nersessian, Andre Laplante, Ilona Timchenko, Dianne Werner, Li Wang, James Anagnoson, Edward Wolanin, Sergey Schepkin, Dmitry Rachmanov, Paul Komen, Igor Roma, John Perry, David Louis, Anton Nel and Robert Mcdonald. In Vancouver, Elijah studied with Ian Parker.

Elijah Orlenko

About Jean-Luc Therrien

Finalist and prizewinner of several competitions including the Concours Prix d’Europe and the Sendai International Piano Competition in Japan, Canadian pianist Jean-Luc Therrien believes his job as a musician is to cross barriers - of language, 5 of culture, of time. That work has taken him throughout Canada, Europe and Asia. And wherever he goes, he creates a shared musical experience that for him is a form of spirituality. 

Jean-Luc was named one of Canada’s 30 hot classical musicians under 30 for 2020 by CBC Music. And his first solo album Piano Preludes, just released on the Label Orpheus Classical in 2021, was chosen as one of the best releases of 2021 by CBC Music. Recently, he was part of The Rebanks Family Fellowship and International Performance Residency Program at The Glenn Gould School in Toronto. He also made his national radio debut on CBC Music with the broadcast of a virtual recital recorded in Toronto in the summer of 2021. In February 2022, he performed with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra before going on tour across 7 European countries with French violinist Jean-Samuel Bez to launch their first album. And then, it was back to Canada for 16 solo performances in the Maritimes with Debut Atlantic. 

Jean-Luc started lessons at six. By seven, he was giving his first recitals and starting to win regional competitions. He fell in love with classical music attending his first ever symphonic concert with the Montreal Symphony. There, he was enchanted by the magic of being one of thousands in a concert hall, deeply connected, watching, and listening in silence. 

After graduating from the Conservatoire de Musique de Trois-Rivières in the studio of Denise Trudel, Jean-Luc headed for Europe and the University Mozarteum in Salzburg to complete a Master of Arts Degree in Piano Performance. Then, he remained in Europe to pursue further musical projects, thanks to a major grant from the Canada Council for the Arts. Later, he returned to Canada and entered The Ihnatowycz Piano Program at The Glenn Gould School in Toronto where he worked with another important musical mentor - Marietta Orlov. 

Over the years, the recognition has poured in: among other awards, he’s won several prizes in competitions such as the Mauro Paolo Monopoli Prize Competition in Italy, the CMC Stepping Stone and, with violinist Jean-Samuel Bez, the Chamber Music Grand Prize at the Luigi Zanuccoli International Competition in Italy. 

Jean-Luc compares the work of a musician to that of an architect - using some of the same skills to ‘’design” and structure a musical interpretation. 

“With music, I can spend hours and hours working on a piece and decide which aesthetic, colours, sound and emotions I want to express with it,” he says. “Music feels like the best way to express myself. And classical music has always touched me the most - I want people to know that, yes, it is still relevant today.” 

Jean-Luc Therrien

About Paul Williamson, Finalist

Included in CBC Music’s 2017 edition of “30 Hot Canadian Classical Musicians under 30,” Paul Williamson is quickly establishing himself as one of Canada’s promising young pianists. He received first prize at both the 2014 Canadian National Music Festival and the 2017 Canadian Federation of Music Teachers’ Association National Piano Competition in addition to three semifinal awards (for the best performances of Canadian, Chopin, and Baroque compositions). He is also a prizewinner of the 2020 WMC McLellan Competition and the 2022 Shean Piano Competition. As a soloist, he has appeared with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the University of Manitoba Symphony Orchestra, and the Fraser Valley Symphony Orchestra. 

In recital, Williamson has been featured by the Grand Piano Series, Valley Concert Society, the Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg, Virtuosi Recital Series, GroundSwell, the Hornby Festival, Colburn at the Steinway Gallery, Café Classico Series, and the Agassiz Festival. He has performed in masterclasses for such distinguished artists as Eliso Virsaladze, Yefim Bronfman, Paul Lewis, Veda Kaplinsky, Matti Raekallio and others. He has participated in the Morningside Music Bridge International Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Orford Academy program, the Scotia Festival of Music, and the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival. 

Williamson completed his bachelor’s degree from the University of Manitoba, studying under David Moroz. In the first year of his studies, he won both of the school’s competitions: the annual concerto competition and the Lawrence Genser Music Scholarship competition (given to the most outstanding undergraduate performer). Since 2018, Williamson has studied at the Colburn School under Fabio Bidini, completing a master’s and currently enrolled in the the Artist Diploma program. While at Colburn, Williamson has also received artistic guidance from Jean-Yves Thibaudet. 

An advocate of new music, Williamson is a regular member of the Colburn Contemporary Ensemble, most recently performing alongside Andy Akiho. Williamson also participated in Creative Dialogue XIII where he studied with Magnus Lindberg, Joonas Ahonen, and Anssi Karttunen. As a member of the Zyra Trio, Williamson has held residency at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute, workshopping the music of Joan Tower. 

A dedicated teacher himself, during his time at Colburn, Williamson has been part of the Jumpstart Young Musicians Program—an initiative which provides free music lessons for underprivileged youth. In the 2022 winter term, Williamson took a break from his studies to serve on the faculty of the University of Manitoba, teaching as a piano instructor. He has also been a guest artist for tonebase LIVE, discussing the music of Sofia Gubaidulina. In the spring of 2023, Williamson will be recording his debut solo album featuring the music of Franz Liszt for Naxos Records. Williamson is grateful to be a recipient of the Sharon Stevenson Career Development Scholarship and for the support of the Manitoba Arts Council and the BC Arts Council.

Paul Williamson