Music Graduate Performs with the Calgary Arts Orchestra

Music Graduate Performs with the Calgary Arts Orchestra

“My love for classical music began with singing in the Ambrose choirs directed by Don Quantz and Ian Charter,” Michael Ibsen recalls. Encouraged by his guitar instructor Brad Mahon to pursue the instrument, Michael ended up studying classical guitar and graduated from Ambrose in 2013

A live in-studio recording of Michael playing the first movement of ‘el Decameron Negro’ by Leo Brouwer

Today, Michael is in the first year of his Master of Music program at the University of British Columbia, but he’s returning to Calgary on November 29th to perform as one of the featured soloists in the Calgary Arts Orchestra season kickoff concert. “I will be performing Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s first guitar concerto with the Calgary Arts Orchestra,” says Michael.

“I previously performed the third movement of this concerto with the Ambrose Chamber Orchestra while in my final year at Ambrose. It’s an honour to be invited by the CAO to perform the entire concerto as a soloist, and it’s also special to revisit this beautiful work of music in the city where I first studied it.”

Music graduates make their mark in Calgary

The Calgary Arts Orchestra is a great example of how graduates of the Ambrose Music program are having an impact on Calgary’s classical scene. “Calgary is more than ready for young, forward-thinking orchestra,” founding director and Ambrose graduate Eileen Kosasih explains. “I’ve travelled all over. I love going to shows featuring local musicians in New York, Montreal, Chicago, and I want something like that for Calgary too.”

“The CAO is made up of all local players, and we feature local music,” Eileen continues, “it’s something for Calgarians to be proud and provides a place for young performers to be featured.” The orchestra’s upcoming performance also includes Ambrose alumna Alysha Bulmer on flute.


L: Alysha Bulmer is currently working as teacher with the Calgary Girls Choir. She is a founding member of the CAO and has been awarded First Class Honours as an Associate of the Royal Conservatory in Flute Performance. R: Eileen Kosasih is the Founding Director of the CAO and performs as a violinist and conductor.

Michael’s take on Ambrose

“Studying at Ambrose definitely set me up to succeed in the classical music world,” Michael says. “Thanks to the training that began at Ambrose, I recently won an Alberta Foundation for the Arts (AFA) grant, which is funding a large portion of my studies at UBC, and last year I was also awarded 3rd prize in guitar at the National Festival.”

Michael cites the small class sizes at Ambrose and the many performance opportunities as keys to his success: “The music program at Ambrose gave me a place where I could collaborate with other musicians, hone my performance abilities, and rely on the expert faculty for knowledge and guidance. All of these advantages allowed me to make my way into the wider musical world.”

Michael performs during the recording of his debut album, “Sketches” (available in the Ambrose bookstore).

“I found playing in the weekly music lab to be of immense help in developing my stage performance abilities and battling nerves. The teaching at Ambrose provided me with a strong musical foundation, and my instructors also helped me get connected with a lot of the organizations and events that led to further performances and studies—organizations like the Classical Guitar Society of Calgary, the Canadian Federation of Music Festivals, and events like Guitarfest West.  

Finding your passion at university

Michael was also one of the many students at Ambrose who began in the General Studies program without a clear end in mind, and ended up discovering his passion. “When I began my studies I never thought that I would dedicate myself to this particular instrument and repertoire,” he recalls.

“But after getting into the music program and starting my studies on the classical guitar, I became fascinated with the rich repertoire which spans so many locations, eras, and styles. I’m a competitive and intellectually curious person, and classical music performance continues to satisfy both of these drives."

“Music is something which the human race continues to explore and express in a multitude of ways, and every instrument and genre has its own narrative. For me, the genre or instrument you end up dedicated to is less important, what is important is what you learn, express, and share with others.”

Learn more about the Ambrose Music program.

Visit Michael’s website to hear more of his music.

Visit the CAO website to find out more about upcoming performances, and don’t forget to support Ambrose alumni by coming to the CAO Winter Concert on November 29!