History of the Generation Project 1994-2020
65 composers – 76 concerts – 87 composition workshops
11 cross-Canada tours

The ECM+ Generation project, originally developed in 1994 as Ateliers et Concert and renamed Generation in 2000, is the product of many years’ work that has steered 65 young composers from all over the country onto the professional Canadian music scene. A composition competition that has brought together and stimulated the creative vitality of rising young Canadian composers—initially from Quebec (Ateliers et Concert), then from across the country (Generation)—this project has also introduced the music of these up-and-comers to a wide audience, via 11 cross-Canada tours and a total of 76 concerts in 16 cities and 7 provinces.

Every two years, ECM+ provides four up-and-coming Canadian composers with a fantastic commission opportunity through its Generation project. (…) The eclectic nature of this performance allowed ECM+ to demonstrate its breadth as an ensemble, and they did just that. This is a wonderful group of musicians and their contribution to these composers’ careers is more than admirable.”
Justin Rito, I care if you listen blog, about the Generation2012 concert held in London, Ont.


Biennial between 2000 and 2020, this unique Canadian program has been dedicated to discovering emerging talent and providing selected candidates with a unique environment for musical research and creation requiring live experimentation with musicians. Over the course of 18 months, the participating composers are also given the opportunity to explore their musical voices in a workshop setting, write a new work, gain recognition from the professional Canadian music community, and obtain a quality recording of their work performed by professional musicians.


1. Selection of composers by competition

Candidates—Canadian citizens or permanent residents, aged 35 and under, who already hold or are pursuing a master’s degree in Composition (or equivalent)—are invited to submit their most recent scores as well as a proposal for a new work. They are then evaluated by a jury made up of prominent figures from the Canadian musical scene. Some of the jury members who helped select the participating composers over the years: Robert Aitken, Denys Boulianne, Christopher Butterfield, Derek Charke, Paul Frehner, Nicolas Gilbert, Michel Gonneville, Denis Gougeon, David Jaeger, Jean Lesage, Dáirine Ní Mheadhra, Hélène Prévost, Serge Provost, Laurie Radford, Stefani Truant, Gordon Fitzell, Owen Underhill, Anthony Rozankovic, Ana Sokolović, Mark Wold. Participants are chosen based primarily on the quality of the musical material they submit, but, since 2008, several representativity criteria have been added: at least one participant must be from Quebec, one must come from Ontario—up to a maximum of two from each of these provinces—at least one must hail from the rest of Canada, and one must be a woman. The four chosen candidates must then compose a piece lasting approximately 12 minutes for 10 musicians.

2. Musical exploration workshops and mini-concert before an audience (year 1)

Because the Generation project was specifically created to provide composers with a laboratory for exploration and the chance for the public to experience the process of musical creation from the inside, it offers several opportunities for direct interaction between the public and the artists:


Four composition and exploration workshops dedicated to the four selected composers, with 10 musicians and the director of ECM+, are presented in front of a Montreal audience. During these workshops, each composer has a 1.5-hour session to experiment with the ECM+ musicians in addition to a series of preparatory meetings with the ensemble’s artistic director, Véronique Lacroix. The meetings help ensure participants are able to reach their research objectives during the workshops, present their work in public, and prepare the musical material for their finished piece according to professional standards. Each composer then has six months to complete the work.

Composer’s notebook

In preparation for the workshops, each composer prepares excerpts, sketches, or exercises he-she will be able to listen to and work on in the process of writing his-her piece. The outlines and scores are gathered together in a composer’s notebook, which is specially formatted to help the listener follow the composer’s creative trajectory, and distributed to the public during the Workshops and Mini-Concerts.


To give the audience some background on a composer’s current work before the musical exploration session with the musicians, each workshop is preceded by a mini-concert, beginning with a brief talk in which the composer discusses his-her approach, followed by a performance of a solo or chamber piece from his-her repertoire.

3. Concerts (year 2)

Residency at the Banff Centre

At the beginning of November, the composers are invited to attend a five-day residency at the Banff Centre. It is during this time that the composers, the ECM+ musicians, and the artistic director reap the rewards of the relationships they forged during the workshops. A pivotal moment in the Generation project between 2010 and 2018, the residency provides the composers with the ideal environment in which to rehearse their freshly minted pieces, completed in August, as the work sessions give them the chance to refine their ideas and make the final tweaks to their scores.

Cross-Canada tour

Following a first concert at the Banff Centre, the finished versions of the works are presented to Canadian audiences during the subsequent five- to nine-concert tour across Canada’s major cities. Organized by ECM+ and supported by various levels of government, this tour is the high point of Generation and offers invaluable visibility to the composers.

Interviews and presentation of the works

Since its very first edition, the driving force behind the project has been the desire to share the secrets behind the process of musical composition with the public. In fact, before the performance of their pieces, the composers are interviewed on stage and invited to present the key elements of their works, with supporting musical examples played live by the orchestra. Véronique Lacroix was the host of the first editions of Ateliers et Concert, presenting the composers and their works, but the role has since alternated between her and Michel Gonneville or Serge Provost, themselves both composers and composition teachers. Since 2010, a guest commentator has accompanied the ensemble during their cross-Canada tours, the task thus far being entrusted to two former Generation participants: Nicolas Gilbert (2010 and 2012) and Gabriel Dharmoo (2014, 2016, 2018 and 2020).

4. Reading workshops of composition student pieces

A number of educational activities are held in tandem with the Generation tour. As an example, the reading workshops of composition student pieces in various institutions of higher education provide opportunities for composition students in the cities along the tour to hear their works performed by ECM+ musicians and to benefit from their expertise. Over the course of the Generation project, 163 works by young students have been performed in public readings by ECM+, in 38 reading workshops.


Generation National Audience Choice Award

The audience of each concert votes for their favourite composition. The composer with the most votes in the country receives $2,000. Established in 2010, this prize has been awarded to Christopher Mayo (2010), Riho Esko Maimets (2012), Anthony Tan (2014), Sabrina Schroeder (2016), James O'Callaghan and Sophie Dupuis (ex-aequo 2018) as well as Bekah Simms and Stefan Maier (ex-aequo 2020).

Generation National Jury Award

Introduced in 2014 to mark the 20th anniversary of the project, this prize rewards the piece considered the most deserving of the 4 new works presented during the Canadian tour. It is awarded by votes from approximately 40 experts from the Canadian new music scene and spread out through the tour’s concerts. First endowed with a $3,500 grant from ECM+ for a commission, the Prize was then enhanced to offer the laureate an $8,000 commission from the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and a $3,000 grant from ECM+, reaching a total worth of $11,000. Renamed the Steven R. Gerber Generation National Jury Award for the last edition of the project in 2020, this prize has been awarded to Anthony Tan (2014), Taylor Brook (2016), James O'Callaghan (2018) and Matthew Ricketts (2020).


The Generation project concept is unique in Canada and provides important spin-offs for composers, students, the public and Canadian music. The composers who take part in Generation gain valuable recognition, as they present their work to audiences across Canada several times and give talks to other composition students. During the public workshops, the ECM+ also performs works by composition students across the country, thereby helping to nurture the next generation of composers. A great number of composers from the Generation competition have gone on to win such prestigious awards as the Canada Council for the Arts’ Jules-Léger Prize, the Serge Garant Prize, the Opus Award for Composer of the Year, the Godfrey Ridout Award, the SOCAN Foundation’s John Weinzweig Grand Prize for Young Composers, and many more. Today, many of these composers have successful musical careers (commissions by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Esprit Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony, the Kronos Quartet, Soundstreams, Ensemble Recherche, the Neue Vocalisten Stuttgart, and even soloists Ernesto Molinari or Louise Bessette) and hold prestigious teaching positions in London, Ont., Montreal, Edmonton, and Seattle, to name a few places.

With unwavering devotion to an idea, in 20 years ECM+ and its director, Véronique Lacroix, have created a national discourse around contemporary art music in Canada through the biennial Generation workshops and national tour. […] It is instructive to look at the list of alumni—virtually all of them are established composers, who also teach, perform, produce and administer. All of them would likely tell you that their involvement in Generation was a milestone in their career.”
Christopher Butterfield, Composer and Associate Professor of composition and theory, University of Victoria

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