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One golden violin: $100,000.
One scholarship: $20,000. The look of surprise on Emmanuel Vukovich's face when his name was announced: priceless.
Vukovich, a violinist with McGill University's Lloyd Carr-Harris Quartet, was already onstage at the Tanna Schulich Recital Hall, where the quartet had just performed at the unveiling ceremony for the Golden Violin, a new scholarship created by mining magnate and Schulich School of Music benefactor Seymour Schulich.
What Vukovich didn't know was that McGill's scholarships committee had chosen him as the award's first-ever recipient.
"I just feel very lucky and very honoured," said Vukovich, who is in his fourth year of the Bachelor of Music program while also completing a Bachelor of Environment degree. "I feel lucky that it's me, but what really hit me at that moment was that an individual is only as strong as the community. This really goes to the whole school."
Schulich, who was on hand to present the award September 27, discovered the unique object while in Dubai with his wife, Tanna, and friends Catherine Steele and her husband, Harry. When he saw it, he decided to make it his latest gift to the music school that bears his name in hopes of encouraging promising young musicians to literally go for the gold.
"My idea was to create an equivalent to the Stanley Cup for music," he explained. "I thought this would create competition and interest in the school."
Made of pewter with gold filigree, the ornamental violin is worth about $100,000, said Schulich. The annual scholarship of $20,000 that he added to the prize is the largest privately funded music scholarship in Canada.
Vukovich hopes to parlay the funds into a project that will incorporate his interest in music, agriculture and the environment.
"I'm going to take this year to decide what I want to do," he said.
Schulich, co-founder of Franco-Nevada Mining Corporation and Chairman of Newmont Capital Limited, credits a $1,600 scholarship with helping him earn an MBA at McGill in 1965.
His $20-million donation last year, to what would be renamed the McGill Schulich School of Music, was the largest individual donation to a university-based arts program in Canadian history.
The Golden Violin is the latest in a long string of awards for Vukovich. A former student at New York's Juilliard School of Music, he earned a 2004 Canada Arts Council Orford String Quartet Scholarship, is a winner of the Canadian Music Competitions and, as a member of the McGill Symphony Orchestra, of the McGill 2004 Classical Concerto.
At the same ceremony where Vukovich was awarded the Golden Violin, McGill also announced the appointment of world-renowned violinist Andrew Dawes as the first Catherine Thornhill Steele Chair in Music, one of two chairs created at the Schulich School of Music thanks to Schulich's original gift.