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NWSS grad earns honour as Canada's top emerging conductor

Not so very long ago, Karl Hirzer was a music student at NWSS. Now his career is on the rise.
Karl Hirzer, a New Westminster Secondary School alumnus, has just been named the winner of the 2022 Heinz Unger Award as Canada's most promising emerging conductor.

A homegrown classical music talent from New Westminster is being recognized as Canada's most promising emerging conductor.

Karl Hirzer, a 2007 grad from New Westminster Secondary School, has just been announced as the recipient of the Heinz Unger Award. The $8,000 award, privately funded and administered by the Ontario Arts Council, is presented biennially to the person determined to be the country's "most promising emerging conductor," a press release from the Ontario Arts Council notes.

Hirzer is the associate conductor of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. He'll receive his award at the orchestra's Saturday, Nov. 26 concert, where he'll be conducting a program that includes Stravinsky's The Firebird and other dance-inspired works.

He recently made headlines when he returned home to New Westminster to conduct the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra's Traditional Christmas concert at Massey Theatre, his old NWSS stomping grounds, in 2021.

Over his music career, Hirzer has also served as assistant conductor for the National Academy Orchestra of Canada and the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble. He has worked with the Orchestra Giovanile Italiana at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana and the Gstaad Festival Orchestra.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he combined his enthusiasm for film and learning by creating a video series, An Orchestra Adventure, introducing children to classical music and the instruments in an orchestra. It has since been broadcast by PBS in the United States and Canada, and has received over 100,000 views on YouTube.

Hirzer is trained as a pianist, with a master's degree in performance from McGill University, and also composes his own music. His first album of original material is  anticipated for release in the spring of 2023.

 Follow Julie MacLellan on Twitter @juliemaclellan.
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