One of Canada's longest-lived performing arts touring organizations, founded in 1979 and incorporated in 1987, Debut Atlantic was conceived as a joint project of the Canada Council Touring Office and CBC Radio. Performers from Debut Atlantic's first season included harpsichordist Valerie Weeks, pianist Jon Kimura Parker, tenor Ben Heppner and violinist Angèle Dubeau.
Debut Atlantic's three main areas of focus are: providing performing opportunities in Atlantic Canada for Canadians who are emerging young professional classical musicians; facilitating concert production by Atlantic community presenters; and offering education programs in Atlantic schools. Each season Debut Atlantic creates a roster of promising high-calibre artists and presents them on tour and in masterclasses and workshops. There are 5 tours totalling 30-40 concerts, and 10-15 outreach programs every season. Debut Atlantic substantially subsidizes many of the costs of concert production and touring.
Debut Atlantic has over 300 alumni artists, among them Luc Beauséjour, Daniel Bolshoy, Measha Brueggergosman, Denise Djokic, James Ehnes, Karina Gauvin, Rivka Golani, Angela Hewitt, David Jalbert, Beverley Johnston, Louis Lortie, Richard Margison, Wendy Nielsen, Joel Quarrington, Catherine Robbin, Shauna Rolston, Gryphon Trio, Penderecki String Quartet, Quartetto Gelato, St Lawrence String Quartet, and the Vancouver Wind Trio.
The Encore series, created in 1993, features Debut Atlantic alumni artists. It was the first of several series that have been integrated with the tours. In 1998 Debut Atlantic initiated Words and Music, pairing authors such as Mordecai Richler, Michael Ondaatje, Donna Morrissey and David Adams Richards with alumni musicians. Classical Musics of the World, inaugurated during the 2002-3 season, has hosted performers including George Gao (erhu), Liu Fang (pipa), Aditya Verma (sarod), and Vineet Vyas (tabla). In 2007 Debut Atlantic established Encore in the Summer, which featured alumni pianist Angela Cheng.
As composer-in-residence 2001-4, Alasdair MacLean created nine works for Debut Atlantic performers. Sponsored by Debut Atlantic, he was also guest composer-in-residence in 2003 at Memorial University.
Support for Young Musicians
Since 2000, Debut Atlantic has awarded scholarships to Atlantic-Canadian high-school musicians, through the Debut Atlantic Award for Musical Excellence. Winners have included violinists Lysa Choi, Marc Djokic, Dorothy Ro and Terri Surette; cellists Gregory Gallagher and Denise Ro; and pianists Kathryn Ledwell, Philip Roberts, Cindy Thong and Keran Xu.
National Arts Centre Award
Debut Atlantic was the 2003 recipient of the National Arts Centre Award for distinguished contribution to touring in Canada.