2021-2022 Teaching Award Winner: Brian Manker

Brian Manker
Image by Sian Richards.
Published: 5 July 2022

Congratulations to Brian Manker, winner of Schulich's 2021-2021 Teaching Award in the Part-time category. 

Professor Brian Manker teaches Undergraduate, Master's, Graduate Diploma, Artist's Diploma and Doctoral students in Cello performance. He is dedicated to his students and to the art of teaching and passing on his love for music. Students cannot help but speak of his generosity in all things — time, talent, and even, on one occasion, his instrument.  

In keeping the student’s best interest at heart and in mind, Brian seeks to meet them where they are, technically, musically, and emotionally. Through his teaching and mentorship, students understand that becoming a better musician incorporates all aspects of one’s life.  

Brian is willing to adapt to the needs of his students, wanting them to find their unique selves. Together, goals may be set out at the beginning of a semester. Over the course of the school year students are sure to be met with generous encouragement, ingenious tools to overcome technical challenges, and ways to further artistic development with an appropriate amount of rigour to feed and nurture growth. Through vulnerability he empathizes and helps put students at ease; through humour he can relax nerves; and through patience and understanding he helps students meet their full potential as musicians.  

A student said that when they work with Brian, it always feels like a collaboration. He is equally supportive and demanding, and because of how students feel valued as musicians, they want to work for him. He makes them excited about the process and the discoveries that come along the way. “He absorbs your efforts and looks forward to your next insights,” shares one student.  

He explains concepts with accuracy and perception, desiring clarity and complete understanding for the student. He helps navigate the technical challenges of the cello, Schulich, university life, and much more with honesty, good-nature, and kindness. Even when students graduate and leave his studio, Brian remains invested in their success and well-being. He encourages students to stay in touch, offering words of advice and encouragement when needed.  

Brian serves not only as a guide and resource in understanding the professional musical world but also in one’s personal journey of development and transformation. Students are exposed to new music in his studio, particularly by female and BIPOC composers, of which one student remarked, “I'm reassured to see these works being encouraged and performed.” Committed, flexible, responsive, and engaged, Brian aims to provide students with technical and musical adeptness as well as confidence to take their next steps.  

In celebration of this award and of his achievements, we asked Brian to tell us a bit about his teaching philosophy, what he’ll carry with him from this past year, and to let us know what advice he might give to his starting-at-university-self. 

What are some elements that are important to your teaching philosophy?  

I feel my role is to give the student the tools to become autonomous, to show them how to answer their own questions and solve their own problems, to guide them to maturity as a cellist and as a person. 

Has your teaching philosophy changed over time? If so, how?  

Absolutely, I've realized that it's important to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each individual student with the goal of helping them fill in gaps in their understanding. One must help to build a strong foundation before asking for results, this can take time and patience. 

What do you want your students to leave your classroom/studio knowing?  


What does a future-ready musician look like to you?  

Confident and flexible. 

What will you carry from this past year into the coming years? 

Humility, I'm learning something every day. 

What advice would you give to your starting-at-university self?  

Be open to other ideas, observe the details and the small things.  

Solo Cellist of the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal (OSM) since 1999, Brian Manker enjoys a diverse and varied musical career as a performer and teacher. In addition to being a frequent concerto soloist with the OSM, Mr. Manker is a member of the highly acclaimed New Orford String Quartet, winners of multiple Opus awards and a Juno award. A Grand Prize winner as a member of the Harrington Quartet at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Mr. Manker also received a special commendation from Sir Yehudi Menuhin at the Portsmouth International String Quartet Competition. Formerly the co-director of Festival Alexandria, he currently is co-director of the Prince Edward County Chamber Music Festival along with the rest of the New Orford String Quartet. He can be heard on his 2010 recording of the complete Bach Cello Suites on STORKCLASSICS, as well as numerous recordings, quartets with the New Orford String Quartet, various other chamber music ventures, and of course with the OSM. Mr. Manker served on the jury of the prestigious and historic Prague Spring International Cello Competition in 2006. In 2007, he launched the Beethoven Project, an initiative focused on performing all the quartets of Beethoven in their proper context, the private salon. Brian Manker is an Associate Professor at the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. He performs on a cello made by Pietro Guarneri of Venice in 1728- 30, and a bow by René Lafleur, loaned by Canimex. 

About the Schulich School of Music Teaching Awards

Each year the Schulich School of Music recognizes faculty members and student instructors for their outstanding contributions. The Schulich School of Music Teaching Awards recognize excellence, commitment and innovation in teaching, and the importance of these qualities in the academic experience of students at McGill. Prizes are awarded annually to each winner at Spring Convocation.

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