Adjudicators 2021

Junior Piano Eric Nyland
Musical Theatre Ron de Jager
Senior Piano Dr. Jacques Després
Speech Cheryl Vandergraaf
Voice Melanie Baux

ERIC NYLAND | Junior Piano

Eric Nyland

For over 20 years, actor and pianist Eric Nyland has worked professionally in theatre, film, music, and music pedagogy throughout Canada, (and briefly in Italy). Eric runs a private teaching studio in Calgary and is and is a highly sought-after accompanist, adjudicator, and clinician.

He has studied with Dr. Lillian Upright, Dr. Irena Kofman, and Linda Kundert, and has taken masterclasses from Dr. Jennifer Snow, Dr. Jacques Després, Dr. Ludmilla Lazar, and Roman Rabinovich. He has developed and taught two courses for the Conservatory at Mount Royal University, has served as the musical director for the theatre improvisation company The Kinkonauts and for the long-form theatre improvisation duo One Lions (winner, Best Show at Vancouver International Improv Festival 2016).

This fall, Eric served as clinician for the Alberta Piano Teachers’ Association annual teacher conference, where he presented his workshop From the Private to the Public: An Actor’s Approach to Piano Practice, Performing, and Teaching.

In 2015, Eric appeared as soloist in Beethoven’s First Piano Concerto for the inaugural concert of the Calgary Arts Orchestra. Also in 2015, Eric was nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Play by the Calgary Theatre Critics’ Awards for his work in the world premiere of Nicholas Billon’s Butcher.

DR. RON de JAGER | Musical Theatre

Dr. Ron de JagerA native of Nova Scotia, Dr. Ron de Jager is Professor of Music and Voice at Briercrest College in Caronport, SK. He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts in Vocal Performance degree from Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA. Ron has had the privilege of being mentored by Lorna MacDonald, Elvira Gonella, Greta Kraus and most recently, Dr. Janette Ogg.

In 2012, Dr. de Jager had the honor of singing for Prince Charles and The Duchess of Cornwall at the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The ceremony was broadcast nationally on CBC and CTV. At the request of the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, he was the guest soloist at the inauguration of Pier 21 on Canada Day 2000.

Ron has enjoyed performing opera, oratorio, solo recitals, musical theatre, film and ballet. Select performances include Dichterliebe; The Five Mystical Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams; Papageno in Die Zauberflöte; Billy Budd in Billy Budd; Harry Easter in Street Scene; Major General Stanley in Pirates of Penzance; Eli Black in Without a Hitch?; Curly in OKLAHOMA!; and the title role in Maury Yeston’s Phantom. In 2013 he started Briercrest Summer Stage where he serves as Artistic Director.

Ron has been honored as a winner in the National Auditions of the American College of Musicians, MATS competition and Kiwanis Festival. He has been awarded the Monica Rychman Award, William Cary Award, Nova Scotia Cultural Development Grant and was nominated to the Golden Key Society.

As a full professor at Briercrest College, he enjoys teaching private voice, vocal pedagogy, vocal master class, musical theatre workshop and acting. Additionally, he provides leadership to the performance and worship arts department while maintaining a performance schedule.

“I am incredibly grateful for the many teachers, collaborators and performers who have generously given of themselves. These people chose to pass on what was given to them and their years of experience and wisdom remain an inspiration to me each day. I hope to do the same.”


Dr. Jacques DesprésPianist Dr. Jacques C. Després has concertized for four decades on three continents through his recordings, performances as a soloist with orchestras, solo recitals and collaborative work.

An intelligent, refined, highly sensitive and disciplined artist, Després’ performances and recordings are praised by critics who cite his “crystal-clear pianism,” and his abilities “to bring humanity, integrity and an enormous expressive range to the pieces.” His “pianistic control is flawless, the sonority magnificent, and the playing is utterly and consistently clear.”

Since his 1978 debut with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Després has appeared as a soloist with many orchestras under the baton of conductors including Otto-Werner Muller, Franz-Paul Decker, Jens Nygaard and Simon Streatfield. Després’ tours have included performances aired on CBC Radio and at summer festivals in North America and Asia. Notable recordings include the world premiere of the complete piano works of Joseph Martin Kraus and the Kraus’ complete chamber music works on the Naxos label, which received widespread critical acclaim and exposure.

A leading lecture-performance artist on both period and modern instruments, Després has been invited to numerous schools in North America and Asia, including the Juilliard School, Northwestern University, Vanderbilt University and the Central Conservatory of China (Beijing).

Després completed his doctorate in performance at the University of Stony Brook. He holds a Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music, a Unanimous First Prize from the Quebec Conservatory, and the Artist Diploma with High Distinction from Indiana University as a student of György Sebök. Other teachers include Adele Marcus, Gilbert Kalish, William Masselos and Christiane Sénart.

He has been a Professor of Music at the University of Alberta since 2005.

CHERYL VANDERGRAAF |Cheryl Vandergraaf Speech

Cheryl Vandergraaf is a professional actor, playwright, and improviser who has spent 15+ years in the performing arts. She trained at the Company of Rogues and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and English from the University of Alberta. As a previous student of the Speech Arts and Drama Program at Mount Royal University, she is excited to now be back as an instructor at the Conservatory.

While at school in Edmonton, she taught drama at a homeschool program for Grades 1-12, and held the position of Executive Director of the New Works Festival for two consecutive years. In 2016 she led a playwriting and development workshop at the Edmonton Youth Council for Social Equity, providing an opportunity for underprivileged youth to express their voice through theatre. Her scripts have been produced for the New Works Festival and the Collaborative Faculty Development Conference at the U of A, and she was recently awarded the Frank Bueckert Prize for Playwriting. 

Cheryl believes in the importance of fostering creativity and imagination, celebrating excellence, and refining the art of speech and drama to a level of expertise worthy of its full potential.


Melanie Baux

Soprano Melanie Baux has a Diploma in Music Performance from Mount Royal University and a Bachelor of Music Performance from The University of Manitoba. She has studied under Winston Noren, Karen Jensen and Tracy Dahl.

In concert, Melanie has performed Mozart’s Exultate Jubilate with the University of Manitoba Orchestra, Schubert’s Mass in C with The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, opera excerpts with the Calgary Youth Orchestra and premiered Elizabeth Raum’s Prairie Alphabet with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. She has appeared as Venus in Offenbach’s  Orphee aux Enfers and Beth in Adamo’s Little Women. Recently she performed Handel’s  Arcadian Duets with the Calgary Bach Festival society as well as Rameau’s In Convertendo and the Charpentier Te Deum. Recently, Melanie performed Bach’s Easter Oratorio as well as Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater with the Cantare Children’s Choir and The Bach Festival Orchestra.

As a young singer, Melanie participated in the Mount Royal Choral Program, Alberta Youth Choir, Ad Libitum Vocal Ensemble, Spiritus Chamber Choir and The Winnipeg Singers. She is the artistic director of the Cochrane Young Singers choral program, and has been a vocal coach and rehearsal lead for The Calgary Boys Choir.

Melanie has been a musical director for Grease (Winnipeg, MN); The Sound of Music (Winnipeg, MN); and Eve: The True Story (Pincher Creek, AB). Melanie teaches private voice lessons as well as group and private musical theatre classes and master classes. Her greatest joy comes from sharing her love of music with her students and her three little boys.