John Estacio

Estacio has composed mainly operatic and orchestral music, as well as a few chamber and choral works. His operas have found an enthusiastic following, and the genre has become an area of concentration for him. Estacio is an adept orchestrator, working with a large palette of orchestral colours.


John Estacio

 John Estacio. Composer, b Newmarket, Ont, 8 Apr 1966; B MUS (Wilfrid Laurier) 1989, M MUS (British Columbia) 1991. John Estacio studied piano and accordion, and during his formative years played organ at church. In high school, he learned to play the trumpet and created soundtracks for student films. At Wilfrid Laurier University he studied composition with Glenn Buhr and Peter Hatch. He completed his graduate studies at the University of British Columbia under Stephen Chatman. Estacio's first major orchestral composition, Visoes da Noite, won second prize in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra's Canadian Composers Competition in 1992; his Saudades was premiered at the Winnipeg New Music Festival the following year. Estacio was composer-in-residence for the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) 1992-2000, and for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) and Calgary Opera 2000-2003. With the ESO, he developed the Young Composers Project, which awarded aspiring composers a mentorship with an established Edmonton composer.

Compositional Style of John Estacio

Estacio has composed mainly operatic and orchestral music, as well as a few chamber and choral works. His operas have found an enthusiastic following, and the genre has become an area of concentration for him. Estacio is an adept orchestrator, working with a large palette of orchestral colours. His musical sensibility blends the exploration of sound and form common in contemporary music, with a leaning toward traditional rhythmic and harmonic structure that gives his works a more immediate appeal. Estacio's compositions fit well into an orchestral program, with enough melodic content, energetic rhythm and lush orchestration to satisfy the audience and musicians alike.

John Estacio's Operas

His first opera, Filumena (based on the life of Filumena Lassandro), with playwright John Murrell, was created and premiered by Calgary Opera in 2003. It received critical acclaim for its premiere performance, and for subsequent performances across Canada, which included stagings at the Banff Centre, the National Arts Centre, and Edmonton Opera (where it was recorded for broadcast on CBC Television in 2006). Excerpts from the opera have also been performed by orchestras in Calgary, Vancouver, Prince Edward Island and the Okanagan. Estacio and Murrell collaborated again on the opera Frobisher, which was premiered in Calgary and Banff in 2007. Their third opera, Lillian Alling, is scheduled to be premiered by the Vancouver Opera in October 2010.

John Estacio's Orchestral Works

John Estacio has received commissions from many orchestras, ensembles and associations, including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the CBC Radio Orchestra, the Banff International String Quartet Competition, and the Penderecki String Quartet. For the ESO he created A Farmer's Symphony (1994), Wondrous Light (1997), and Frenergy (1998); and for the CPO he composed Solaris (2000), Bootlegger's Tarantella (2001), and Spring's Promise (2004). His works are played frequently by major orchestras across the country. Frenergy was on the Toronto Symphony Orchestra's opening concert of the 2009-10 season, and the same year it was included in concerts by the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre symphonique de Québec, the Winnipeg Symphony, and by orchestras in Niagara and Oakville. The Kingston Symphony opened its 2009-10 season with Estacio's Borealis, and the Okanagan and Kamloops Symphony Orchestras both opened their seasons with Solaris.

Among Estacio's international performances, in 2009 conductor Peter Oundjian presented Frenergy with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. The piece was played by three other US orchestras that year. Estacio's arrangements of Seven Songs of Jean Sibelius were performed by the acclaimed Canadian tenor Ben Heppner with the Los Angeles Philharmonic on a European tour in 2007, and in Sweden by the Malmö Symphony Orchestra in 2008.

John Estacio: Awards and Memberships

Estacio received young composers awards from SOCAN and PROCAN in 1989, 1990, 1992, and 1994, as well as SOCAN's Jan V. Matejcek Concert Music Award in 2004 and 2005. His string quartet, Test Run, composed for the Banff International String Quartet Competition, was nominated for a Juno award in 2003. Frenergy: The music of John Estacio (2004, CBC Records SMCD 5232) was nominated for two Juno awards in 2005, including one for classical composition of the year. It also received the Western Canadian Music Award for outstanding classical recording in 2005. In 2008 Estacio received an AMPIA (Alberta Motion Picture Industries Association) award for his score for the CBC Television film, The Secret of the Nutcracker, directed by Eric Till.

In 2010, Estacio was awarded the prestigious National Arts Centre Award, comprising a three-year residency with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and a series of orchestral commissions.

John Estacio is a member of the Canadian League of Composers and is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre.


Further Reading

  • "An evening with John Estacio: Introducing Calgary's new composer-in-residence," Prairie Sounds, no 48, Fall 2000

    Christison, Tim. "Kindred spirits: Just how do the two Johns - that's Estacio and Murrell - find a single resolution in their separate approaches to opera?" Opera Canada, vol 48, no 1, Jan-Feb 2007

    Hammer, Kat. "The eclectic Estacio," The Music Scene, vol 5, no 2, Winter 2007