High Notes | Spring 2019 Edition


High Notes | Spring 2019


The School of Music Welcomes a New Director

Internationally renowned composer, educator, and media personality Dr. Patrick Carrabré takes the reins

The Mind of an Opera Singer

Does opera change how the brain works? A new interdisciplinary UBC study looks for answers

From Wearable Instruments to 3-D Printed Violins

Created eight years ago as a ‘laboratory where music meets technology,’ the Sonic UBC Laptop Sounds and Sensors Class has become a hothouse of innovation

Forces to Be Reckoned With

Oboist Katrina Bligh (BMus’09) and tuba player Tony Taylor (MMus’18) talk about their careers in the Canadian Armed Forces and why they love it


  • Donor Spotlight: Tamako Copithorne talks about six decades of fostering cultural exchange

  • Winter Concerts: Debussy’s La Mer, plus Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, John Luther Adams, and more

  • Research & Publications: Rossini, 'Repeated Borrowing,' and Rhythm Research Cluster residencies

  • Alumni Making Waves: Juno Awards, new opera and symphony orchestra roles, and Gamelan Bike-Bike

  • Beyond the Gates: Performances in North America and Asia, a conducting residency, and choral music galore

  • Catching Up with Our Students: Student leadership awards, Concerto Competition winners, and National Youth Orchestra positions

  • New Recordings: Prof. Mark Anderson releases volume four of his Röntgen series; conducting student Jaelem Bhate records his first jazz album

  • Playlist: Prof. J. Patrick Raftery chooses music inspired by spring

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


The School of Music welcomes new director

Dr. T. Patrick Carrabré

Dr. T. Patrick Carrabré

The University of British Columbia welcomes Dr. T. Patrick Carrabré as the new Director of the School of Music. An internationally renowned composer, teacher, and media personality, Dr. Carrabré will assume the role starting July 1st, 2019.  

“I am delighted that Dr. Carrabré will take on the leadership of the School of Music. His impressive track record as an artist and administrator at the highest levels will make him a tremendous asset to our students, to our renowned School of Music, and to the UBC Arts and Culture District as a whole,” said Dr. Gage Averill, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at UBC. 

Dr. Carrabré comes to UBC from Brandon University, where he has served as Dean of Music and Vice-President, Academic and Research. He takes over at the School of Music for Acting Director Dr. Alexander Fisher. 

Read the full story

Inside the brain of an opera singer


By Tze Liew

What happens inside the brain of an opera singer?

Prof. Nancy Hermiston, Chair of the Voice Division and Director of the UBC Opera, has wondered about this for nearly 20 years. She suspects that opera training can rewire the brain, given how cognitively challenging it is as an art form.

“Opera is very complicated,” Hermiston says. “Singers are required to multitask on so many levels. They must perform difficult music, sing in a foreign language, act, dance, keep an eye on the conductor without the audience noticing, coordinate with the rest of the cast, feed off the energy of the audience without getting distracted, all while wearing a costume weighing up to 45 pounds!”

It is no doubt incredibly taxing on the body – and the brain. But over the span of her 24-year teaching career, Hermiston has time and time again been amazed by the marvellous feats and learning leaps achieved by her students. She has observed many cases of students with learning differences – various forms of dyslexia and attention-deficit disorder – improving drastically in their academic abilities over years of opera training.

Read the full story


From wearable instruments to 3D-printed violins

SUBCLASS students. Photo: Takumi Hayashi

SUBCLASS students. Photo: Takumi Hayashi

By Colleen O’Connor

A dancer in a wired bodysuit makes a graceful opening gesture and instrumental percussion begins. Her movements quicken as she crosses the Barnett Hall stage; she brings her leg around in a circle and the rhythms become more complex. As both hands touch the suit, digitized pitches layer atop the percussive beats.

A musician sits with a violin perched in her lap. She taps the body of the instrument. Percussion and synth sounds emerge, as colourful geometric shapes collapse, expand and dance on the screen behind her. She picks up her bow and begins to play.

A wearable instrument and a violin that ‘plays’ colour as well as sound: These fascinating projects were developed by former student Kiran Bhumber (BMus’18) in collaboration with Prof. Robert Pritchard, and by Chantelle Ko (BA’18) in Pritchard’s Sonic UBC Laptop Sounds and Sensors Class (SUBCLASS). A core part of the Applied Music Technology Minor, SUBCLASS is a musical laboratory where students become inventors, pushing the boundaries of music and technology.

The idea behind the course, according to Prof. Pritchard, is to bring students with very different perspectives and skill sets together, give them the tools and the space to create, and watch what happens.

Read the full story



Forces to be reckoned with

The Royal Canadian Navy’s Naden Band performs in Chile. Photo: MARPAC Imaging Services

The Royal Canadian Navy’s Naden Band performs in Chile. Photo: MARPAC Imaging Services


By Tze Liew

Plaza Sotomayor, Valparaiso, 2018. It is the 200th anniversary of the Chilean Armada. Canada has sent the Naden Band of the Royal Canadian Navy to join in the celebrations. Katrina Bligh, Petty Officer 2nd Class and oboist, is performing in a military tattoo in front of a beautifully lit, palace-like navy headquarters, bringing the gift of music to a plaza full of people. It’s an incredible experience she will never forget.

Becoming a military musician wasn’t necessarily the path Bligh thought she would take when she decided to study music at UBC. Looking back on her university years, she remembers grappling with the question so many students face: What do I do with my music degree?

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to become an orchestral musician. My mother [Elizabeth Volpé Bligh, a UBC faculty member] worked as a harpist in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for 35 years, so I knew very well what it took. But I just wasn’t convinced,” Bligh says.

Then a full-time job for oboe came up in the Regular Force in her fourth year – and Bligh jumped at the opportunity.

Read the full story


Donor Spotlight: A life dedicated to cultural exchange

Image courtesy of Tamako Copithorne

Image courtesy of Tamako Copithorne

This March, students from Tokyo’s Keio University Choir and UBC’s Baroque Orchestra Mentorship Program (BOMP) teamed up with Early Music Vancouver for a gorgeous performance of Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu Nostri at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Vancouver. The groups performed the German composer’s 17th-century masterpiece to a large and enthusiastic audience. Among those in attendance was Keio University alumna and longtime UBC School of Music supporter Tamako Copithorne.

For Tamako, who helped to support this initiative, it was more than just a concert. It was the latest highlight in a passion project that goes back over sixty years.

“In 1955, I came to Canada for the first time as an exchange student from Japan to the University of British Columbia,” Tamako says. At the time, such programs were virtually unheard of. Tamako was among the first Japanese exchange students to study in Canada, and her experience at UBC (and later the University of Toronto) was so compelling that she returned home determined to help pave the way for future students — Japanese and Canadian — and continue to build the relationship between Keio University and UBC.

Read the full story


Winter 2019 concerts available online

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

Debussy, Françaix
and Adams

UBC Symphony Orchestra performs the Debussy masterpiece La Mer, along with the Canadian premiere of John Luther Adams’s Northern Suite and Jean Françaix’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra, featuring 2018 UBC Concerto Competition 2nd Place Winner Carlos Savall-Guardiola, clarinet.

Scenes V

The UBC Symphonic Wind Ensemble performs works by Bach, Mussorgsky, and Bassi, with special guest Jose Franch-Ballester, clarinet. Watch online


The University Singers, Chamber Choir and Choral Union perform a wide-ranging selection of contemporary repertoire. Featuring graduate student conductors Demi Chao, Tiffany Chen, and Andrea Ciona. Watch online

Browse our recent concerts


New research and publications

Dewa Alit

Dewa Alit

The Rhythm Research Cluster (RRC) closed its initial funded period with two exciting residences that brought innovative Balinese composer Dewa Alit, and the popular music scholar Anne Danielsen, director of the RITMO Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Rhythm, Time and Motion (Norwegian Centre of Excellence, Oslo) to the School of Music. Organized by Prof. Michael Tenzer, Alit’s residence culminated with a public performance at Western Front by School of Music students and alumni of works by Alit and others — including the world premiere of Alit’s RRC-commissioned work, “Simalakama.” During Danielsen’s residence, graduate students and faculty participated in a workshop on micro-rhythmic analysis; the residence closed with a Music Colloquium Series lecture on the impact of digitization on rhythm and groove in African-American popular music. 

Prof. David Metzer published “Repeated Borrowing: The Case of ‘Es ist genug’” in the Journal of the American Musicological Society. The article explores “a group of songs that musicians have frequently taken up in creating new works, from the chanson ‘L’homme armé’ in Renaissance masses to ‘Apache’ in hip hop tracks… and provide[s] the first study of repeated borrowing and trace[s] it across centuries and genres.”

More research and publications news


Alumni Making Waves: Juno Awards, new roles, and Gamelan Bike-Bike

Gamelan Bike Bike

Gamelan Bike Bike

Aidan Mulldoon Wong (BMus’17) won the position of Section Clarinet and Utility Clarinet with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra for the 2018-19 season. The VSO clarinet section also includes School of Music alumna Michelle Goddard (BMus’07), who previously won the position of Second Clarinet/Eb Clarinet.

Nicole Linaksita (BSc/BMus’16) and Megan Thibeault (DMPS’18) are among the six finalists in the 2019 Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition (Piano). The finals will be held April 19–21, 2019.

With his group the Gryphon Trio, pianist James Parker (BMus’85) won the 2019 Juno Award for Classical Album of the Year: Solo or Chamber for their album The End of Flowers: Works by Clarke and Ravel (Analekta). The Gryphon Trio were also nominated in the Classical Album: Large Ensemble category, for their collaboration with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra on Into the Wonder.

Robyn Jacob (BMus’11 ) co-founded Gamelan Bike Bike, a new 10-person ensemble that uses instruments created from old bike parts. The group is the subject of a new short film on the CBC Creator Network.

More alumni news


Beyond the Gates: Performances in North America and Asia, a conducting residency, and choral music galore

Dr. Corey Hamm and Nicole Ge Li

Dr. Corey Hamm and Nicole Ge Li

Dr. Corey Hamm, Professor of Piano, won UBC’s Dorothy Somerset Award for excellence in performance. The award recognizes faculty who have made outstanding contributions to art, music, creative writing, theatre or film. With PEP (Piano and Erhu Project), Dr. Hamm and Nicole Ge Li premiered the full orchestra version of Dr. Dorothy Chang’s double concerto Gateways in Seattle with conductor Julia Tai and Philharmonia Northwest.

In March, Dr. Graeme Langager and the University Singers performed with famed soprano Sarah Brightman at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver.

Dr. Jonathan Girard, Director of Orchestral Activities, led the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra in a concert in Kodak Hall in Rochester, New York in February.  The program included Poulenc’s Orchestral Suite from Les Animaux Modeles, Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major (featuring Fantee Jones, piano), and Franck’s Symphony in D Minor. The concert was the culmination of Dr. Girard’s residency as a visiting professor of conducting at Eastman, where he taught the graduate orchestral conducting students of Neil Varon.

More faculty news


Catching up with our students: Leadership awards, National Youth Orchestra news, and more


Dual BMus/BSci student Aydan Con has won the Dean’s Outstanding Leadership Award for Contribution to the UBC Community and Beyond, for playing “a crucial role in two projects involving curricular redesign. Through these projects, [he] supported the introduction of new evaluation and teaching methods to deepen Music students’ connections to transferrable workplace skills, as well as evaluation of undergraduate student mental and physical wellbeing in relation to academic workload demands.” Aydan helped launch ChamberFest in February and also volunteered at the Downtown Eastside Saint James Music Academy and the Canadian Blood Services. This is the first time a UBC Music student has received the distinction.

A number of School of Music students have won spots with the 2019 National Youth Orchestra of Canada (NYOC). Congratulations to BMus students Jonathan López (clarinet), Katelynn Whittle (oboe), Jesse Guo (percussion), Nina Weber (viola), Alexander Knopp (violin), and Alexander Beggs (viola)! The NYOC Residency runs from June to August, with the orchestra embarking on a two-month tour across Canada and Spain.   

DMA student Benjamin Hopkins advanced to the semi-finals of the Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Piano Competition held this March in New York.

More student news


New Recordings: Röntgen, a jazz début, and more

Prof. Mark Anderson released the fourth volume of his series devoted to the music of German-Dutch composer Julius Röntgen. The album spans fifty-five years of the composer’s lifetime, and includes Ballad, Op.6 written in 1873, when the composer was a teenager, and the Sonata in C-sharp minor from 1928. Available on Amazon and iTunes (US).

MMus conducting student Jaelem Bhate (BMus’17) released his first album, On the Edge, with his group the Jaelem Bhate Jazz Orchestra. The record includes his multi-movement “Pacific Suite,” along with works that blend the influences of his jazz heroes of Thad Jones, John Clayton, Bill Holman, and his mentor Fred Stride with his parallel study of Western Classical music. Perfoming on the album are some of Vancouver’s best jazz musicians, including Steve Kaldestad, Brent Mah, Michael Kim, and Duran Ritz. Available at CD Baby.

More new recordings


Playlist: Spring

By J. Patrick Raftery

Motivated by the imminent arrival of spring, I have chosen the theme of love to explore in my playlist. I have always been motivated by my love of music, my love for singers, and my love of opera and song. For my playlist I’ve chosen some of my favourite works by friends and colleagues, as well as a few classics by my personal icons.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to share the stage with some brilliant singers, including Mirella Freni, Nicolai Ghiaurov, Helen Donath, Barbara Bonney, Pilar Lorengar, Marilyn Horne, and Régine Crespin. I was lucky enough to be double cast as the Count in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at Covent Garden with Thomas Allen, and happy Beverly Sills and the great Canadian Mezzo Maureen Forester were among my friends.

Other singers I have long admired include Arleen Auger, Janet Baker, Hermann Prey, Peter Schreier, Hans Hotter, Robert Merrill, Margaret Price, and Giuseppe Di Stefano! Here, along with my full Spotify list, are some YouTube clips of the songs that I held up as an ideal to strive for when I was a young singer.

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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.