Calling all music lovers

Five new pianos in locations across campus are waiting to be played

By Joel Bentley

  BMus student Serina Mui plays the new piano in the Music, Art and Architecture Library. The instrument is a gift from Tom Lee Music. Credit: UBC Library Communications

BMus student Serina Mui plays the new piano in the Music, Art and Architecture Library. The instrument is a gift from Tom Lee Music. Credit: UBC Library Communications

A student sits at the new grand piano in the Music, Art and Architecture Library (MAA). She has headphones on, concealing the sound, so all you hear is the tapping of keys, rhythmic patterns. It feels like a pre-concert ritual—the quiet excitement of something about to be born. Behind the piano there are rows upon rows of sheet music, the largest collection of scores in Western Canada, waiting to be played. The library is muted and subdued, but the piano calls out to music lovers—beckoning them into the world of sound.

Pianos placed across UBC for you to enjoy

“I love playing with and for others and seeing the joy it brings to everyone involved,” says BMus student Zeta Gesme. A third-year double major in Cello Performance and Economics (Honours), Zeta is one of hundreds of students who have discovered joy at the new grand piano in the MAA at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC). It’s all dressed up in black and white, like a butler waiting. At your service. Zeta uses the piano to practice for her piano exams.

Music is about the creation of joy.
— Jeffrey Lee (BComm’09), Executive Director of Tom Lee Music

It’s one of five new pianos that Tom Lee Music provided to UBC this year. The pianos can be found at the Walter C. Koerner Library, David Lam Management Research Library, Woodward Library, and the Nobel Biocare Oral Health Centre—the dental clinic. Two other pianos, previously provided in 2015, are located in the Chapman Learning Commons at IKBLC and the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre. Each piano is available to students, staff, faculty and the surrounding community.

“I thought it was so great that community members could have access to a piano and a library full of music for their own edification,” Zeta says.

The library’s most popular item

Kevin Madill, Acting Head Librarian at MAA, recalls when the idea of the library hosting a piano was initially pitched in 2015. He was cautious at first. A library is a sanctuary, a place of quiet study. But when mandatory headphone use was proposed, he was convinced. Kevin assumed the pianos would primarily be used for practice and theory homework by music students, but the headphones quickly became “the busiest item in the whole library.” He estimates that approximately 4,000 patrons have used the piano in the MAA Library over the past three years, or about three to four people every day.

“What’s been fascinating is that it’s attracted more people to the library. It’s brought people in,” Kevin says.

Take a break, have a seat

Arts student Odetta Li just discovered the piano this September. She’s not a music major, but she grew up playing the piano, taking lessons into her teens. Now, she improvises songs or plays pieces she loves.

“It’s a place to chill between lectures,” she says.

The great benefit of these pianos is the ability to plug in headphones and play in private, which makes them perfect for improvising or relaxing.

“Music is very therapeutic. People have a lot of pressure in their daily lives and they often enjoy an instrument at home,” says alumnus Ron Koyanagi (BEd (Sec) ’84), General Manager of Tom Lee Music’s piano division. But not everyone has the luxury of having a piano in their home, students least of all. Tom Lee Music provided the five pianos to UBC so that students, staff and community members alike could have an avenue to release stress, to improve their mood and mental well-being, and to pursue their musical passions. “We just want them to enjoy music, experience the fun, and take a break from everything that’s going on,” says Ron.

To gain access to one of the available pianos, simply check out a headphone set from a library circulation desk and you’ll have a piano to yourself for up to two hours.


Interested in making a difference? Find out how you can support the UBC School of Music.

Calling all music lovers

Five new pianos in locations across campus are waiting to be played

By Joel Bentley

  BMus student Serina Mui plays the new piano in the Music, Art and Architecture Library. The instrument is a gift from Tom Lee Music. Credit: UBC Library Communications

BMus student Serina Mui plays the new piano in the Music, Art and Architecture Library. The instrument is a gift from Tom Lee Music. Credit: UBC Library Communications

A student sits at the new grand piano in the Music, Art and Architecture Library (MAA). She has headphones on, concealing the sound, so all you hear is the tapping of keys, rhythmic patterns. It feels like a pre-concert ritual—the quiet excitement of something about to be born. Behind the piano there are rows upon rows of sheet music, the largest collection of scores in Western Canada, waiting to be played. The library is muted and subdued, but the piano calls out to music lovers—beckoning them into the world of sound.

Pianos placed across UBC for you to enjoy

“I love playing with and for others and seeing the joy it brings to everyone involved,” says BMus student Zeta Gesme. A third-year double major in Cello Performance and Economics (Honours), Zeta is one of hundreds of students who have discovered joy at the new grand piano in the MAA at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre (IKBLC). It’s all dressed up in black and white, like a butler waiting. At your service. Zeta uses the piano to practice for her piano exams.

Music is about the creation of joy.
— Jeffrey Lee (BComm’09), Executive Director of Tom Lee Music

It’s one of five new pianos that Tom Lee Music provided to UBC this year. The pianos can be found at the Walter C. Koerner Library, David Lam Management Research Library, Woodward Library, and the Nobel Biocare Oral Health Centre—the dental clinic. Two other pianos, previously provided in 2015, are located in the Chapman Learning Commons at IKBLC and the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre. Each piano is available to students, staff, faculty and the surrounding community.

“I thought it was so great that community members could have access to a piano and a library full of music for their own edification,” Zeta says.

The library’s most popular item

Kevin Madill, Acting Head Librarian at MAA, recalls when the idea of the library hosting a piano was initially pitched in 2015. He was cautious at first. A library is a sanctuary, a place of quiet study. But when mandatory headphone use was proposed, he was convinced. Kevin assumed the pianos would primarily be used for practice and theory homework by music students, but the headphones quickly became “the busiest item in the whole library.” He estimates that approximately 4,000 patrons have used the piano in the MAA Library over the past three years, or about three to four people every day.

“What’s been fascinating is that it’s attracted more people to the library. It’s brought people in,” Kevin says.

Take a break, have a seat

Arts student Odetta Li just discovered the piano this September. She’s not a music major, but she grew up playing the piano, taking lessons into her teens. Now, she improvises songs or plays pieces she loves.

“It’s a place to chill between lectures,” she says.

The great benefit of these pianos is the ability to plug in headphones and play in private, which makes them perfect for improvising or relaxing.

“Music is very therapeutic. People have a lot of pressure in their daily lives and they often enjoy an instrument at home,” says alumnus Ron Koyanagi (BEd (Sec) ’84), General Manager of Tom Lee Music’s piano division. But not everyone has the luxury of having a piano in their home, students least of all. Tom Lee Music provided the five pianos to UBC so that students, staff and community members alike could have an avenue to release stress, to improve their mood and mental well-being, and to pursue their musical passions. “We just want them to enjoy music, experience the fun, and take a break from everything that’s going on,” says Ron.

To gain access to one of the available pianos, simply check out a headphone set from a library circulation desk and you’ll have a piano to yourself for up to two hours.


Interested in making a difference? Find out how you can support the UBC School of Music.

Jazz visionary John Stetch goes back to school

Six-time Juno nominee and graduate student John Stetch talks about his restless, path-breaking career, the excitement of re-envisioning classical music through a jazz lens, and his decision to return to school 

Text by Tze Liew
Video by Colleen O’Connor

Over the past three decades, John Stetch has made a name for himself as one of Canada’s most innovative jazz pianists and composers. He has performed with contemporary greats such as Mark Turner and Chris Cheek and has recorded sixteen albums, including his most recent release, Ballads. Yet in the middle of a successful career that has earned him critical acclaim and half a dozen Juno Award nominations, he made the extraordinary decision to come to UBC to pursue an M.Mus in Composition.

Part 1: John Stetch talks about his decision to go back to school and the importance of community.

“I wanted to get a Master’s because the nature of work and teaching [in music] has changed in many places, and often requires more than just a Bachelor’s degree. I knew I was going to be living in Vancouver, and I’d heard of UBC and its beautiful campus. There wasn’t really a jazz program around, so I thought a Composition Master’s would be a great fit, since I’ve been starting to write some classical chamber music, not just jazz,” he says.

Stetch is no stranger to change. Ambitious and experimental, he has always forged his own path, inventing new techniques and musical styles — for instance, fusing classical and jazz music in his compositions. Reinterpreting well-known classical works by Mozart, Bach and Chopin through the language of jazz, he is fearless in altering the chords and rhythms, adding new textures with techniques like plucking the inside of the piano to create exciting new renditions, while still keeping the originals recognizable.

“I have this instinct to want to play a little differently every day,” he says. “There are so many interesting possibilities. What if you double up the octaves? What if you play the scale down instead of up? Or change the ending completely?”

Stetch was inspired to play classical music, especially after listening to Glenn Gould playing Bach. Gould’s daring, percussive style pointed to interesting possibilities within the classical canon. But Stetch, a jazz musician, wasn’t sure how to approach the material at first.  

Part 2: Stetch demonstrates his unique approach to piano, performing a reinterpretation of Mozart K 333, Third Movement.

“It was too strange to play Chopin in a jazz club,” he says. “So I ended up rearranging the classical pieces, making them my own style, and treating them as homages to the original composers. Now I can perform them in both jazz and classical contexts.”

Stetch has reworked pieces such as Mozart’s Sonata No. 13 in B-Flat, Chopin’s A-Flat Major Polonaise and Bach’s Italian Concerto, which he recently performed in a Wednesday Noon Hours concert. The Mozart Sonata is a bluegrass arrangement, inspired by a banjo concert he attended. The Chopin and Bach arrangements are jazz-influenced – in Chopin, he plays with odd rhythms to vary and contrast with the original; in Bach, he mixes time signatures to elongate or shorten the theme.

“Mozart and bluegrass were a perfect match. Bluegrass usually has a lot of fast notes, an obvious pulse, and the kind of tonic-dominant-subdominant chord progression that Mozart’s pieces [also] have,” he says.

For Stetch, the interaction between jazz and classical is a two-way street. While bringing jazz improvisation techniques to classical pieces, he also admires classical music for its emphasis on organisation, and tries to bring that into his jazz playing. “I’ve often heard complaints that jazz rambles on too much, that it’s too complicated and random. I don’t like that myself, so I try to keep my playing organized like classical pieces.”

Part 3: Stetch talks about the appeal of experimentation and how he combines classical and jazz music in his compositions.

For such an accomplished pianist, Stetch started piano relatively late, at age 18. He grew up learning clarinet and saxophone, and originally pursued studies in saxophone at the University of Alberta. There he was introduced to figures such as Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarett and Wynton Marsalis, and was struck by the beauty and the rhythmic and harmonic possibilities of the piano.

“I stopped saxophone and switched to piano. I was addicted to it, obsessed with the harmonies and sounds that can be gotten from chords.”

He went on to study piano at McGill University, and later moved to New York, where, with the help of a grant, he sustained himself as a musician for two years and became a pianist for Rufus Reid’s band.

“I worked really hard and even felt behind when I first arrived at NYC, playing with people my age who had been playing all their lives. But at age 26 I found a classical teacher who changed my life. Burton Hatheway, who is now 86, had to get me to forget everything I knew and start from the beginning. It was one of the hardest things I've ever been through — it took about five years to make progress and 10 for it to really sink in.” 

While in New York, Stetch threw himself into the scene. He did so many gigs that he learned to be quick-minded and versatile – playing through unfamiliar standards, figuring out keys, working with singers and making sure the phrases flowed beautifully, all on the go. His improvisations didn’t always work out the way he wanted, though – there were always ups and downs.

Part 4: Stetch demonstrates his reinterpretation of Chopin's Polonaise in A-flat.

“Sometimes they were magical performances, and sometimes I really disliked my own music. You’re your own worst critic, after all. But through the repeated formative experience of trying to improvise and having it fail so many times, the desire to make it better pushes you to find ways to improve.”

It was these heady experiences of failure and growth that made John the improvisational, forward-looking musician he is today — always changing, always evolving. Counterintuitive though it may seem, his decision to uproot and move across the country to study at UBC made perfect sense.

“It’s been a long time since I got feedback on my compositions, so I thought it’d be really neat to get honest feedback and criticism from people like Stephen Chatman, Dorothy Chang, and Keith Hamel, who’ve been listening critically to new music for decades,” he says. “It’s a special introduction to Vancouver, having this instant community of composers to work with.”

At the School of Music, Stetch is challenging himself to compose for instruments he has never worked with before, such as strings and brass.

“John is one of the most naturally and innately talented musicians I have worked with,” says Hamel. “He seems to have the ability to quickly absorb diverse musical styles, to understand the musical materials that comprise each style and to construct new works, which contain elements of the model but are uniquely personal. He understands composition as an act of communication between musicians and an audience, and he always writes with this foremost in his mind.”

Most recently, Stetch composed a piece for brass quintet for the ChanFare series performed by Thunderbird Brass this October at UBC’s Chan Centre. He will tour New York with his band Vulneraville in January.

Banner image by Takumi Hayashi/UBC School of Music


BONUS FOOTAGE: John Stetch on how to play the piano like a string instrument

Video: Tze Liew/UBC

Jocelyn Morlock wins WCMA 'Composer of the Year' award

  Image: Break Out West

Image: Break Out West

This weekend, School of Music alumna and lecturer Jocelyn Morlock (MMus’96, DMA’02) won Classical Composer of Year at the 2018 Western Canadian Music Awards. The award is the latest highlight in a big year for Morlock that also includes a Juno Award for Best Classical Composition for her orchestral work, “My Name is Amanda Todd.”

Congratulations to Morlock and all of the WCMA nominees! The Classical Composer category was dominated by faculty and alumni from the School of Music’s vibrant Composition Division, including Morlock and professors Keith Hamel and Stephen Chatman.

Learn more about composition at UBC School of Music.

How to join a student ensemble

Large and small and incredibly diverse, our student ensembles range in size from trios and quartets to the 110-member UBC Symphony Orchestra. They play in dozens of traditions and styles, from Bach to Balinese Gamelan and everything in between. Learn more about our ensembles, below, then plan your audition

Bands

 UBC Bands.  Brian Hawkes/UBC

UBC Bands. Brian Hawkes/UBC

The UBC Bands program includes two ensembles that are open by audition to students in any major field of study: Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Concert Winds. Both ensembles are distinguished by their high level of performance, creative thematic programming, and commitment to contemporary music through commissions, premieres, and composer residencies. Learn more

Choirs

There are five choirs in the UBC School of Music. All choirs are open to both music majors and non-music majors! Information on how you can join our ensembles is available here! University Singers (MUSC 153) is the premier choral ensemble in the UBC School of Music. This 40-voice ensemble performs the most advanced and exciting music for chamber choir written in the past few decades, as well as motets and other historically important works. Learn more

Opera

Under the direction of renowned Canadian coloratura Nancy Hermiston, UBC Opera is a 90-member company that stages three ambitious operas every year. Recent performances include The ConsulLe nozze di FigarCarmen, La Bohème, and Don Giovanni. Learn more

Symphony Orchestra

The UBC Symphony Orchestra (UBCSO) is a 110-member orchestra that performs symphonic works from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, giving several concerts during the year, both on and off campus, often featuring soloists. The Orchestra also performs with UBC Opera, and in a annual choral work performance with the University Singers and UBC Choral Union. Learn more

 Africa Music and Dance Ensemble.  Takumi Hayashi/UBC

Africa Music and Dance Ensemble. Takumi Hayashi/UBC

African Music and Dance

The UBC African Music and Dance Ensemble (UBC AMDE) was founded in September 2009 by Ghanaian ethnomusicology professor Dr. Kofi J. S. Gbolonyo. The ensemble, which is also a course (MUSC 165D/565D) focuses on music and dances from Africa and specializes in repertoire from West Africa region. Learn more

Balinese Gamelan

Sekaha Gong Gita Asmara was formed in 1996 to explore and present Balinese arts in Vancouver, BC. The 25-member (plus dancers) orchestra has a partly rotating personnel made up of professional, amateur, and student musicians, centered around a strong core membership that has been performing in the ensemble for two or more years. Learn more

Contemporary Players

UBC’s Contemporary Players (CP) strive to perform some of the most exciting works of the 21st Century, including works especially written for them right now, plus Classics from the late 20th Century. CP plays numerous concerts every year at UBC’s Barnett Hall and also in such other venues as the Belkin Art Gallery. Learn more

Early Music

The UBC Early Music Ensemble is a mixed instrumental/vocal ensemble specializing in the performance of music from the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque eras. It provides students with an opportunity to approach aspects of historical repertory and performance in an intimate, practical setting. Learn more

Jazz

The aim of the jazz ensembles is to gain an appreciation and understanding of jazz in its many forms. The music studied and performed ranges from the early works of Duke Ellington to contemporary jazz rock fusion and even elements of free jazz. The ensembles perform up to six concerts per year and may include one or two guest artists each season. Learn more

Korean Drumming: P’ungmulp’ae San Param

 Korean Drumming Ensemble.

Korean Drumming Ensemble.

The P’ungmulp’ae San Param ensemble, meaning “Korean folk drumming troupe Mountain Breeze”, is open to all UBC students, regardless of degree program. It offers the opportunity to engage in a year-long practical study of the Korean tradition of folk drumming and dance known as p’ungmulLearn more

Laptop Orchestra

The UBC Laptop Orchestra is an ensemble in which students code their own computer instruments or audio/video processes. Students compose solo, small ensemble and full group works, and are expected to perform or provide technical support in all works. Learn more

Percussion

 Laptop Orchestra.

Laptop Orchestra.

This ensemble performs music for the vast spectrum of percussion instruments, including original works from the 20th century, transcriptions of familiar classics, and traditional dance music from Africa and Latin America. The group also encourages the creation of new repertoire for percussion ensemble by student composers. Two concerts per year are scheduled in the Roy Barnett Recital Hall, in addition to other off-campus activities. Learn more

Director's Out-Takes

A Letter, a Soliloquy, two Duets, and a Sextet

 Dr. Richard Kurth

Dr. Richard Kurth

As I reach the end of my ten years as Director of the School of Music on June 30, I have much to remember in gratitude. There are so many people to thank, but I ask to be forgiven for not naming names, because it’s a very long list. In myriad ways, large and small, I am grateful to everyone along the way.
 

Early in my directorship I had the thrill and good fortune to help steer two major renovation projects: Roy Barnett Recital Hall, a renovation made possible by a single generous and visionary donor; and the historic Old Auditorium, a project supported by numerous generous donors and substantial investment from the Faculty of Arts, the University, and the Province. These revitalized facilities both reopened in the Fall of 2010, and along with the marvelous Chan Centre for the Performing Arts (which celebrated its 20th anniversary in April 2017) these performing venues provide students and faculty in the UBC School of Music — and our audiences — with glorious and distinctive spaces in which to hone and appreciate the art of music. Many people made these projects possible, contributing their financial support, insightful design, and constructive skill. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to contribute my own energies and ideas to the revitalization of these spaces, because these collaborations were wonderfully stimulating and deeply rewarding for me. Students, faculty, and audiences engage in learning and artistic expression in these inspiring spaces every day, and I marvel every time I enter them, appreciating how they express and amplify our sense of community. I’m so grateful I was involved in improving these homes for our shared musical experience.
 

During these ten years I have been wistful at the retirements or resignations of twelve faculty colleagues, friends I admire and who mentored me with their advice and inspired me through their scholarship or artistic activity. And during these years several professori emeriti have passed away. It is impossible to quantify the enormous contributions all these individuals have made to the School, each one sharing their intellect, artistry, and distinctive character in countless unique ways. We are fortunate indeed that the School has long been a community of such dynamic and distinctive individuals, and that each one has made it a better place through many contributions only they could make. I am always mindful of the history of the School not only as a chronicle of the past, but as a living story that reverberates into the future through our deeds today. Our collective creativity in the present always blossoms as an expression of opportunities opened by the deeds of earlier peers who created this community; and our own actions likewise generate a basis on which our future peers will articulate new insights or create beautiful and inspiring music.
 

It has been enormously gratifying over these years to guide — along with my colleagues — the recruitment of twelve new faculty members who bring new knowledge, talent, and energy to the School. They will contribute significantly to its future shape and sound. There is enormous vitality and ability in this fresh generation, and they will push and pull the School in various directions, and keep it moving dynamically. Each new faculty member recharges everyone in the entire group incrementally, and our collective energy is continuously evolving. Musical culture has always been in constant flux, and this period is no exception. This historical moment must be embraced as a flux of opportunity. It calls for the versatility and readiness to evolve that all of us — the fresh along with the seasoned — can achieve through our collective polyphony.
 

In short, I’m immensely grateful for the enormously vital energies of all my colleagues, older and younger, and the countless things I have learned or discovered through each of them.
 

It has been a daily delight to work with the staff in the School, including wonderful additional new staff members recruited along the way. They are like a family, for me, and also for each other. There is real affection throughout this family, and I know perhaps better than anyone that their contributions to the School are an essential reason for our success. I’m grateful to each of them for their assistance and kindness, and their gentle way with my dogged character.
 

I’m amazed to realize that I have had the good fortune to work in the service of three Presidents and two Acting Presidents, three Provosts and an Acting Provost, two Deans and two Acting Deans, with more than a dozen Associate and Assistant Deans, and in the collegiality of over three dozen other Heads and Directors in the Faculty of Arts, and two wonderful (and resourceful) Music Librarians. I have gained insights from every one of them. And above all I am grateful to all of them for the many different ways in which they supported the work of the School of Music, and have mentored me in all manner of ways in my efforts as Director of the School.
 

The most rewarding experiences during my directorship include countless gifts of inspiring generosity from hundreds of individuals, across the community, who in diverse ways have supported the accomplishments of students and their faculty mentors. These wonderful gifts have funded scholarships to support students, masterclasses to inspire them artistically, and competitions and prizes to motivate their best efforts. They have included donations of many fine musical instruments that enable students to achieve refined nuances and instill their pursuit of the highest artistic standards. And visionary donors have created or revitalized our beautiful performance venues, in which we hone our musical energies in rehearsal, and share them with our audiences in performance. For me, every one of these gifts, whether large or small, has been a meaningful expression of a shared belief in our mission and efforts. A ticket to attend one of our performances, or a major gift to transform a performance venue, or every form of support for our students: these gestures all share an understanding of the importance of music, and the spirit to nurture it. I am sincerely grateful to all our supporters for their gifts that celebrate our shared belief that making music helps make a better world. You have inspired and motivated me in lasting ways.
 

In the end — and in the beginning and the middle — we are here because of the students. We try to challenge them, and to demonstrate for them different examples of life lived in music, so that they can find their own unique way forward. For ten years I’ve had the simple but meaningful honour of reading the names of almost one thousand graduating music students at their graduation ceremonies. On those days, I’m especially aware of the unique aspirations and sincere hopes of every student; of the excitement and love felt by their families and friends; and that we are a community of individual musical voices magically woven together by music. Each name has a unique sound, each person a unique musicality, each family a unique expression of harmony. The music made in the School arises from and resonates with all these energies. And it feeds us with these same energies.
 

I look forward now to resuming my work as a faculty member in the School, and especially to the joys and rewards of teaching!
 

As a polyphonic valediction including the voices of UBC Music students, both fresh and seasoned, I invite you to watch the videos below, which preserve moments that are memorable for me, all in Roy Barnett Recital Hall: my last remarks to graduating music students a few weeks ago on May 23, 2018; an engaging conversation with alumnus Sharman King, Bachelor of Music Class of 1970 during that same assembly; a delightful conversation with alumna June Goldsmith, Bachelor of Arts Class of 1955 in May 2017; and insightful short presentations by five wonderful music students, who took the stage to share with their peers moments of deep personal musical inspiration. Let the students have the last word!
 

With many happy memories and warm wishes,

Richard Kurth
June 30, 2018

Dr. Richard Kurth, Director, UBC School of Music. Remarks to graduating music students. May 23, 2018.

Dr. Richard Kurth, Director, UBC School of Music. Conversation with alumnus Sharman King, B.Mus. 1970. May 23, 2018.

Dr. Richard Kurth, Director, UBC School of Music. Conversation with alumna June Goldsmith, B.A. 1955. May 24, 2017.

Dr. Richard Kurth, Director, UBC School of Music. Presentations by students Jaelem Bhate, Marina Gallagher, Kristen Cooke, Charlotte Beglinger, and Billie Smith. September 16, 2016.

Meet Dr. Valerie Whitney, Assistant Professor of Horn

  Photo: Valerie Whitney

Photo: Valerie Whitney

The UBC School of Music is pleased to announce that Dr. Valerie Whitney will join the faculty as Assistant Professor of Horn, starting in the 2018-19 academic year.

"We are delighted to welcome Dr. Valerie Whitney as she joins our faculty. Valerie is an accomplished and versatile performer, and an adept and knowledgeable teacher, and our brass faculty are enthusiastic to support the new energies and initiatives she will bring to brass studies at UBC," said Dr. Richard Kurth, Director of the School of Music.

A graduate of Wheaton College and Northwestern University, Dr. Whitney regularly appears with some of the nation’s most esteemed performing organizations, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. She joined the South Bend Symphony as Third Horn in 2017, after serving the orchestra as Assistant Horn for five years. She also holds the fourth horn position with the Lake Forest Symphony in Lake Forest, Illinois, and is a member of the Millar Brass Ensemble and the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra Society. 

WATCH: Dr. Valerie Whitney performs David Sampson's Sonata No. 40


Dr. Whitney will play a leading role in the brass division at the School of Music. Her duties will include undergraduate and graduate studio instruction, brass chamber music coaching and coordination, and brass curriculum leadership — all while working in partnership with our accomplished team of VSO principals and other top professionals in the city.

"Valerie will be a wonderful colleague for all full-time, adjunct, and sessional faculty members in the Winds Brass and Percussion Division, and I'm thrilled that she is joining us!" said division chair Dr. Robert Taylor.

“I am delighted to join the UBC family, and excited to work alongside the excellent faculty and students to further the exceptional learning environment in the School of Music. I look forward to joining the campus activities and the broader UBC community in the Fall!” Dr. Whitney said.

Audiences in Vancouver will have the opportunity to see Dr. Whitney perform live during the upcoming School of Music concert season. On Nov. 21st she and other members of the School of Music faculty will perform Dohnanyi’s Sextet in C major, Op. 37 for Piano, Clarinet, Horn and String Trio at Roy Barnett Recital Hall. Dr. Whitney will perform a solo concert on Jan. 23rd, 2018, also at Barnett Hall. Both concerts are part of the Wednesday Noon Hour concert series.

Welcome to UBC, Valerie!


ABOUT VALERIE WHITNEY

Valerie Whitney has been performing in and around the Chicagoland area for over a decade. She regularly appears with some of the nation’s most esteemed performing organizations, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Lyric Opera, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.

In 2010, she was invited to serve as guest principal horn with The Florida Orchestra for two weeks. From 2013-2016, she served as hornist of Fifth House Ensemble, during which time she performed and led masterclasses at nationwide universities as well as educational programs in various Chicago public schools and community centers. In 2017, Dr. Whitney was the first candidate to earn a DMA in Horn Performance from Northwestern University. She is a graduate of Wheaton College and Northwestern University.

Dr. Whitney joined the South Bend Symphony as Third Horn in 2017, after serving the orchestra as Assistant Horn for five years. She also holds the fourth horn position with the Lake Forest Symphony in Lake Forest, Illinois, and is a member of the Millar Brass Ensemble and the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra Society.  

High Notes | Spring 2018 Edition

HN_spring_2018_web-cover.jpg
 
 

Welcome to the Spring 2018 edition of High Notes

In this issue, we talk to sound ecologist Hildegard Westerkamp (BMus'72) about technology, gender, and "trusting your inner voice." We showcase the School of Music's rare and beautiful "Zell" harpsichord, newly renovated thanks to a generous donor. And we learn about a new book project from School of Music faculty and alumni that is shining a light on important women composers from the Middle Ages until today. 
 

Also in the issue:

  • Mezzo-soprano Debi Wong on opera's potential to open up space for underrepresented groups

  • Winter ConcertsProkofiev's Peter and the Wolf, Bach's St John Passion, and Sanglots: Chansons of Love and Loss, featuring works by Bizet, Fauré, Poulenc and more.

  • In Pictures: Highlights from UBC Opera's 2017–18 season

  • Research & Publications: "Urban Processional Culture and the Soundscapes of Post-Reformation Germany," Viennese and Italian opera in the 19th century, plus new symposia from the Rhythm and Research Cluster

  • Alumni Making Waves: A Juno nomination, world premieres, and new orchestra positions

  • Beyond the GatesAssistant Professor Jonathan Girard named a 2018–19 Wall Scholar, Prof. Nancy Hermiston honoured for her contributions to opera, and Sessional Instructor Jocelyn Morlock wins a Juno Award

  • Catching Up with Our Students: Awards, publications, and highlights from the ethnomusicology program

  • New RecordingsWorks by Keith Hamel, Dorothy Chang, Stephen Chatman, Alan Matheson and more

As always, we want to hear from you! Send us your comments and story ideas.

 

 Kiran Bhumber demonstrates her Responsive User Body Suit.  Photo courtesy of Kiran Bhumber

Kiran Bhumber demonstrates her Responsive User Body Suit. Photo courtesy of Kiran Bhumber

 

A studio of one’s own: Innovators Hildegard Westerkamp (BMus'72) and Kiran Bhumber (BMus'14) on tech, gender, and 'trusting your inner voice' 

When Hildegard Westerkamp looks back on her decades-long career as an experimental composer and sound ecologist, she marvels at how much music production has changed. During her student days, there were no computer screens, no visualizers, no such thing as ‘digital.’ Everything was analogue and you relied solely on your ear as you edited. She remembers working in her studio, surrounded by pieces of audio reel that she had cut, marked, and hung up for quick reference until they could be spliced — literally taped together — into ambitious compositions that embraced unpredictability, marrying music, found sounds, and field recordings.

Her chosen instrument — the sounds of the environment — and the limitations of the technology available at the time necessitated deep listening and spurred creativity: “I tried to find the musicality in the sounds that I had recorded,” Westerkamp says. 

In so doing she helped pioneer the field of ‘sound ecology.’

Read the full story

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Rethinking the canon: Dr. Laurel Parsons on overlooked women composers

  Dr. Laurel Parsons (right) and Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft (left)

Dr. Laurel Parsons (right) and Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft (left)

UBC sessional instructor Dr. Laurel Parsons (MA’91, PhD’03) and McGill University’s Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft (PhD’93) are the editors of Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers, a four-volume series of essays devoted to the study of music written by women composers. The first volume, which features essays on concert music composed between 1960 and 2000, recently won the Society for Music Theory’s 2018 award for the Outstanding Multi-Author Publication. With the release of the second volume fast approaching, we sat down with Parsons to discuss the project.

How did the project come about?

I did my dissertation on the music of Elisabeth Lutyens, who was a British composer. I started reading about how influential she was on British music of the time, but I couldn’t find anything more specific about how she was influential. I decided I would explore her music for my dissertation. At the same time, I started noticing how few papers there were on music by women. After tracking this for many years, it became clear to me that we had to do something to improve the representation of composers who were women in our discipline.

Read the full story

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 Alexander Weimann performs on the harpsichord.  Photo: Takumi Hayashi

Alexander Weimann performs on the harpsichord. Photo: Takumi Hayashi

 

The Gift of Music: Unveiling the School of Music's rare, newly refurbished harpsichord

This March, the School of Music unveiled one of the jewels of our instrument collection: a newly renovated double-manual harpsichord modeled on an 18th-century German original. Harpsichordist Alexander Weimann, along with violinist Chloe Meyers and viola da gamba player Natalie Mackie, showcased the new addition with a special concert at Roy Barnett Recital Hall featuring the works of German Baroque composers.

“Bach, Muffat, Buxtehude and Schmeltzer — it was the perfect repertoire, I think, to demonstrate what makes the instrument such an important and beautiful addition to the School,” says Professor Alex Fisher, who helped organize the renovation and the concert. 

Craftsman Craig Tomlinson built the harpsichord by hand in the 1980s, based on the original German design by Christian Zell (1728) that is preserved today in the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg. Celebrated for its rich sound and variety of different tone colours, Tomlinson’s masterful replica had begun to show its age and needed some significant improvements.

A generous donation by Marlene Yemchuk, in honour of her son David Yemchuk (B.Sc. 2010), made the renovation possible.

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"You don't have to fit into a box": Mezzo-soprano Debi Wong (BMus'08) on opera's potential to open up space for underrepresented groups

 Debi Wong.  Photo courtesy of the artist

Debi Wong. Photo courtesy of the artist

Mezzo soprano Debi Wong (BMus’08) believes that opera has the potential to establish a dialogue about underrepresented groups but all too often it goes unrealized. Even at major houses like the Metropolitan Opera, modern productions are still trapped in traditions and tropes which she says can have consequences for our society.

“If we are always telling the story about the woman in distress and the man who saves her, does that affect our cultural values?” she asks. Wong’s adaptation of Acis and Galatea premiere in September brought that question directly to Vancouver audiences.

In the production Wong played the character Acis, who in the original opera is a shepherd in love with Galatea, a nymph, and the two are persecuted for their love by the god Polyphemus. By changing one character’s gender and the mythical elements of Handel’s pastoral opera, Wong sought to create a space for the LGBTQ community in opera and make it more accessible to modern audiences.

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Winter concerts available on Livestream

2018 Mar31 SJP webbanner.jpg

Watch the latest performances by the School of Music’s large and small ensembles on Livestream:

St John PassionOur grand, season-ending concert features an epic performance of the Bach masterpiece by UBC Choirs and Symphony Orchestra.

Peter and the Wolf: UBC Symphony Orchestra performs the Prokofiev classic, along with Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and selections from Satie and Poulenc. With guest appearance by UBC President Prof. Santa J. Ono as Narrator.

Sanglots: Chansons of Love and Loss (Part 1 | Part 2): Terence Dawson, piano, and J. Patrick Raftery, voice, perform beautiful and melancholy works by Bizet, Fauré, Duparc, Barber and Poulenc.

MOMENTmusic: UBC Symphonic Winds and Concert Winds perform works by John Philip Sousa, Frank Ticheli, David Maslanka, Ira Hearshen, and Aaron Copland 

Browse more of our recent concerts

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In Pictures: UBC Opera's 2017–18 season

The 2017–18 season was a busy one for UBC Opera, with ambitious productions of Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice and Rossini's La Cenerentola, as well the annual Opera Ball fundraisers. Click on the image to load the slideshow:

 Scene from UBC Opera's  Orfeo ed Euridice.   Photo: Tim Matheson

Scene from UBC Opera's Orfeo ed Euridice. Photo: Tim Matheson


New research and publications

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Professor Alexander Fisher contributed a chapter entitled "'Mit singen und klingen': Urban Processional Culture and the Soundscapes of Post-Reformation Germany" to In Listening to Early Modern Catholicism, edited by Daniele V. Filippi and Michael Noone, 187-203. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

Professor John Roeder gave a keynote address, entitled “Comparing Musical Cycles Across the World,” at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Music Scholars Conference in Tucson, Arizona. He gave two talks at the Society for Music Theory’s annual conference: “Interactions of Folk Melody and Transformational (Dis)continuities in Chen Yi’s Ba Ban” and “How to create meter and why.”

Assistant Professor Ève Poudrier presented a talk entitled “The Influence of Grouping and Tempo on Subjective Metricization” at the recent Auditory Perception, Cognition and Action Meeting in Vancouver this past November. 

Assistant Professor Claudio Vellutini received a UBC Hampton Endowment Research Fund New Faculty Award for his book project, “Entangled Histories: Opera and Cultural Networks between Vienna and the Italian States, 1815–1848.” He also published an essay, "Opera and Monuments: Verdi's Ernani in Vienna and the Construction of Dynastic Memory,” in the Cambridge Opera Journal.

Continue reading research and publications news

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 Jared Miller.  Photo: CBC

Jared Miller. Photo: CBC

 

Alumni Making Waves: World premieres, new orchestra positions, and a Juno nomination 

Jared Miller (BMus’10) was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) to create a new work inspired by classic techno music. DSO and Leonard Slatkin will perform the piece for the very first time on May 31st and June 2nd, 2018 along with works by Chopin and Stravinsky. CBC News recently profiled Jared.

In November, Stephanie Nakagawa (BMus’09, DMA’17) received a Barbara Pentland Award from the Canadian Music Centre BC for her remarkable doctoral project, The Canadian Opera Anthology for Soprano.

Fraser Walters (BMus’03) and his group The Tenors were nominated for a 2018 Juno Award in the category of Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for Christmas Together, which “captures the joy and magic of the season, combining a mix of holiday classics, contemporary favourites and original songs.” This was The Tenors' third Juno nomination — they won in the same category in 2013.

Composer and saxophonist Colin MacDonald (BMus’93) premiered The Sky Is a Clock, his ambitious, hour-long audio installation at the Roundhouse Community Centre in November 2017. Presented by Redshift Music as part of its “Sonologues” series, Colin’s piece interweaves recordings of 16 saxophones to “create a pulsating and slowly evolving texture of sound that mimics the rotation of the stars in the sky.”

Continue reading alumni news

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 Left to right: Dr. Jonathan Girard, Prof. Nancy Hermiston, Alexander Weimann

Left to right: Dr. Jonathan Girard, Prof. Nancy Hermiston, Alexander Weimann

 

Beyond the Gates

Assistant Professor and Director of Orchestras Jonathan Girard has been named a Peter Wall Institute Wall Scholar for 2018–19. As one of nine scholars “tasked with finding new approaches to critically important questions,” Dr. Girard will work with 2017 Peter Wall Institute Visiting Artist Deborah Carruthers on a graphical score for orchestra, and has plans to commission new orchestral works that explore sonic expressions of climate change.

In November, the Canadian Music Centre honoured Professor Nancy Hermiston with a Barbara Pentland Award of Excellence for the UBC Opera’s many commissions, performances, and support of Canadian music.

Sessional Instructor and harpsichordist Alexander Weimann was nominated alongside Arion Orchestre Baroque for the Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year (Large Ensemble). Their album, Rebelles Baroques, is hailed for the "clarity and freshness of [its] interpretations" and attention to detail. Weimann is the Principal Artist and Director of the School of Music's Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Program.

Continue reading faculty news

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Catching up with our students: Awards, publications, and highlights from the ethnomusicology program

 Julia Ùlehla

Julia Ùlehla

Fourth-year BMus student Kurt Ward-Theiss, baritone, and first-year BMus student Jonathan Lopez, clarinet, received bursaries from the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir. Kurt and Jonathan performed in the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir Celtic concerts on St. Patrick’s Day weekend in Maple Ridge and at Christ Church Cathedral. The Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir Student Bursaries advance the ensemble’s mission of collaborating with and supporting youth choirs and soloists in our community.

PhD student Julia Ùlehla, Aram Bajakian (MMus’17) and their group their Dálava garnered critical praise for The Book of Transfigurations, their most recent album. The Province included Dálava on its “10 best live concerts in Vancouver” list, while The Chicago Reader’s Peter Margasak named The Book of Transfigurations one of his top 40 records of the year. The album came in at number eight. 

PhD candidate Antares Boyle won the Society for Music Theory’s prestigious SMT-40 Dissertation Fellowship for her dissertation project, “Formation and Process in Repetitive Post-Tonal Music,” which theorizes how musical segments, processes, and larger forms arise in recent post-tonal works that feature extensive varied repetition. The $3500 fellowship recognizes and fosters excellent research in music theory by helping highly qualified Ph.D. students to complete their dissertations.

Continue reading student news

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New Recordings

Two new compositions by Professor Keith Hamel — “Touch” and “Corona” — appear on Music4Eyes+Ears, a multimedia project created by pianist Megumi Masaki. The project “explores how sound, image, text and movement can interact in live performance.”

Professor Stephen Chatman released Dawn of Night (CMC Centrediscs, 2017), a collaboration with Conductor Hilary Apfelstadt and the University of Toronto’s Macmillan Singers that weds original music with the poetry of Joanna Lilley, Christina Rossetti, Sarah Teasdale, and Tara Wohlberg and others.

Sessional lecturer Alan Matheson and Wade Mikkola released the second volume of their Souvenirs project, a collection of jazz interpretations of Finnish composers, on AMK Recordings.

See all new recordings

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Do you have a story? Let us know!

If you're a UBC Music alumnus and you have news to share, please send a note to tyler.stiem@ubc.ca. We're always looking for stories for upcoming editions of High Notes and our other networks.

 

A studio of one's own

Music production has seen a huge technological shift in recent years, but what has not been as quick to change is the diversity of the people behind the soundboard. Innovators Hildegard Westerkamp (BMus'72) and Kiran Bhumber (BMus'14)  talk about tech, gender, and trusting your inner voice.


By Aryn Strickland

 Hildegard Westerkamp

Hildegard Westerkamp

When Hildegard Westerkamp (BMus'72) looks back on her decades-long career as an experimental composer and sound ecologist, she marvels at how much music production has changed. During her student days, there were no computer screens, no visualizers, no such thing as ‘digital.’ Everything was analogue and you relied solely on your ear as you edited. She remembers working in her studio, surrounded by pieces of audio reel that she had cut, marked, and hung up for quick reference until they could be spliced — literally taped together — into ambitious compositions that embraced unpredictability, merging music, found sounds, and field recordings.

Her chosen instrument — the sounds of the environment — and the limitations of the technology available at the time necessitated deep listening and spurred creativity: “I tried to find the musicality in the sounds that I had recorded,” Westerkamp says. She experimented with painstaking production techniques such as pitchshifting (that is, slowing down and speeding up the recordings), filtering and equalizing, and delay feedback among others, to achieve the effects she wanted.

In so doing she helped pioneer the field of ‘sound ecology.’

 

Hildegard Westerkamp, The Edge of Wilderness (2000)

 

Westerkamp and the other composers and producers of her generation — she cites R. Murray Schafer and Barry Truax as important influences — developed ideas and techniques that during the shift to computer-based production became standard tools in the producer’s repertoire.

“Working in the studio totally aurally then as opposed to now, where soundfiles are displayed visually on computer screens, makes an absolute world of a difference,” she says. 

Indeed, new technologies have both democratized music production and made new things possible: “Anyone can be a bedroom producer nowadays, and that is a very powerful thing in itself,” Kiran Bhumber (BMus’14), a graduate of the School of Music’s Music Technology program, says.

The up-and-coming composer, producer, and performer cut her teeth on software like Cubase and Garage Band while still in high school. At UBC she created work that wouldn’t have been possible even a decade ago, blending cutting-edge technology, visuals, and using some of the same compositional techniques Westerkamp helped to develop. In the Digital Performance Systems class (SUBclass) at UBC, Bhumber developed RUBS, the ‘Responsive User Body Suit,’ which melds composition and performance.

“I was thinking, I wonder if there is a way we can look at contact improv and use technology as a bridge between triggering a music sample or changing a visual on screen,” she says.

The RUBS suit allows performers to compose music as they move and dance on stage, touching or stroking different sensors sewn into the fabric to trigger sounds and sequences. Her innovative suit has brought her recognition from within the electronic music world with an invitation to present her work at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark last year and a coveted spot at the University of Michigan to continue her work in the Masters of Media Art program there. 

“I am interested in fusing not just music but also emerging technologies, dance, interaction and visual arts together,” Bhumber says.

 

Excerpt from "Raula," a piece by Bhumber (using the RUBS bodysuit) and J.P. Carter (trumpet)

 

Westerkamp long ago made the switch to computer-based production, and she embraces some of the visual possibilities new technologies present. But she remains committed to the idea that listening — slow, deep listening  — is central to the art of composition. In installations such as Seascapes (2008), her compositions are paired with photography and sculpture by other artists. But her most visually performative works are the sound walks that she leads together with members of the Vancouver Soundwalk Collective every year around Vancouver, where she teaches people how to appreciate environmental sound. For Westerkamp, hearing is still the dominant sense.

Westerkamp, Schafer and the other members of the World Soundscape Project created soundwalks in the 1970s. Today, Vancouver New Music runs annual soundwalks open to everyone. For an hour, participants walk in silence taking in sounds that are usually written off as noise. According to Westerkamp, soundwalks do more than just teach people how to listen. “When you do that kind of listening in a safe context, inspiration emerges, new ideas emerge and when you get that inspiration you can tackle the world quite differently,” she says.

Hildegard Westerkamp, Kits Beach Soundwalk (1989)

 

Much of her time is now spent organizing and travelling to international conferences about sound ecology. “People are really interested in acoustic ecology and soundscape studies. There’s just a huge amount happening — at universities, there are many scientists who are now realizing that if they do any studies on sound they have to include the listener as an important source of perceptual information about the sound environment into their studies, into their data,” she says.

If technology has influenced the course of both Westerkamp’s and Bhumber’s development as artists, gender is another important factor. Music production and electroacoustic composition was — and remains — a male-dominated field. Although the World Soundscape Project (WSP) was a source of inspiration early in her career Westerkamp was surprised by her male colleagues attempts to relegate her to jobs at the typewriter and the photocopier. “The group consisted of five men and me. I was passionate about my research work. This and a basically good relationship with my colleagues enabled me to nip in the bud these unconscious assumptions about the work given to a woman.”

Ultimately, though, Westerkamp was forced to leave the WSP because of gender discrimination. Her enthusiastic and committed contributions to the group’s research inexplicably caused problems within the group, she says. Refusing to be deterred, Westerkamp decided to strike out on her own as an independent artist.

You have to trust your own inner voice. Listen to where your passion is located.
— Hildegard Westerkamp

Bhumber arrived in the industry at a very different time, not long before the rise of #MeToo and what has become a wholesale reconsideration of gender and gender discrimination in the workplace.

But while the example of women like Westerkamp and the hard work of generations of feminist activists have opened up the conversation about equality, and while the move to digital production has opened up the industry to people of different backgrounds, women remain greatly underrepresented.

Particularly, Bhumber says, women of colour: “There was never someone that looked like me growing up, there was never anyone that I could relate to identity-wise,” she says. “It’s tough because it’s not just music production, all these tech fields are male-dominated it’s not just music production itself.”

Her experience within the Digital Performance Systems class (SUBclass) that reignited her interest in music technology is an exception, she says. 

“I think [because it’s an interdisciplinary program] you are going to get people coming from different backgrounds, including gender. So I think that’s one of the main reasons, because if it was just an engineering or music tech engineering group it might not be that diverse.”

Bhumber and Westerkamp believe that greater equality is inevitable, but change depends not just on movements but on individuals. 

Westerkamp’s advice for young women starting out in music? Trust your own internal voice: “Listen to where your passion is located, where your skill is located and how that resonates with which part of society. Trust your own ears, trust your own inclination on, especially for women, where your interests lie.” 

Rethinking the canon

Music by women composers represent only a small part of the Western canon, in spite of important contributions which date back to at least the Middle Ages. A new project by UBC faculty and alumni is helping to change that.
 

By Graham MacDonald

LaurelParsons02.jpg

UBC School of Music's Dr. Laurel Parsons (MA’91, PhD’03) and Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft (PhD’93) of McGill University are the editors of Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers, a four-volume series of essays devoted to the study of music written by women composers. The first volume, which features essays on concert music composed between 1960 and 2000, recently won the Society for Music Theory’s 2018 award for Outstanding Multi-Author Publication. With the release of the second volume fast approaching, we sat down with Parsons to discuss the project.
 

Laurel, how did the project come about?

I did my dissertation on the music of Elisabeth Lutyens, who was a British composer. I started reading about how influential she was on British music of the time, but I couldn’t find anything more specific about how she was influential. I decided I would explore her music for my dissertation. At the same time, I started noticing how few papers there were on music by women. After tracking this for many years, it became clear to me that we had to do something to improve the representation of composers who were women in our discipline.

When complete, there will be four volumes of essays on approximately 35 composers from the middle ages, with Hildegard of Bingen, up to 2014. The four volumes will be mostly 20th and 21st century music, but the volume that we have coming up will be music from the middle ages to 1900. Our final volume will be electro acoustic, experimental, and multimedia music.

 

In the first volume you write that, between 1994 and 2013, only 23 out of 1524 papers published in eight peer-reviewed journals were about music composed by women. How did you interpret these numbers?

We weren’t surprised at all because we’ve been tracking them informally for years. This confirmed what we already knew. Although it’s rather stark when you start looking at numbers like this – even 23 seemed like more than we expected.

 

Can you talk about what your experience was like as a music student and, what kinds of music tend to make up the classical canon?

 Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft, left, and Dr. Laurel Parsons, right

Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft, left, and Dr. Laurel Parsons, right

There’s so much wonderful music that you learn as a student and there’s so much wonderful music that you learn in university. Not to take anything away from that, but once you start looking for music by women, or people who are not white men, in particular because classical music is such a Eurocentric discipline, it really becomes shocking to see how narrow that representation of composers really is. It wasn’t that women weren’t composing; there is a long history of women composing from the Middle Ages until now. But they definitely were composing less frequently than men because they didn’t have the same opportunities.

 

Each essay begins with a biography of the composer. How important is biography to this project, and what role does it play in how we listen to this music?

Many people have not heard of these composers, so it was necessary to provide a little bit of background on who these women were. The more we did this, the more we have seen how extraordinary these women were, and are. For example, when we go through music school, we’re often taught about Clara [Schumann, nee] Wieck as a young woman having this domineering father — Friedrich Wieck — and the influence he had on her relationship with Robert Schumann. But we never hear about her mother. In reading Nancy Reich’s book on legendary concert pianist and composer Clara Schumann, we learned that Clara’s mother had briefly performed as a concert pianist. After the birth of her fifth child, she took Clara and the baby and left what may have been an abusive marriage, but Friedrich forcibly retrieved the children and raised them himself. So Clara’s mother had been an extraordinary musician in her own right, but it’s a remarkable part of the story that we never hear. We also want to highlight these women independently of their husbands, or their brothers. It’s often the way we hear about these women. 

 

Is the balance of representation changing in music scholarship?

It is changing a little bit, but it is still slow to change. So we would like to move it along. What we’re hoping with this project is that it provides ideas for music theory instructors in university music programs to come up with their own lesson plans based on these chapters, so they can incorporate them into their classes. And we hope that radio broadcasters might use this as a sourcebook of ideas for programming and giving them ideas about what they might say about the work that they’re broadcasting.

 

What is the impact that you hope for this project?
We see ourselves as contributing to a larger movement. There are many people involved in the cycle that is musical activity. You have teachers, you have students, you have performers, you have broadcasters, you have listeners. There are lots of places you can enter that cycle. So as music theorists, this is what we can do. We hope to inspire more activity and it’s great to see some of that happening. There are websites now, musictheoryexamplesbywomen.com for example, where theory instructors who want to incorporate music by women into their courses can find score examples of various compositional techniques. It’s exciting to see those online resources happening, and it’s exciting to see concerts of music by women.

We began this project as a kind of compensatory analysis, trying to rectify an imbalance.  Through this we’ve learned about so many composers we had never heard of,  and we’ve heard so much music that we didn’t know was out there. It’s been tremendously exciting for us to hear this fresh repertoire that we feel anybody can to enjoy,  and we should be hearing this music, not in order to create some political balance, because it’s really good music! It’s an exciting venture of discovery, not just political duty.  We want to share that with our readers and with anyone who’s interested in discovering what they’ve been missing.
 

Watch out Dr. Parsons and Prof. Ravenscroft on the next episode of On That Note, the School of Music podcast, out later this month.

Winter concerts on Livestream

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Watch the latest performances by the School of Music’s large and small ensembles on Livestream!

 

St. John Passion: Our grand, season-ending concert features an epic performance of the Bach masterpiece by UBC Choirs and Symphony Orchestra.

Peter and the Wolf: UBC Symphony Orchestra performs the Prokofiev classic, along with Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and selections from Satie and Poulenc. With guest appearances by UBC President Prof. Santa J. Ono as Narrator.

Sanglots: Chansons of Love and Loss (Part 1 | Part 2): Terence Dawson, piano, and J. Patrick Raftery, voice, perform beautiful and melancholy works by Bizet, Fauré, Duparc, Barber and Poulenc.  

MOMENTmusic: UBC Symphonic Winds and Concert Winds perform works by John Philip Sousa, Frank Ticheli, David Maslanka, Ira Hearshen, and Aaron Copland

Bernstein, Prokofiev, Nielsen: UBC Symphony Orchestra performs Overture to Candide, Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major Op. 26, and Symphony No. 4 Op 29. With special guests Carter Johnson, winner of the 2018 UBC Concerto Competition, and Graduate Assistant Conductor Jaelem Bhate.

Unicornis Captivatur: UBC Choirs perform Mendelssohn, Sisak, Mozart, Gjeilo, Gabrieli and Paulus. 

World premieres, new commissions, a Juno nomination, and more

 Stephanie Nakagawa.  Photo: UBC

Stephanie Nakagawa. Photo: UBC

Awards, announcements and other news from our alumni
 

In November, Stephanie Nakagawa (BMus’09, DMA’17) received a Barbara Pentland Award from the Canadian Music Centre BC for her remarkable doctoral project, The Canadian Opera Anthology for Soprano.
 

Nicole Linaksita (BMus/BSc’16) was named as a finalist in the 2018 Shean Piano Competition. The finals will take place May 17–19, 2018 in Muttart Hall, Alberta College in Edmonton, Alberta. 


Composer and saxophonist Colin MacDonald (BMus’93) premiered The Sky Is a Clock, his ambitious, hour-long audio installation at the Roundhouse Community Centre in November 2017. Presented by Redshift Music as part of its “Sonologues” series, Colin’s piece interweaves recordings of 16 saxophones to “create a pulsating and slowly evolving texture of sound that mimics the rotation of the stars in the sky.”

 

 Jared Miller.  Photo: CBC

Jared Miller. Photo: CBC

Jared Miller (BMus’10) was commissioned by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO) to create a new work inspired by classic techno music. DSO and Leonard Slatkin will perform the piece for the very first time on May 31st and June 2nd, 2018 along with works by Chopin and Stravinsky. CBC News recently profiled Jared.


Composer Michael Oesterle (BMus’92) wrote a new work for the Sea and Sky Trio, which they performed as part of the Vetta Chamber Music concerts in Vancouver in March.
 

Producer and recording engineer Will Howie (BMus’04) recently published a new article on “Listener Discrimination Between Common Speaker-based 3D Audio Reproduction Formats” in AES Journal and delivered a paper on three-dimensional audio recording techniques for orchestra at the 142nd convention of the Audio Engineering Society in Berlin.

 Fraser Walters

Fraser Walters

Fraser Walters (BMus’03) and his group The Tenors were nominated for a 2018 Juno Award in the category of Adult Contemporary Album of the Year for Christmas Together, which “captures the joy and magic of the season, combining a mix of holiday classics, contemporary favourites and original songs.” This was The Tenors' third Juno nomination — they won in the same category in 2013.
 

Kristin Fung (BMus’07) has had a busy year, to say the least. She debuted her experimental vocal/movement trio, Celeste, at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto; recorded with free jazz master Anthony Braxton in New York; worked as a wedding singer in Hong Kong; and taught ukulele in parks across Toronto as part of the city’s “Arts in the Parks” initiative — as well as in Bermuda.

 

Cellist, composer and Erato Ensemble member Stefan Hintersteininger (BMus’04, MLis’09) recently premiered arrangements of songs by 50’s cult singer-songwriter Connie Converse at the group’s POP ART! concert at the Orpheum Annex in Vancouver. 


Lani Krantz (BMus’00) became Acting Principal Harp with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in January.

 Samatha Ballard

Samatha Ballard


Samantha Ballard (BMus’15) released her first solo album, On Christmas Night, on iTunes and Google Play. Twice a month she also posts new arrangements and covers on her YouTube channel, which has attracted over three million views to date.


James Mitchell (BMus’82) has produced a video with the National Library of Scotland to mark the March 25th centenary of the death of Claude Debussy (1862-1918).

 

Stephanie Bell (BMus’14) recently won the 2nd flute and piccolo position with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Stephanie studies with Brenda Fedoruk.

 

Two UBC Music alumni, Kathleen Allan (BMus’11) and John William Trotter (BMus’98), have been named to the shortlist for artistic director of the Vancouver Chamber Choir