When as a child I first understood what it meant to pull notes off a page, throw them into the air, and wonder at their magical effects, I knew that music would forever be my life: my oxygen, my solace, my offering.
I was recently asked what inspires me. This is both an impossible question and a no-brainer. Everything inspires me: my astounding colleagues, strange dreams after a midnight feast with friends, three words strung together in a novel, a ridiculous joke, baskets of poignant memories.
Let's see... What else describes me, in 10 words or less?
Well... to be honest, I take my whiskey neat.
Ontario Contact's 2017 Artist of the Year
BC Touring Council's 2015 Artist of the Year
Canadian pianist Sarah Hagen has performed in concert halls and has been heard on broadcasts throughout North America and Europe. Awarded as Ontario Contact's 2017 Artist of the Year and the British Columbia Touring Council’s 2015 Artist of the Year, and mentioned by The Guardian (Charlottetown) as the Best Classical Performance of 2014, her interpretations have been described as “outstandingly inventive" [University of Waterloo Gazette], ”played flawlessly” [ReviewVancouver] and “with great sensitivity and heart.” [Vernon Morning Star]
A visionary and an idealist, Sarah presents conceptually innovative performances, involving photography, dance and spoken word. She is Artistic Director for Pro'ject Sound, a performance project involving live piano with large-scale projected images. Her collaboration “Exultation” with Canadian Slam Poetry Champion Brendan McLeod explores Rachmaninoff’scomplete Opus 32 Preludes through poetry and storytelling, and premiered to critical acclaim in February 2017.
An avid collaborator, Sarah has performed with cellist Ariel Barnes, violinist Rachel Barton Pine, violist Nicolò Eugelmi, cellist Phillip Hansen, violinist Robert Uchida, tenor Benjamin Butterfield, soprano Barbara Livingston, Trio Accord, Ballet Victoria, the Emily Carr String Quartet, the Bergmann Piano Duo, jazz pianist Søren Bebe, hornist Allene Hackleman, and clarinettist Keith MacLeod, among many others. Sarah has appeared as soloist with the Victoria Symphony under the baton of Mei-Ann Chen, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony conducted by Mark Skazinetsky, the West Coast Symphony Orchestra with conductor Bujar Llapaj, the Symphony Orchestra of the Pacific with conductor Arthur Arnold, and the Nanaimo Chamber Orchestra. As a First Prize Winner in the 2013 Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition, Sarah was awarded the opportunity to perform solo at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in May 2013. Her debut solo album, Glass House Dancing, was nominated for Classical Recording of the Year at the 2009 Western Canadian Music Awards.
Sarah has been been heard nationally on CBC Radio 2’s In Concert in a live recording with violinist Joan Blackman and cellist Ariel Barnes. She was also featured in a live recording and discussion of Schumann’s Papillons on CBC Radio One’s North by Northwest with host Sheryl MacKay. In December 2013 she released her second album, Devoted: Music of Robert & Clara Schumann, featuring solo piano works and Clara Schumann’s Romances, Opus 22 with violinist Martin Chalifour, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In Helsingborg, Sweden in 2006 she recorded with Swedish cellist Marit Sjödin, creating Concealed Diamonds, an album of masterworks for cello and piano.
Sarah’s primary teachers and mentors have been Jamie Parker, Glen Montgomery, Gregory Chaverdian, and Christine Purvis. She has completed five residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts and enjoyed two terms there as collaborative pianist.
During her years on the west coast of Canada, Sarah founded nine concert series, curating each one individually, and inviting artists from across Canada and around the world to share the stage with her. She has toured throughout Sweden numerous times with cellist Marit Sjödin, violinist Ian Peaston, and Per Johansson, principal clarinet of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra. Other international concerts of note include a recital at DePaul University with Oto Carrillo, hornist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a performance of Schumann’s Piano Quintet in Darmstadt, Germany with members of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony, a performance at Carnegie Hall with Polish flautist Krzysztof Kaczka, and concerts as part of the Schlern International Music Festival in northern Italy.
Sarah premiered her one-woman musical comedy show to critical acclaim in the summer of 2016, touring it to various Canadian fringe festivals. Described as “one of the best hours I’ve ever spent at the Fringe” [The Coast (Halifax)], “Perk up, pianist!” tells the tale of a touringclassical musician remaining optimistic in the midst of challenging and ridiculous situations. Of the show’s debut at the Toronto Fringe Festival, Montreal Rampage wrote, “Hagen reminds us the beauty of how an honest solo performance can make you so easily fall in love with its performer.”
In addition to writing wine reviews for her blog, “ARTIST WINES! - Uncorking musician-priced cellar secrets,” Sarah is an enthusiastic tap dancer.
Sarah's motivation is the belief that music has the power to be a window into our souls, regardless of our age or musical knowledge.