PRISMA announces academy expansion in partnership with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and VSO School of Music


Henry Shapard the VSO’s principal cellist, pictured with the PRISMA Festival Orchestra in 2023 under the direction of Arthur Arnold.

Powell River, CANADA (November 22, 2023) – The Pacific Region International Summer Music Association (PRISMA) is excited to announce the expansion of its orchestra academy program through a multi-faceted collaboration with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) and the VSO School of Music (VSO SoM).

Every June, the PRISMA Academy draws up to 80 post-secondary music students from more than a dozen countries. They convene as strangers but are quickly bonded through the universal language of music as they rehearse and perform symphonic and chamber music repertoire and gain valuable experience through lessons, masterclasses and audition training. 

Under this year’s expanded model, PRISMA students will now spend three days in Vancouver (June 13-15, 2024) for an immersion in expertise alongside artists from the VSO and VSO SoM before making their way to rural Powell River (June 16-29, 2024). Highlights will include rehearsals in the Orpheum theatre and sectional rehearsals at the VSO SoM’s state-of-the-art facilities downtown.

The initiative builds a bridge between the academic and professional music realms, offering a unique platform for diverse young musicians to hone their craft alongside seasoned professionals.

“I am thrilled to witness the fusion of our talented students with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and VSO School of Music in this groundbreaking collaboration,” says Arthur Arnold, Co-founder & Artistic Director of PRISMA. “This partnership is not just a meeting of three organizations; it is a convergence of aspirations, talent, and a shared passion for musical excellence.”

The VSO has long been committed to quality music education,” says Angela Elster, President & CEO, VSO and VSO School of Music.We firmly believe that music is vital and essential to a well-rounded education. The VSO is committed to connecting community to the joy of symphonic music by engaging all ages with interactive, educational programming through ‘Connects’, ‘Symphonic Encounters’ and ‘School concerts’. That commitment deepened when the VSO launched the VSO School of Music which now serves almost 2,500 students thereby supporting the next generations of aspiring musicians as well as music lovers. This PRISMA partnership is a natural next step in fostering artistic excellence.”

“The partnership also reflects PRISMA’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of musical talent, ensuring that the rich legacy of orchestral music continues to thrive and inspire,” adds Arnold. “I look forward to the possibilities it will enable as a pipeline for emerging artists, and for the orchestral community at large.”

Although this is the first official collaboration between PRISMA and the VSO and VSO SoM, the organizations have shared several unique connections over the years. 

Since 2013, VSO musicians past and present have frequently mentored PRISMA students alongside other international guest artists, while recent PRISMA alumni include VSO Assistant Conductor, David Bui and violist, Jacob van der Sloot.

And, as fate would have it, Arnold and VSO Music Director & VSO SoM Artistic Advisor, Otto Tausk, grew up in the same village in the Netherlands, crossing paths many times throughout their respective careers.

“The amazing VSO musicians are always eager to mentor, teach and advise students,” says Tausk. “They have an incredible amount of knowledge and experience to share. We look forward to hosting PRISMA students at the VSO School of Music’s acoustically brilliant Pyatt Hall, and with us on stage at the Orpheum.”

After having their inaugural rehearsal as the PRISMA Festival Orchestra at the Orpheum on June 13, students will spend the afternoon observing a VSO rehearsal. Ten students will be invited into the VSO as guest musicians for the day, providing a coveted hands-on learning experience that will culminate in a performance that evening as part of The Path Forward.

The Path Forward is a concert event curated by the VSO Indigenous Council, with performances by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in collaboration with Indigenous artists from Coast Salish and other First Nations territories. Combining new orchestrations of traditional Indigenous music and contemporary Indigenous musicians and dancers, the concert aligns with and honours National Indigenous People’s Day, while acknowledging the role that organizations like the VSO must play in Truth and Reconciliation.  

“This new legacy will further our students’ career aspirations and a growing international awareness of Reconciliation, as well as the artistic partnering of the qathet Regional District and the City of Vancouver,” says Mike Robinson, President of PRISMA’s Board of Directors. “The combination of astounding Salish Sea beauty and urban sophistication demonstrates that rural/ urban partnerships can be both culturally au courant and visionary.”

On June 14 and 15, PRISMA students will have the opportunity to explore British Columbia’s largest city while working with VSO musicians during daily sectional rehearsals, an audition training workshop and a career coaching seminar. From there, they will travel to Powell River for a two-week orchestral intensive as part of the 2024 PRISMA Festival.

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PRISMA (Pacific Region International Summer Music Association) is a dynamic arts and culture organization committed to enriching lives through the connective power of classical music. PRISMA can best be described as a convergence of charismatic classical virtuosos, burgeoning talents, and fervent audiences in one of the most scenically beautiful places on earth. Its flagship event is the PRISMA Festival & Academy which runs every June in Powell River, British Columbia. It includes two weeks of lessons, sectionals, career coaching sessions, public masterclasses, recitals, symphony orchestra concerts, chamber music concerts, outreach activities, and more. Since its inaugural events in 2013, PRISMA has mentored nearly 750 musicians from 46 countries and territories. Some have gone on to win principal positions in professional orchestras around the world; others enjoy busy careers as soloists, chamber musicians, and instructors.


About the VSO

Founded in 1919, the Grammy and Juno-award winning Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is the third largest orchestra in Canada, the largest arts organization in Western Canada, and one of the few orchestras in the world to have its own music school.  

Led by Music Director Otto Tausk since 2018, the VSO performs more than 150 concerts each year, throughout Vancouver and the province of British Columbia, reaching over 270,000 people annually. On tour the VSO has performed in the United States, China, Korea and across Canada.  

The orchestra presents passionate, high-quality performances of classical, popular and culturally diverse music, creating meaningful engagement with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. 


About the VSO SoM

VSO School of Music, founded in 2010, is a 25,000 square foot state of-the-art music school located adjacent to the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Vancouver. With a mission to enrich lives through the joy of learning, playing and performing the world’s great music, the VSO School of Music develops experiences that are accessible to all, regardless of age, ability, playing level or economic circumstances; and by nurturing creative and engaged members of society through achievement in the musical arts. With a roster of over 2000 students, the School is proud to offer individual or group instruction by members of the Vancouver Symphony and other high-quality music educators. The school also features a performance theatre (Pyatt Hall) and Reception space which sees a wide range of arts, entertainment, and corporate groups utilizing the space for performances, recordings, and special events.