Vincent Ho


Vincent Ho is a multi-award winning composer of orchestral, chamber, vocal, and theatre music. His works have been described as “brilliant and compelling” by The New York Times and hailed for their profound expressiveness and textural beauty, leaving audiences talking about them with great enthusiasm. His many awards have included Harvard University’s Fromm Music Commission, The Canada Council for the arts Robert Fleming Prize, and ASCAPs Morton Gould Young Composer Award. He is currently the Music Advisor for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ho’s interests had always gravitated towards music.

‘I was born and raised in Ottawa with an average upbringing. Growing up I had studied Piano and in Junior High, I picked up the Trombone. I also learned to play the Guitar and Cello for a little while too.’

He went on to attain his Bachelor of Music from the University of Calgary, his Master of Music from the University of Toronto, and his Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Southern California. While still an undergraduate student, Ho was awarded a scholarship to attend the Schola Cantorum Summer Composition Program in Paris where he received tuition from Juilliard School of Music and the Paris Conservatoire tutors. In 1997, he received further training at the Schola Cantorum Summer Composition Program in Paris, under the supervision of David Diamond, Philip Lasser, and Narcis Bonet.

‘I have been composing since the age of 14. One of the biggest inspirations was after watching the film Amadeus. As I began exploring music I found institutions were offering me scholarships to follow this academic path. Everything naturally fell into place and I went where the scholarships took me.’

Ho sprang to prominence in 1999, when he received prizes for his first string quartet and his piano work Three Scenes of Childhood. His String Quartet No.1 received further recognition nearly a decade later in 2008 when it was nominated “Best Classical Composition of the Year” in the Western Canadian Music Awards following its CD release.

‘In 2007, I was offered the opportunity to serve as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s composer–in–residence, till 2014.’

‘In the summer of 2008, I was offered the opportunity to visit the Arctic region as part of an “Artist on Board” program through the Circumpolar Flaw Lead Systems Study organization (CFL). The goal was to gain first-hand experience of the Northern region while gaining a better understanding of climate change (scientifically and culturally) in order to create a large-scale symphonic work.’ He describes this as one of his most memorable experiences. ‘During my limited time there, I spent my days and nights observing the landscape. The information given to me by the scientists and indigenous communities was invaluable in broadening my perspective.’

Ho’s, Arctic Symphony has been described “as a beautiful work that evokes the Far North in a very special way,” (John Corigliano) and “a mature and atmospheric work that firmly establishes Ho among North American composers of note” (Winnipeg Free Press). 

When asked about his thoughts on what is crucial to creating art, Ho quoted Brian Eno, ‘Genius is individual, scenius is communal. For me to flourish, I had to leave Calgary and travel the world such as France and Italy. In the 80s, Calgary was a very oil and gas environment so I needed to find an audience, environment and system that would support my creativity.

Twenty years ago I didn’t have a professional outlook. I could pursue the arts for free, around the world. In the world of arts, however, there are no guarantees. I did have concerns about stability. Now at the age of forty, I have no regrets. I am doing exactly what I love to do.

The arts have always been a means to define cultural identity. For example, when you go to Indonesia you don’t think about the currency of the money or the changing weather patterns. You think about their music, their food, their fashion, their books and their dance. You think of all the cultural elements that define what their personality is.

When I think of Southern Alberta, I think it is still very utilitarian, in the sense that Art is still viewed as some kind of commodity to be purchased. It is culture that needs to be reinforced by supporting the local artists who would give voice or give representation of who we are, that can only be found in Southern Alberta.’

Ho’s advise to aspiring artists is,

‘If an artist has a passion then they should, firstly, find the environment and support that allows them to nurture those talents to do what they need to flourish. Secondly, just be aware that the Arts are not something that will have any guarantees, which is true for any profession. It is a matter of deciding if it is something you have to do because it defines who you are or if it is something you do as a hobby.’

Ho was previously teaching at the University of Calgary but is currently the Music Advisor for Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO). Ho is one of the composers for the upcoming world premiere or the True North: Symphonic Ballet on October 28, 2017. True North captures Canada’s cultural mosaic in majestic, symphonic scope.

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