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Talented young singers, pianist, violinist among 2021 online Winnipeg Music Festival winners



Clockwise from top left: Gregory
Hyman, Hannah Schaeffer, Juliet Eskin,
Noah Kravetsky, Alexandra Schaeffer,
Yale Rayburn-Vander Hout

By MYRON LOVE It was an exceptionally good Winnipeg Music Festival this year for Winnipeg voice teacher Kelly Robinson (of the Jewish Robinsons). Not only did many of her students stand out – as usual – but also her 11-year-old daughter, Juliet Eskin, had a successful debut in her first appearance in the annual competition.

The young violinist – for whom music runs in the family (her father, Josh, is a musician and music teacher, and her zaida, Michael Eskin, is a well known chazan) – stood out with performances in the Grade 5 level with violin solos in both the Baroque and Canadian Composers categories.
The Brock Corydon Hebrew Bilingual program student has been taking violin lessons for four years, has twice opened for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra and once for the Symphony.
“I like making music,” she says.
Juliet’s mother (who teaches singing and voice both privately and on staff at Ravenscourt and Canadian Mennonite University) is equally proud of Yale Rayburn-Vander Hout, Hannah Schaeffer and Gregory Hyman, three of her Jewish voice students who also stood out at the Music Festival.

At 12, Gregory Hyman is a four-year veteran of the annual Music Festival, in which he has excelled, both in voice and classical guitar. The son of Hartley and Rishona Hyman has been studying guitar since he was five and has been taking voice lessons for the past five years. And this year, he authored gold level performances in both categories – one being Vocal Solo, Folk Song, Boys, Changed Voice, 12 years and under – the other being a classical guitar solo at the Grade 4 level.
Last year, he finished first in class, performing a duet with Rachel Kraut.
The Ravenscourt student doesn’t restrict his music making just to the yearly festival. Last spring, Bernie Bellan wrote a report on the teen’s budding recording career. Last May, he released his first album – “Basement” – on all streaming platforms. He reports that over the past few months, he has been busy writing songs for his second album, which will soon be released. The songs, he says, can already be heard on his website. He also has a podcast – “Talk and Rock with Gregory Hyman” – now in its second season – in which he interviews various people in the business across Canada.
“I have several dedicated listeners,” he reports. “I have had strong support from my friends. I am still building my audience though.”

Hannah Schaeffer is also a multi-year festival winner. This is the third year that the older daughter of Marc Schaeffer and Kai Sasake has participated. Last year, she sang in a trio with sister students Eva Gould and Alessandra Pellegrino in the Vocal Trio, Musical Theatre, 16 years and under category at the Festival. The threesome finished second.
The year before, she won gold in the Vocal Solo, TV and movie musicals in the Girls 12 and under category and scored a first place finish as part of a trio in the Musical Theatre Grade B level. That year, she was also the recipient of a Winnipeg Music Festival scholarship.
This year, the Grade 8 Grant Park Student finished first in the Vocal Solo, Musical Theatre, Ballad, Girls, 14 and under and was recommended for the provincial competition. Hannah has been taking singing lessons for five years and participates in her school’s musicals.

Hannah wasn’t the only one in her family who did well in this year’s festival. Younger sister, Alexandra, who attends Brock Corydon rated a Gold performance in her first appearance in the competition in the Piano Solo, Beginner, category.

Yale Rayburn-Vander Hout has been studying voice with Kelly Robinson for five years and was scheduled to appear – with his teacher – in Rainbow Stage’s production of “the Wizard of Oz” last summer (which was cancelled due to Covid). The 14-year-old son of Samantha and Peter was runner-up this year in two categories – Vocal Solo, Musical Theatre, Up Tempo and Ballad, for males, 16 and under. The Grade 9 Gray Academy student has also taken part in his school’s musical productions.

Leaving aside vocalists for the moment, 10-year-old Noah Kravetsky earned gold ranking in three piano categories. The son of Dr. Azriel Kravetsky and Dr. Carrie Palatnick excelled in piano solos in the Sonata, Classical Composers and Own Choice categories at the Grade 3 level. The Gray Academy student – who has been studying piano for five years, also received a scholarship which can be used to enter next year’s music festival.

Our final honourable mention goes to Emma Shibou-Savoie. Unlike the other winners above, who are in various levels of elementary and high school, Emma is in her third year in Arts at the University of Manitoba. Emma is a long-time student of Brenda Gorlick, who is Associate Artistic Director of Winnipeg StudioTheatre.
Emma notes that she has participated many times in the annual music festival but, in the past, has always participated as part of a choral group. “I have always enjoyed being in the music festival,” she says. “So this year, because there were no choral groups (because of Covid), I entered as part of a duet with my friend and fellow singer, Jacob Szmon. “
The duo finished second in the Vocal Duet, Musical Theatre category. While Emma says that she enjoys musical theatre, she does not see herself pursuing a career on stage or screen. For the fall, she is applying to Red River College.

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Beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation have received $210,000 less this year than last year as of September 1



For the first time in at least 10 years the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has reduced the amount distributed to its 12 beneficiary agencies from what had been distributed the previous year. The funds were distributed September 1 for 2023-24.
The total amount distributed this year was $210,000 less than what was distributed in both 2022 and 2021 and is actually $500,000 less than the total that was requested by the beneficiary agencies. (The amount distributed last year was $216,000 less than what the beneficiary agencies had requested.)

In explaining why allocations are being reduced this year, the Federation reported that “Over the past few years, the Federation and community have collectively faced significant challenges, placing a strain on our financial resources. In response to these challenges, the Federation stepped in during our community’s time of need, dedicating over $200,000 from our reserves to sustain our beneficiary agencies.” (In a later explanation it was clarified that $100,000 was taken from Federation reserves in each of 2022 and 2021.)

It was further noted that the decrease in funds to be allocated to agencies represents a 7% decrease over the previous year. Dipping into reserves was described as an “unsustainable practice.” It was also noted that the Federation “notified our beneficiaries of a probable reduction in the amount of funding available well ahead of the allocation request deadline.
In describing the pressures that the Federation’s Allocations Committee faced this year in coming up with its allocations, committee chair Brent Schacter said that “We knew after the budget process last year we were going to be in a bind.” Schacter further elaborated that the two whammies that hit this year were the ongoing repercussions of Covid along with the rapid increase in inflation.
In discussing the pressures that the Allocations committee faced this year, it should also be noted that although the amount raised by the Combined Jewish Appeal – while not much more than the previous year ($6.3 million as opposed to $6.25 million), the negative effects of the drop in allocations are somewhat mitigated by two things:. A good portion of the amount raised by the CJA is in the form of “designated funds,” given by large donors and, while those funds are not available to the B & A committee to distribute, many of the beneficiary agencies did receive large distributions from those “designated funds.”
As well, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba increased its total distributions this year by $1.3 million over the previous year. While the Foundation’s gifts were spread among a very wide number of recipients, a number of the Federation’s beneficiary agencies did benefit from the increase in Foundation distributions.
Still, the challenges facing the Federation in meeting the needs of the community are leading to a major reassessment of how Federation planners are implementing budgetary planning.
A number of new innovations have now been adopted by the B & A committee, including:

  • New application forms – one for agencies requesting more than $250,000 and one for agencies requesting less
  • Beneficiaries were asked to state the anticipated outcomes of projects/programs that receive Federation funding, and to develop indicators so that they can measure those outcomes.
  • Site visits took place along with periodic meetings with agencies as a whole throughout the year to ensure that the committee gets a more complete picture of beneficiaries’ activities, challenges, and plans.
    In describing the process that the Federation undertook to “streamline” the budget allocation process, Federation President Gustavo Zentner said “Lay leadership and management had a responsibility to look at the business model.”
    It was determined that the Federation needed “a more effective way of managing the allocations process,” Zentner stated, including “more meaningful communication with the agencies to bring to light their projects.”
    Not only does the Federation want to improve its own fundraising process, Zentner continued, “We also want to help agencies to raise funds on their own.”
    Despite the reductions in allocations available to agencies this year, Zentner stressed that “we wanted to address the needs of those members of the community who are most in need.”
    Brent Schacter added: “We want to see people dig a little bit deeper” when it comes to giving. The Combined Jewish Appeal is now into its fundraising campaign for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
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Local News

Six members of the community receive King’s Counsel appointments



New KIng's Counsel appointments clockwise from top left: Laurelle Harris, Fay-Lynn Katz, Sandra Kliman, Bryan Schwartz, Frank Lavitt, Steve Kohn

A total of 17 lawyers were appointed King’s Counsel by Order in Council on August 29. Six members of our Jewish community were among those appointed. Although appointments as King’s Counsel are usually accompanied by biographical information about those appointed, there was no press release issued by the Manitoba Government announcing the appointments. When we contacted the Manitoba Government news room to ask why there was no biographical information available, the response we received referred to KC appointments announced in February (no surprise there – these are bureaucrats we’re dealing with). When we asked again why there was no biographical information available about the most recent batch of KC appointments we were told “the Province of Manitoba is in the middle of an election blackout and department communications are limited as a result. News Room has nothing further to add.”
As a result, we present here photos of Jewish recipients of KC appointments, but without any further information.

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Local News

Kayla Gordon inducted on to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame



Kayla Gordon (centre) holding an award she received from Rainbow Stage after having been inducted on to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame in the Builders’ category. Chris Reid (standing beside Kayla) presented the award. Also with Kayla was Brenda Gorlick, Kayla’s long- time collaborator in muscial theatre, who introduced Kayla.

Myron Love It was in the summer of 1984 when Kayla Gordon was appearing in the Rainbow Stage production of “Kismet,” that the long time actor/director/producer/photographer found herself doing her make-up sitting next to Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame, who was also appearing in the production.

“We both were playing opposite each other in the comic roles as the Ayahs to the Wazir (the main lead), and we began talking about our plans for the future,” Gordon recalls. “Nia was talking about moving to Toronto and joining the Second City company. As for me, I was in a comedy troupe in Winnipeg and just found out I was pregnant with my first child. My plan was to stay in Winnipeg, even though I was a bit jealous that she was going off to pursue her dream and I was staying put. That was my ‘Kismet’ and I never looked back.”

Rainbow Stage is where Gordon began her career in musical theatre at the age of 17 in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” After a career of more than 40 years, both on stage and behind the scenes – it is fitting that one of the leading lights of community theatre in our city has been recognized for her contributions by Winnipeg’s longest-running theatre company. On Wednesday, August 17, Gordon was one of the five inductees to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame under the “Builder” category. The award is given to someone who has been part of nurturing and building our theatre community.

“It was a wonderful surprise,” says the honoree. “It brings my career full circle.” Previous honours for Gordon include the Leadership Award from the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Theatre Educator’s Award from the Winnipeg Theatre Awards for her long-time leadership within the arts community.

Gordon reports that the induction ceremony, attended by about 100 friends and family members of the inductees and Rainbow Stage staff, was held just prior to the opening night performance of “The Little Mermaid,”,the second of three shows the company is putting on this summer and early fall.
“It was also special to have one of my grandchildren, my husband Art Maister, my mom Ethel, and my aunt Evelyn Hecht at the induction ceremony,” she adds. (Evelyn also performed at Rainbow Stage in the 1950s.)
Gordon notes that while she appeared onstage in seven Rainbow Stage productions – from 1977 to 1993, she was honoured not for her acting, but for her role as a nurturer of talent through teaching acting and musical theatre at the University of Winnipeg for 18 years, as well as teaching at the University of Manitoba, Prairie Theatre Exchange and The Manitoba Theatre for Young People – also, later as the Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for over 10 years and Winnipeg Studio Theatre, which she founded in 2006.

“I get a lot of satisfaction watching actors I’ve directed and students I have taught and nurtured performing at Rainbow Stage and other venues in the city,” Gordon notes. Many of them have gone on to work professionally and have appeared across Canada, as well as in Broadway productions. Some of them include: Alexandra Frohlinger (Soul Doctor/Broadway), Samantha Hill (Phantom of the Opera/Broadway), Jaz Sealey (Aladdin/Broadway), Andrea Macasaet (Six/Broadway), and Nyk Bielak (Book of Mormon/Broadway).

Gordon was an actor and high school drama teacher at West Kildonan Collegiate for the first 15 years of her career. By the mid-1990s she found herself becoming more interested in working behind the scenes as a director/producer. In 1994, she became the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s second artistic director – succeeding WJT founder Bev Aronovitch – a role she played until 2006. Following her time at WJT Gordon observed that local theatres were not hiring many female theatre directors.
“I realized that if I wanted to work as a director, I would have to create my own projects,” she recalls. So, she started Winnipeg Studio Theatre (WST) in 2006. Soon after forming the company, she invited her longtime theatre associate Brenda Gorlick to run the StudioWorks Academy, a program for emerging artists.

In 2021 she stepped down from her position at WST. “I am still interested in directing – but without the added pressures of being a producer or the full-time responsibility of running a professional theatre company,” she observes. “I like having the freedom to pick and choose the projects I want to work on.” I still plan to work on independent contracts directing theatre and creating entertainment for special events or fundraising activities in the community.”.Last year she produced and directed the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Negev Gala tribute honouring Gail Asper and Michael Paterson. As well, stepping down from her responsibilities with WST has also allowed Gordon to devote more time to her other passion – photography. “I have been interested in photography since I was 15,” she recounts. “My father Ralph had a dark room in our basement.”
Over the past couple of years, she has achieved accreditation with the Professional Photographers of Canada in four different areas of photography: street photography (her favourite), portraiture, performing artists, and figure study. And, last year, she co-authored a coffee table book – “The Murals of Winnipeg,” with fellow photographer Keith Levit as a fundraiser for Take Pride Winnipeg, with 80 pages of photos, which sold out in two weeks and the funds will go to emerging mural artists. (That story can be found on the website.)

Kayla is grateful to have stayed in Winnipeg and she sums up her career, and how and why she managed to work in theatre all these years with a quote from Henry Winkler (aka ‘The Fonz’) “I live by tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets you where you want to be, and gratitude allows you not to be frustrated along the way”.

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