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Memorable Manitobans: John Melnyk (1915-2009)

Musician, educator.

Born at Winnipeg on 17 June 1915, the elder of two sons born to Mykola and Palagia Melnyk who immigrated to Canada from Ukraine and met and married in Winnipeg. He studied the piano from 1924 to 1938 first with Maria Kekishiwna (a pupil of Anton Rubinstein), Leda Omansky, and finally Beryl Ferguson under whose tutelage he earned his Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music, London in 1935. He became a well-known performer, participating from 1930 to 1936 in the Saturday Night concert series sponsored by the Men’s Music Club of Winnipeg, performing live-to-air broadcasts for CBC, touring Western Canada with up-and-coming Canadian musicians, and accompanying visiting international artists on their Canadian appearances. He also composed three preludes, a sonata, a concerto, and two sets of variations, all for piano.

He made his greatest contributions and will be most remembered as a teacher of the piano. Over a teaching career that spanned more than 70 years, he taught thousands of students, including such noteworthies as Arnold Spohr. Under his teaching 24 of these students were awarded the Aikens Memorial Trophy, emblematic of the top instrumentalist in the Manitoba Music Festival. In 1996, family and friends donated the John Melnyk Trophy to the Winnipeg Music Festival, awarded annually for the best performance in a piano concerto class.

He died in his Winnipeg home on 11 April 2009 and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.


“Icon piano teacher taught thousands in city” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 April 2009, page C3.

Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 14 April 2009, page B13.

Page revised: 13 April 2010

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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