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Spark to Flame student showcase in Victoria highlights top-tier musical talent

The free concert on Feb. 24 invites the public to see award-winning young soloists and an orchestra
Max Francis plays the fiddle at the 2022 Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival. Francis will be performing for his second year at Spark to Flame on Feb. 24. (Nick Delany)

Spark to Flame 2024 is one of the most important performances of the year at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

The concert, performed at Alix Goolden Performance Hall on Saturday, Feb. 24 at 7:30 p.m. supports young, emerging artists’s development and is open to all students of the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

Selected through audition, students showcase their works in public performances after working with faculty in the weeks leading up to the performances. The final concert evening features young soloists accompanied by fellow student peers, faculty artists and other professional musicians.

“Spark to Flame offers our student musicians the opportunity to perform in the spotlight as solo artists while showcasing the incredible music education offered at the Conservatory,” said Victoria Conservatory of Music’s CEO, Nathan Medd.

Maestro Timothy Vernon, founding artistic director of Pacific Opera Victoria and conductor laureate of Orchestra London, will conduct the show again this year. Vernon, who was Victoria Conservatory’s first graduate student in 1964, has conducted the majority of the Spark to Flame concerts over the past decade.

Admission to this year’s Spark to Flame Student Showcase is free of charge. Tickets are available by RSVP at

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This year’s featured soloists:

Simon Eskildsen - piano

19-year-old Simon Eskildsen studies piano under Robert Holliston at the Victoria Conservatory of Music and performs regularly in the community, including at retirement homes. He also won the Open French award in the 2023 Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival.

Tyler Evans-Knott - flute

Anishinaabe flautist Tyler Evans-Knott is currently pursuing a Diploma in Flute Performance through Camosun College and the Victoria Conservatory of Music, studying with Emily Nagelbach. A recipient of several awards and scholarships, Evans-Knott has performed regularly as a soloist and in ensembles such as the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra, Kawartha Youth Orchestra, Peterborough Concert Band, Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra, and in joint concerts with the Toronto Symphony and Vancouver Symphony.

Max Francis - violin

Max Francis is a 12-year-old multi-instrumentalist and composer (he achieved platinum standard for composition at the National Music Festival) who is equally at home in the fiddle and classical worlds. Not only is he the youngest person ever to win the BC Fiddle Championship and subsequently finish twice in the top 10 at the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Competition – he is also currently, the US National Fiddle Champion for his age. In 2023, he was featured as a soloist with the Victoria Symphony. This is his second time performing with Spark to Flame.

Elana Lin - violin

Elana Lin, 17 years old, has been playing violin for 10 years with hopes of pursuing music performance for her university education. She is currently studying with Simon MacDonald and Müge Büyükçelen at the Victoria Conservatory of Music. Elana has been a part of the Collegium Young Artists Program for seven years and the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra for five. She annually participates in the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival where she was further recommended to the Provincial Festival for both solo and chamber classes.

Angela Pan – piano

Angela Pan, ten years old, is mentored by Ingrid Henderson at the Conservatory. At the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival in 2022, she won the prestigious awards Junior Outstanding Musicianship Trophy, Concerto Trophy, and 20th/21st Century Award. In 2023, she won the Intermediate Concerto Trophy, French Trophy, and Baroque Award. Angela also received a recognition given to only 6 out of 31 participants nationwide: the esteemed Platinum Standard of Achievement at the 2023 FCMF National Music Festival.

Chloe Williams – flute

Chloe has been studying flute with Emily Nagelbach for almost six years. She is in her fourth year with the Collegium program and a past member of the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra. She is recipient of several awards and scholarships from the Conservatory and the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival, where she was recommended a provincial competitor in her category several times.

Filbert Zhang –piano

Filbert Zhang is 14 years old and currently studies with May-Ling Kwok, and is a part of the Conservatory’s Senior Collegium program. A piano player since age five, Zhang does regular performances in the community such as at the garden tours at the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival. He is winner of the 2023 Senior Piano Concerto Cup.

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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