Jun 25, 2021

Re-imagining TBSI


Getting ready for the daily afternoon performance practice class, with Choir Director Ivars Taurins. Image: Pablo Montes, bassoon.

Tafelmusik’s Baroque Summer Institute—also known as TBSI—has been a well-known artist training program for many years. Each summer, Tafelmusik staff and TBSI faculty have looked forward to welcoming a new cohort of talented musicians from across the globe for two intensive weeks of workshops, performances and lectures.  

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, the format of TBSI had to undergo a complete reimagining. How could an internationally recognized training program for musicians move online, when so much knowledge transfer between musicians relies on physical communication and making music together? Would a digital TBSI still have the same kind of value? Would it be better to cancel the 2020 edition of TBSI altogether, and hope that the 2021 edition would allow for in-person gathering? Cancelling TBSI — a unique program and among only a handful in the world that offers training in period performance practices — was unprecedented.

Thankfully, the decision was made to move online in 2020, with a series of pre-recorded lectures sent to those who’d planned to attend as well as hundreds of alumni. As Tafelmusik continues to innovate, we’ve seen encouraging growth in our digital audience, especially in the past year when the arts has played a leading role in helping society cope with extreme isolation. This has enabled us to expand our national and global reach despite being unable to tour and present our music live. To build on this success, the 2021 virtual edition of TBSI welcomes 99 participants from around the world to a busy week of masterclasses, lectures, and workshops, presented live over the Zoom conferencing application. Although the format will be different from years past, the 2021 TBSI program will continue to bridge the transition between academic training and professional experience for young musicians, and help them connect with and build their professional network. As every year, we also offer specialized training for professional musicians.

Re-imagining an international training program during a pandemic has been no small feat. Tafelmusik is grateful to have had the continued support of BMO Financial Group, who has supported Tafelmusik and TBSI for over 10 years, to help navigate this past year’s transitions and uncertainty, in line with BMO’s commitment to ensure that they and their community partners are agile and well-prepared to address any opportunities and challenges that the future holds.

"Being based in South Africa, travelling to the northern hemisphere can become quite expensive especially when costly VISA applications and currencies come in to play. Further travel restrictions caused by the pandemic have made access to music-making opportunities even more difficult. I have always wanted to attend TBSI—and thanks to the online version, it became a possibility this year. I have found the online system and classes well organised and easy to navigate. We are a few days into the course, and already it has been a life-changing experience, and I will recommend it to all my friends and colleagues. This has been a motivation for me to attend the course again, and hopefully in person one day!"

— 2021 TBSI participant Annien Shaw, violin (Cape Town, South Africa)

"At BMO, our guiding principles around social change, financial resilience, community building and economic impact are integral aspects of the way we work with our community partners to develop forward-thinking solutions that benefit society as a whole. When we learned how the pandemic would impact the ability for Tafelmusik to deliver its programming and artist training institutes like TBSI, we were committed to supporting them as they navigated this uncertainty, and were pleased to work with them to create a meaningful program that resonated with their mutual goals of integrating new knowledge, amplifying impact and accelerating social change.”

— Jai Gurpersaud, Head, Business Management, Loyalty & Social Impact, Marketing & Strategy at BMO

The 2021 TBSI will have 99 people attending: 77 participants and 22 auditors. Participants hail from across Canada, the US, Mexico, Bolivia, Australia, England, Spain, Netherlands, and South Africa. Despite travel and assemby restrictions in place, TBSI has been able to continue its ability to connect with musicians around the world. Thank you to BMO and their foundational support of TBSI for ensuring that this program could not only continue, but expand its impact during these exceptional times.